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17 – 20 on the Black


This series proclaims itself to be “the story of how Jim Gale ended his gambling career to follow a more useful life,” and suceeds in being at least the first half of that.

The story appears to be set around the turn of the century, in San Francisco.  Gambler Jim Gale is on a losing streak, and in a very confusing sequence seems to lose a string of pearls in a wager – though at the same time it seems the pearls were not in his possession at this point. After some hoods from the casino attack him he is rescued by a mysterious asian named Kim and gets possession of the pearls. Kim tells him to go to the address 1720, where he meets a woman in black.  These were her pearls, and Kim works for her.  So Kim stole her pearls in the first place maybe?  At any rate, the woman (much later given the name Louise Vallen gives Jim a reward of $1000, which he announces he is going to gamble on 17-20 on the black, in honour of her address and outfit.  She is dismayed that he is a gambler, and he promises this total stranger it will be his last wager.

But that night Louise gets robbed of the pearls again, and Kim enlists Jim to get them back.  They track the thieves to the harbour, but Jim is captured by Frog Morton and brought aboard his ship.  Kim conveniently knows the ship’s cook, Hing Lee, and takes his place before the ship sails off to Mexico, where Morton plans to sell the pearls.

Kim frees Jim, and somehow they manage to hide from Morton while still on the ship.  In Mexico, the story takes an even more preposterous turn as Jim and Kim pass themselves off as Mexicans, and steal the pearls back.  They are aided by Senora Montezia, who brings them to her own ship, but then tries to steal the pearls from them.  Morton and his crew sail in hot pursuit, and ram Montezia’s ship, rescuing the three, but failing to find the pearls on Jim or the Senora.  No one ever thinks of searching Kim, which is fortunate cause he has them the entire time.

Morton’s ship docks back in San Francisco, and he brings Jim into a warehouse to torture him into revealing where the pearls are, but the warehouse floor conveniently breaks and the two fall into the harbour. Kim rescues Jim, and finally reveals that he had the pearls.  Not even Jim figured that out, the stupid git.

So he brings the pearls back to Louise, and they proclaim their love for each other, even though they have spent no more than ten minutes max in each others company – but Louise insists she could never love a gambler and will wait for him till he gives it up.  Jim finally goes to the casino and wagers his reward money on 17-20 on the black, and loses it all.

In the final chapter, Jim and Kim head to Dawson City to become assayers – with no previous experience.  Jim thinks this will earn him enough money to let him marry Louise, but since the series ends here I think he just goes bankrupt and Kim wonders why he ever left his steady paying job with Louise to head to the arctic circle as he freezes to death.

The art on the first couple of instalments is really quite good, a very nice use of shading, but as its progresses the art becomes sparser and more rushed looking.  I suspect the artist got fed up with the ridiculous story.

 

17 – 20 on the Black:  New Comics  1 – 11 (Dec 35 – Dec 36)

New Adventure  12 – 13 (Jan – Feb 37)

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