Wednesday, July 17, 2019

ACW #623 - Secret Six


Action Comics Weekly #623 (Secret Six)
"Standard Allowable Abductions"
Writer - Martin Pasko
Pencils - Frank Springer
Inks - Frank McLaughlin
Colors - Carl Gafford
Letters - Albert DeGuzman
Editor - Robert Greenberger

It's Secret Six day... and, believe it or not, we're not even halfway through this stint.  Considering we're still technically dealing with everything we'd read in the initial (overlong) stint... this one is really starting to show its age.

Hopefully this chapter signals an upturn... let's find out together.

--



Picking up where we left off, LaDonna and Steve have just been surrounded by some armed folks inside Crandall Stadium at Jefferson University.  LaDonna has radioed to the rest of the Six for assistance... and does something rather ingenious.  She surrenders her piece, however, before doing so... triggered it to blow!  I can't believe I've never seen that done before!



The explosion result in a literal "moving of the goal posts"... actually impaling one of their armed pursuers!  That's far more gory a scene than I was expecting to see.  LaDonna dives for their gun and picks off a few more of the baddies.



Then... a car pulls it, and if I'm not mistaken... the Hunter S. Thompson-looking guy gets out.  I thought he died a few weeks ago?  Oh well.  Either way, he demands LaDonna and Steve get into his car.  For whatever reason, they comply.  Maybe they really wanna meet Mr. Fenedy?  As they leave the scene, the Secret Six VTOL approaches.  During the ride, "Hunter" notices LaDonna's Signal Watch... and comments that he'd confiscated one just like it a few days prior.



Speaking of which, we shift scenes to check back in with Tony and his hitchhike-hostage.  They stash her car in a parking garage, and flirt/fight about their next move.  It's here we learn that Shelley is a fashion model... because, of course she is.



We jump back to the previous scene, and the Sixers has followed LaDonna's signal to her ever-changing location.  The VTOL sets down in the car's path... and LaDonna is able to wrestle her way to freedom.  Steve tries to flee, but Luke is able to convince him (at gun-point) to hop on board.



We wrap up in Tony and Shelley's motel room... and, naturally... they do it.  Stockholm Syndrome is a helluva thing.



--

Not gonna lie... the fatigue is real with this Secret Six feature.

This isn't bad... but, c'mon, how many more twists are we gonna get before we put this one to bed?  There's something to the law of diminishing returns with this.  I'm more and more underwhelmed with every twist, turn, and reveal.

I really thought Hunter Thompson-dude died in pursuit of Tony several chapters back.  I mean, he drove off a bridge, didn't he?  Maybe Fenedy has an army of dudes who look like that?!  I don't know... and, unfortunately, this late in the game I really don't care.  I just want a resolution... and, unfortunately, we ain't getting one for like two months.

The Shelley and Tony scenes were pretty baffling... and are written in such a way where there's this odd familiarity between them.  I keep feeling like there's something to their relationship that I've been missing this whole time.  The fact that they hop into bed at the first opportunity doesn't really help matters.  Oh well.  Next week promises to be "Tony's Story"... maybe that'll shed some light on this.

Overall... this feature really needs to step it up.

Tomorrow: From the mouths of babes

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

ACW #623 - Superman


Action Comics Weekly #623 (Superman)
"Revelations"
Writer - Roger Stern
Pencils - Curt Swan
Inks - Murphy Anderson
Letters - Bill Oakley
Colors - Tom Ziuko
Editor - Mike Carlin

Hey all!  Considering this is Superman Day... which means, more often than not, a shorter-than-usual blog post from yours truly... I figured I would share a recent milestone I reached in my Superman collection.

After twenty-something years, I have finally completed my "triangle number" library.  Floating in-and-out (though, mostly "out") of Superman collecting during my youth, I missed a great deal of the triangle era.  It was one of those things I always wanted to collect, but when it cam to comics-buying, my meager lunch money didn't allow me to veer too far out of the X-Men Universe.

I nearly celebrated this "milestone" several weeks back when I finally found an affordable copy of Superman: Emperor Joker (Triangle # 2000/38), which I had assumed was the last book I needed to complete the run.  It was only after doing some research that I realized I needed the Supermen of America one-shot (March, 1999).  I wasn't even aware there was a SoA one-shot!  I knew about the six-issue miniseries that came out a year later... but, didn't know anything had preceded it!  What's worse, none of the comic shops in my town had a clue either!

