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Complete Little Orphan Annie Volume 8:…
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Complete Little Orphan Annie Volume 8: 1938-1940

by Harold Gray

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422,531,029 (4.5)2
Jack, Ace Chance, and Shanghai Peg each play unexpected parts in the conclusion to Harold Gray's most sophisticated story of the 1930s. Plus, Annie encounters the gangster Nick Gatt and is captured by the international criminal mastermind named Axel. Can "Daddy" save her? He brings along some heavy-duty help - Punjab, the Asp, and "Daddy's" old pal, Wun Wey - but things don't turn out as expected in Volume Eight of The Complete Little Orphan Annie. Contains all strips from June 9, 1938 - February 28, 1940.… (more)
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A remarkable trio of stories, perhaps the best I've read so far in the "Little Orphan Annie" saga. The stories themselves, while suspenseful and exciting, do not particularly break new ground. But Gray's characters do.

In the first story, Annie is mostly a background observer as Gray tells his version of "The House of Seven Gables". In the second, Annie is kidnapped by the evil foreign agent Axel, with "Daddy" in hot pursuit. In the third, Annie teams with a mobster-with-a-heart-of-gold to help an idealistic lawyer fight organized crime.

It is a new maturity with which Gray approaches his characters. Up to now Gray's world has been in the main populated by black-and-white caricatures of good and evil. In this book, we see two characters who break free from Gray's stereotypes. Ace Chance is an inveterate gambler who steals from his wife to get into a poker game, a real rotter. But the man who secretly loves Ace's wife takes a long chance to bring out the man he suspects is hidden deep within, and we see a complexity in both characters that is new with Gray. In the last story we see one of Gray's most intriguing and complex characters in Nick Gatt, a mob leader capable of swift and violent brutality when it is called for, but with his own set of ethics and a compulsion to secretly aid Annie and those in her circle. Gray's storytelling skills rise to new heights in this book. ( )
  burnit99 | Jul 26, 2012 |
Several solid stories - some of them blend into one another, so it's kind of hard to say how many. The first one is the end of the story that started in the last volume, about Abigail and Rose and Jack and Shanghai Pete. Ace Chance, Rose's husband, showed up at the end of the last book - in this book, he gets turned from a lazy, gambling parasite into a good man. And then a very good one. Happy ending, more or less, though not a cheerful one exactly. Though Shanghai's joke with the well is excellent. Then Annie nearly gets kidnapped by a new bad guy, Axel, and she's back on the road and dodging him. A car accident puts her with a farm family, the Buckles. She and Sandy make a good home there...until Axel comes back and this time is successful in hauling Annie off to his stronghold, intending to ransom her to Warbucks. Annie finds an unexpected ally in the stronghold, and Warbucks and his allies are alerted by Axel's ransom note - infiltration and assault follow, with Annie, Warbucks, and her ally Dona Dolores trapped in a cellar and slowly starving. Axel, unfortunately, gets away (he's tough! and smart). The prisoners are rescued and take a little rest before Warbucks has to head off to London - and for a change, he's planning to take Annie along. But Axel is back (he's a real bad penny!), and Annie and Sandy are thrown into the harbor as their ship sails. They're rescued by another couple, John and Jill Tecum; John is an honest lawyer stuck in a dead-end job, until a case comes up that he can't stomach and he quits and heads out on his own (well, with a partner). Then interesting things occur - John is honest, the mobster Nick Gatt is also honest (much to John's surprise and disbelief), but there aren't many others who are. Betrayals, plots, schemes abound as John wins a case that Nick Gatt makes run on rails, then is swept up in Nick's plans and receives everything he ever dreamed of as a lawyer. John is quite certain he's being set up for something... Then while all that is still going on, suddenly Annie is the target of a drive-by shooting - by Axel! The man's a pest. And the book ends, with all concerned certain that Axel has something planned and wants to make sure Annie doesn't tell anyone about him. Another cliffhanger - or one and a half, since the Tecum story is most definitely not concluded, but now there's the Axel complication. Fun, good stories - and very rich. Not just more violent, as the foreword discusses, but deeper characterization and more complex plots than most of the previous Annie stories. Very good. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Jun 26, 2012 |
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