Presumably DC at some point intended for this to be the first of a series of matching collections of their various genre series of days gone by. Didn’t work out that way, so just this lonely collection, MYSTERY IN SPACE, of 33 science-fiction stories from the 1940s to the early 1980s alone in what has to be the saddest library in the world.
First up was “Rocket Lanes of Tomorrow”, a 2-page Simon&Kirby feature from REAL FACT COMICS #1 (1946). A nice little filler about the wondrous future of jet-packs, space exploration and trans-world tunnels. Very nice artwork, showing the influence of pulp sci-fi illustrations on Kirby’s early style.
Later in the book is a sample of Kirby’s 1950s work at DC, the 8-page “I Found the City Under the Sea” from MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #15 (1957). In this story, the crew of a fishing boat find a strange tube with a note inside from an oceanographer, Ellery Jones. He detected signs of a civilization under the ocean, and went to explore, finding a massive city.
That panel of the city is nice, very much like a rough form of the odd perspective cityscapes he’d perfect in the 1960s with some of the views of Atlantis or Asgard, and later with New Genesis.
As it turns out, the city is filled with aliens, planning to conquer the surface world, once they can get their hands on an experimental new chemical, aqua-ulium, without which the aliens and their materials vapourize in the atmosphere. They’re just waiting to sink a shipment of the chemical to proceed. With the help of a peaceful alien scientist, Jones is able to escape, finds a way to send out his note in case he fails and then prepares to blow up the alien city.
Back on the fishing ship, they think the note is just fantasy, until suddenly an underwater explosion jolts the ship, and then the note and container dissolve. They check and find out that an approaching ship is in fact carrying a shipment of aqua-ulium.
Very fun story, with some nice Kirby artwork. In particular I liked the alien city, both the cityscape views and some of the interior views, with odd bits of alien sculpture.