And so, the hunt was on!  A couple weeks, and several hundred miles on my car later... and:



I finally found it... in, of all places, a 50-cent bin.  I love it when that happens!  The hunt is over... all three "triangle eras" are done and collected (the 90's run/New Krypton/New-52: Last Days of Superman).  I'm left wondering what my next "hunt" will be.  I considered those 90's Legion books that were "numbered"... buuuut, I dunno.  I'm just not that into the Legion.

Below you can see my complete checklist.  Darkened cells show where DC Comics misnumbered/skipped.  To my knowledge, this is complete.  If you see anything I missed, don't hesitate to reach out and let me know!



--



Our strip opens with the Consortium... that group of baddies we've learned far too little about to this point.  Their gimmick is that they're big into R & D... and they've made some technological breakthroughs.  The thing of it is, they see the arrival of Superman as a sign of the Apocalypse.  Alrighty then.

We get a shot of Superman on their giant monitor... and, hey... it's just like the one on this week's cover!  They run down the Man of Steel's accolades, and discuss how what was once "hero worship" has now, for some, become full-blown theological worship.  The Consortium is certain that Superman isn't the Messiah... but, the Anti-Christ.  Stands to reason they wanna wipe him off the planet.

--

Ya know what?  I enjoyed this one!

Over the past many weeks, I've complained about this strip... mostly framing my misgivings in the fact that so little happens.  That was probably a bit unfair, considering the minimal "real estate" Superman gets each and every week.  My other complaint was, irrespective of the amount of "action"... we also haven't been getting all that much in the way of information.  We knew so little about what was going on, that even using my go-to descriptor of "nebulous" would've been too gracious.

Here, however, we're starting to learn more about the motivations behind the Consortium's actions... and, it's a welcome thing.  Would I have preferred getting this information say... a dozen weeks ago?  Sure, but whattayagonnado?

If future installments of this strip continue to deliver even half as much exposition as this one, I think I might just stop dreading "Superman Day".

Tomorrow: The Return of Hunter S. Thompson?

Monday, July 15, 2019

ACW #623 - Deadman


Action Comics Weekly #623 (Deadman)
"Seventeen"
Writer - Mike Baron
Pencils - Kelley Jones
Inks - Tony DeZuniga & Pablo Marcos
Letters - Helen Vesik
Colors - Daniel Vozzo
Editor - Barbara Kesel

It's been a minute since we've looked at Deadman.  He had himself a well-earned week off last time out... then we had our Christmas on Infinite Earths... in July Special.  Hopefully his adventures are still fresh-ish in your mind... because, uh, I'm not sure even I remember where we're at!

--



We pick up with the twins (Stella and Delia, the "Zombie Queens of New Orleans") relishing the fact that they've been brought "back to life".  They don't even seem to notice that Deadman has left until he's already gone.  The twins figure he and the Madame will prove to be thorns in their side before long... and, they're probably right.  At that very moment, Deadman-as-Clara is given the down and dirty on the girls by Waxahachie.  Turns out it has something to do with the fact that the number seventeen (heyyy, that's the title of this chapter!) is a base-integer.  Ya see, the twins committed suicide when they were 17... and that was 17 years ago.  This, for whatever reason, enhances their twinning power.  I don't know diddly-squat about Voodoo, so I'll just take her word for it!



We also learn here that Legros (now being written as LaGros... now also, a vegetable) was acting in the interest of the twins as a sort of facilitator in trying to summon an African Deity called "Gage"... and, at least according to Waxahachie, it looks like they were successful!  She drives Deadman-as-Clara back to the school so he can jump-bodies.



This is where Old Luke rejoins the story.  We saw him early on in a brief scene.  He is described as odd and simple, and the Madame is certain he won't "miss any time" if Deadman were to take up occupancy.  And so, he does!  The thing of it though, once Clara stirs back to normal, she's none too pleased to learn she'd been possessed... like, two or three times at this point.  She calls Waxahachie a witch, and storms off.



The Madame shrugs it off, figuring Clara will cool her jet eventually... and turns to Deadman-as-Luke.  She gives him their mission... in order to stop the Peckshaw Twins, they're going to have to find their original bodies... and destroy them!  Grave desecration, hmm?  I guess I'm starting to understand why Waxahachie might not want Clara('s body) involved with the proceedings! 



Waxahachie takes Deadman to Wildwood... where the Peckshaw Twins had once called home... and are now buried... so, uh, I guess technically, they still call it home.  It's here we learn that Wellman LeGros also lived here, as when he was a boy, the family found him there.  We close out with their arrival at the boarded up Estate.



