Tom Brent is the kind of series that challenges me. It’s bad. The art is bad, and the stories are confusing and unsatisfying. But I have to read all of it, and write it up, or I will cease to be me. So I really start looking for things, and in this case, found a narrative. It’s possible the writer himself even saw it, but from the quality of conception seen in these stories, I would doubt it.
We first meet Tom at a waterfront bar in Marseilles, where he gets into a brawl. He is a sailor, and appears to be just another rough and tumble workhorse sailor whose curiosity leads him into adventure.
He is on the ship the Norfolk, sailing to Stamboul (Istanbul), but once there is entrusted to deliver important papers to a consul. It’s quite a task, as there are fake papers and fake consuls, and no coherent resolution or explanation.
Then he sails to Singapore on the S.S. Cory, to deliver a load of weapons. He now dresses as if he were an officer, maybe? No more striped shirts for him. Once in China he becomes captain of the schooner Mary Ann, shipping gold to Singapore and not really holding off a mutiny on his ship. The mutineers just mutiny against their new leader and put him back in charge.
After a brief vacation, still in China, he gets “commissioned” by the US authorities there to retrieve the Jade Necklace of Shai Poa. He now has his own Manchu servant, Tong, so clearly he has some money to his name now. In the next few stories, he continues getting orders from the police and army to perform missions for them, and moves comfortably around in high society. How things have improved for Tom Brent!
But at the end of his final tale, he is sent on a “very dangerous mission,” that only he could do. I am guessing that his background as a bar brawling sailor in Marseilles was the needed background, but that Tom, now used to dandified living, could not blend back in, was exposed and then killed.
Tom Brent: New Adventure Comics 28 – 31 (July – Oct 38)
Adventure Comics 32 – 39 (Nov 38 – June 39)