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Challengers Of The Unknown #44
"Ace -- The Challenger Who Went Bad!"
June - July, 1965

Story:  Dave Wood
Art: Bob Brown

From The Challenger Casebook, Ace Morgan has turned against his fellow Challengers, punching out Wrestling Champ and Strong Man Rocky Davis, luring Electronics Wizard and Mountain-Climber Red Ryan into a trap, and firing a gun at Prof Haley, deep sea-diving expert, who leaps into a nearby pool.  (Quicker than I or The Mighty Juricich into a quarter bin!)  What has caused the test pilot to turn bad?  (Why, it must be on the next page!)

Investigating The Valley of Death where all vegetation has died, The Challengers discover a gaseous odor, while overhead, Ace Morgan pilots the helicopter and directs his teammates towards a grove, where a castle is in the middle of the wilderness, and pipes in the wall are seeping gas!  (Rapunzel, Rapunzel... on second thought, put it back it up!) Rocky sees the drawbridge lowering, while Red Ryan hopes that their guest will offer a meal, but from within the structure comes an enormous bull, composed of green gas, as its very snorts threaten to engulf The Challs! (Yup, this is the Silver Age all right!)

Prof and Red begin to feel light-headed, while Rocky is also engulfed in the second snort of the gaseous beast!  (Holy Jumping Jack Flash, Batman!)  Prof and Red begin to giggle from the laughing gas, while Rocky is reeling from breathing in chloroform, but Ace arrives swiftly on the scene, just in time to belt Rocky in the jaw, another in the solar plexus, and a dual slam on his neck!  (I get the feeling that Ace isn't flying on all cylinders, folks!)

Prof and Red see what Ace has done, Red figures that Ace has flipped his lid, while Prof is certain that there is a reason why Rocky is taking a dirt nap, and the chuckling duo are greeted by their buddy, who promptly slams their heads together, knocking them into unconsciousness. From the castle, Zaab and his boss, The Gas-Master observe Ace's actions, figuring that when he landed his copter, he passed through a cloud of gases, which have affected his mind in much the same way that War Gas S-4 (a top secret gas developed by the government to induce hallucinations, but never used) caused him to regard his friends as his enemies and vice-versa!  (Holy Cortizine, Batman!)  The Gas Master emerges to greet Ace, while Zaab keeps him covered...

Greeting Ace, The Gas Master identifies himself as Dr. Marn, and congratulates his government assigned bodyguard, who has made short work of the intruders, who wear the same uniform as Ace does.  Marn tells Ace that they're spies who are trying to steal his formulas, but Ace is intent on imprisoning his fellow Challs, that as Red and Prof come to, and surreptiously ask Ace why the act, the pilot tells his friends that they are to be shot as spies.  (Gee, this never happened to Steed and Peel...)  Red punches out The Gas Master, while Prof tries to reach through to Ace, but as he pulls out a pistol from Marn's holster, the two Challengers dive for cover in the moat!  (Yup, they decide to make the "moat" of a bad situation...)

Rocky joins them, as Ace's marksmanship shows why he's such an excellent pilot, but the trio are caught in an undercurrent, which pulls them inside the castle, where Rocky momentarily decides to leave, but Prof reprimands him for forsaking Ace, who must be brought back to normal.  Prof, Rocky, and Red split up and search the castle, while Prof reminds them not to underestimate Ace, especially since he's one of them!

In Marn's lab, The Gas-Master is showing Ace various specimens of gaseous creatures, such as a buffalo, a rattlesnack, and an elephant, which cannot survive longer than an indefinite period of time, a prize which the mind-fogged Ace figures to be the target of spies!  While Ace heads in search of his teammates, Zaab wonders about the wisdom of The Gas-Master showing his menagerie, but the villain is certain that Ace is unaware that he intends to use them for criminal purposes!  (Yup, if only he'd use those Puff The Magic Dragons for the purpose of goodness and niceness...)  While exploring, Red hears a voice from upstairs, but when he enters the upstairs room, Ace charges him...

Both men hurtle out of the window, but Red manages to grab onto a flagpole, and manuevers into the next floor window, knocking himself out in the process.  At the bottom of the tower, Ace is carrying the unconscious Red Ryan past a couple of suits of armor, which suddenly come to life, and seize Red, while Prof tackles Ace...

Rocky sees The Gas-Master and hauls Red out of there, while Prof concentrates on Ace, and both narrowly avoid a burst from The Gas-Master's weaponry.  (At least I think it's his weaponry...!)  Diving into the moat, Prof intends to remove his armor disguise, but Ace seizes the diving gear, intending to pursue him, to The Gas Master's pleasure... Time passes as The Gas-Master and Zaab wait in their lab, listening to the sounds of battle from outside, as The Gashouse Gorilla peers outside and sees what's happened to The Challs...

In the courtyard, Ace holds a mace in hand, as the various Challs lay strewn across the field of battle. After being told to place them in the dungeon, Ace enters the lab, only to be covered at gunpoint by Zaab, who is about to fire when in swings Red Ryan, who kicks him on the head, while Rocky and Prof follow suit, but Ace is the one who sees The Gas-Master heading for his chemicals!  (Holy Selegue, Batman!)  The mixture of gases drive Ace back, as The Gas-Master wonders how Ace managed to recover so soon, as his Gas Zoo is unleashed...

The Gaseous Snake discharges Carbon Dixoxide, which knocks Prof out for the count, as Rocky wonders how you beat something made out of gas! (Any scientists out in the audience?  Hint!  Hint!)  Red Ryan charges The Gas-Master, whose elephant's faithful gives Red a faceful, blowing him away, but Ace has an idea, as he and Rocky head for a nearby fan, which soon sweeps out the animal crack-ups out the window!

The Gas-Master curses himself for being so guillible, while Ace fills him in on how his pursuit of Prof underwater via the compressed oxygen inhaled from the tank soon had him back to normal, enabling The Challs to stage their final battle. Rocky sees the irony of a colorless, odorless gaseous element which has put The Gas-Master out of business.

Summary by Steve Chung.

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