Speed Saunders continues his run, with art by Guardineer for the first year. It’s not Guardineer’s best, but it’s much better than what comes after he leaves the series. We learn nothing more about Speed during the part of his run, in fact, we learn less than we did in the early days, as we never see his home, and he never gets a supporting cast.
In issue 39 it appears that he will get a sidekick. He recruits Danny, a street kid, to help him keep an eye on a nest of Siva worshippers, and the boy gets commended by the police chief. We are told in the last panel that Danny will be Speed’s new assistant, but then never see him again. And I breathed a sigh of relief over that.
In fact, the stories that follow 30 are the most intense of the run. Speed is thrown off a cliff by jewel thieves, hunts them down and viciously beats them. He gets tied up and beaten by railway thieves, and after a gambler kills a man, Speed digs up the decaying corpse in the basement of his house.
With issue 48 the series changes direction once again, becoming much more of a whodunit strip. Each story has Speed come across a murder, often in an unusual location – a train, and airplane, a baseball diamond during a game. Speed investigates for a couple of pages, and then there is box informing the reader that the clues are all there, and challenging them to determine the identity of the killer, which Speed reveals and explains on the final page.
The first few of these are quite good. Even though the killer is fairly obvious in most, the critical clue is not always blatant. I think the best of these was the airplane murder in issue 54. An apparent suicide, Speed deduces it was murder and that the suicide note was a fake by the fact that it was written clearly. If it had been written during the flight, the words would be jagged and bumpy.
In issue 58 Speed solves “The Cigarette Murder,” identifying the killed by ashes left in the tray while the butts were removed, and then his series ends. As this story is dated December 1941, I cannot help but feel that the attack on Pearl Harbour spurred Speed to leave the force and enlist in the army in some capacity.
Speed Saunders: Detective Comics 35 – 58 (Jan 40 – Dec 41)