--

I wanna take a minute (or two) and compare the way this story is being told to a more contemporary "Voodoo-themed" book.

If you've listened to our Sandman Universe Gatherum series of episodes over at the Chris and Reggie Channel, you'll know that among those titles is one called House of Whispers.  It's a book steeped in Voodoo mythology... almost to a fault.  That's all well and good, right?  But, here's the thing... that book doesn't tell us a darn thing about the mythology.  If you're uninitiated to Voodoo lore, you're really just dropped in blind.  You're not likely to understand any of the references or allusions... and, because of that, the twists, turns, and revelations in the story fall absolutely flat.

I feel like writers today try and challenge themselves... overusing symbolism and real "deep cut" references in order to make themselves feel smarter than they are... and, if any of the readers actually "get" the references... well, they're just one of the "cool kids".

Another thing writers try to do is tell only the exciting stories.  Just like building a house, you need to put in the difficult (and comparably un-glamorous) work of laying a foundation before you can start putting up walls.  Sure, putting up walls makes it look like a house... but, a stiff wind can knock it all down without a solid foundation.

Why am I talking about this?  Well, here in this Deadman feature, we're getting a bit of a learnin' in Voodoo, African deities, symbolism, the effect base-integers might have (whether it's "legit" or not)... but, with Waxahachie's words... Mike Baron is laying a foundation.  This might have been a comparably unexciting chapter, but it was a necessary one.  Had this come out in "current year", I fear these scenes would have been omitted... with a hope/expectation that a reader wouldn't have a problem reading this alongside a Wikipedia tab.

What I'm trying to say... though, I've clearly taken the scenic route, is... I appreciate this chapter doing the un-glamorous work of attempting to educate the reader in either actual Voodoo lore, or the Mike Baron-take on Voodoo lore.  This way, as we approach our pay-off, we'll all be at a similar level of understanding.  There (hopefully) won't be any "out of left field" deus ex machina type stuff... it'll (again, hopefully) all make sense in the context of the story being told.

Art's still great, though the Madame seems to be looking more and more bestial with each panel.  I'm not sure if that's a conscious decision... or, maybe we're just not getting her "best side".

Tomorrow: Antichrist Superstarman?!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

ACW #623 - Shazam!


Action Comics Weekly #623 (Shazam!)
"My Week in Valhalla, Chapter One"
Writers - Roy & Dann Thomas
Pencils - Rick Stasi
Inks - Rick Magyar
Letters - Jean Simek
Colors - Nansi Hoolahan
Editor - Mike Gold

Welcome to the second SHOWCASE Presents feature of Action Comics Weekly!  If you recall, a few months back we had a four-part Catwoman serial under that branding... and today, we begin a four-part Captain Marvel Shazam! one.  Ugh, I hate that they don't call him Captain Marvel anymore.  I still will be during our discussion.

Anyhoo, if you wanna take a look at some of what got Billy here (in this continuity), you can check out the four-part Shazam!  The New Beginning mini-series we discussed here wayyy back in 2016.  Just click the cover, and you shall be delivered!



Let's get right into it!

--



We open with Billy Batson waking up.  While he goes about hi morning rituals, a radio broadcast plays... it's reported that the police are in the middle of a "Mexican Standoff" with some armored car thieves... and so, our young man says that magic word.  We head across San Francisco, only to find the standoff is still a'happening.



One of the baddies presses his pistol against the head of a civilian.  A split-second before he can pull the trigger, however, Captain Marvel slips his hand between the piece and the face.  This causes the gun to backfire, killing the would-be shooter.



Cap doesn't take this turn of events all that well.  A news reporter attempts to get a word with the hero, but he isn't able to put into words what just went down.  He flies off to his Uncle Dudley's apartment and "Billies down" before sharing his story.



Just then, a phone rings.  It's his boss from WHIZ-TV, Elvira Thickert... and I tell ya what, this woman looks like an Elvira Thickert.  She also kinda looks like the woman from the Bonkers Candy commercials, if you remember those.  Anyhoo, she wants him to look into the gang that attempted to pull the armored car heist.  She claims they were a part of the Neo-Nazi group called the "Sons of Valhalla".  Billy's gotta head into the slums and have himself a chat with Dawn, the newly dead guy's daughter.



Dawn tells Billy a bit about her family.  Her father joined up with the "Sons" after losing his farm.  The organization convinced him that he only lost his farm because of a "worldwide Jewish plot".  Ay yai yai.  Anyhoo, now her brother Duane's gotten wrapped up with the group... and will be attending a Sons of Valhalla Summer Camp in a few days.



