"California's Kidnap-Murder Mystery" (Story and art by Jack Cole)
Top-Notch Comics #2 (Jan. 1940, MLJ/Archie)
Jack Cole's second MANHUNTERS crime story is perhaps the weakest of the three. The writing doesn't sell the co-incidences, breezing over just how a gun was found lying untouched, on a busy street, for example.
Top-Notch Comics #2 cover. Not by Cole
In the course of his career, Jack Cole would periodically turn in a very engaging story about child abuse. Police Comics #22 had the affecting and sad story, "The Eyes Have It," for example. The story here may be the first incidence of abuse of a child in Cole's work. The child here is "spunky" enough to fight back, but one still feels sympathy for the kid when she is ditched by the cop-killing kidnapper and is lost and traumatized.
As in the first story and in much of his 1939-41 work, Cole inserts an enagging information diagram:
Cole's obsession with movement and speed, another characteristic design theme in his comic book work, crops up in this story in a beautifully designed car/motorcycle chase sequence on page 2. In one panel, the speeding car is moving so fast, it even breaks out of the panel.
The pages below are the only scans we've been able to locate of this rare story. Unfortunately, the original images were quite distorted with curling. We have retouched the artwork to make it more readable and minimized the distrotion as much as possible. The curved edges of some of the panels in the scans below are due to this, not to Cole's design.
As with nearly all of his comic book stories, the story opens with a visually compelling splash page.