They continue chatting, when news of the day's events are played on the television.  Captain Marvel is briefly seen... to which, Dawn chucks a lamp through the screen.  Good job, now ya got nothing!  Billy, with a tear in his eye, promises to help her.



--

This... was okay.

Something I don't get about the Showcase Presents (which, as a descriptor, is missing from this story) features is... these are supposed to be stories to whet the readers appetite in hopes that an ongoing title will follow... right?  Least that's how I've been taking it.  Maybe that's just the way Showcase used to be... I dunno.

Reason I say this is... you'd figure if that was the case, the creative teams would come out "guns blazing" with more of a bombastic and memorable story.  I mean, I've read this feature before... a couple of times, and darned if I could tell ya a thing about it.  Heck, I just read this chapter a few minutes ago, and I'm sorta struggling!

Not to say this was bad, because it wasn't... it's just, outside that dude's gun backfiring, it wasn't all that memorable.  Hopefully in the coming weeks this one will pick up.

Tomorrow: After three weeks, the return of Deadman!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

ACW #623 - Green Lantern


Action Comics Weekly #623 (Green Lantern)
"Priest"
Writer - James Owsley
Pencils - M.D. Bright
Inks - Jose Marzan
Colors - Tony Tollin
Letters - Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor - Dan Raspler
Editor - Denny O'Neil

Welcome back to Action Comics Daily, everybody!  It was a nice little week off from the ACW grind... but, it's also nice to be back!  I always hate saying goodbye to Christmas... but, with Christmas on Infinite Earths... in July out of the way, it just means we're inching that much closer to the real one!

--



It's been a couple of weeks, so here's a refresher.  Our man Hal started working for some flight outfit... and kept his Power Battery in his locker.  This one time, perhaps even his first day, the Battery exploded, taking half the locker room with it.  From the Oan shrapnel shot out a yellow beam... which Hal is now following into Sectors unknown, fully aware that his ring will rendered powerless within 24-hours without its daily charge.  We open this chapter ten-hours into his journey with our man arriving on a strange little planet.  After a little bit of recon work, he happens across a long-armed red alien in a gown.  Their initial meeting doesn't go all that well.



The red alien manages to catch the Hal's ring-slung emerald energy... and uses it to drag Green Lantern off the planet, and to a sort of synthetic planetoid.  The alien deposits Hal into a sort of tunnel.



Jordan is approached by a sentry robot... which he blasts to pieces.  Then, a little orange alien heads over and gives Hal a great big hug.



Before he knows it, Hal's surrounded by a whole lotta aliens of varying shapes and sizes.  Then, the red alien formally introduces himself as "Priest".  Hmm... do I make the obvious reference here or later on?  Either way, Priest informs Green Lantern that he had been brought to this place in order to prevent a war.



Just then... wouldn'tcha know it, full-blown war seemingly breaks out!  Purple robots burst through the walls of the planetoid... lasers blazing!  The friendly aliens do their best to fight off the assault... but are unable to do so without casualty.



Hal lifts the corpse of the alien child who had hugged him earlier from the wreckage, and informs Priest that he will help them out.



--

This really isn't my favorite arc... but it seems to be the kind of arc that happens fairly regularly in Green Lantern stories.  Hal (or John, or Kyle, or Guy, or whoever) gets stuck unwittingly playing peacemaker between some warring (or soon-to-be warring) factions or groups.  It's pretty well-trodden, and it's never particularly interesting... at least not to me.

There always seems to be undertones of political intrigue... but, most of the time it just falls flat.  That's one of the problems I have with comics handling subjects like war.  I mean, rather than there just being a pair of groups having a disagreement, while never second-guessing that they're in the right... it usually devolves into the righteous good against an actual super-villainous opponent.  Or, two super-villainous groups trying to out-super-villain one another.  I did read through this one not too long ago for the Podcast, and... this definitely goes more toward the latter... but, it's still not going to be terribly interesting though.  At least the Freak Show aren't going to show up!

Now, for the obvious reference of the day!  Our alien's name is "Priest"... and the story is being written by a fella who will soon go by the name Priest.  Not sure if there's any rhyme or reason for the character having this name... though, I suppose if I were really interested, I probably could find out.  Until I learn otherwise, I'll just assume it's a coincidence.  We'll be talking much more about Priest (the alien) in the coming weeks.

As for the brutal scene inside the planetoid... it was quite well done.  I suppose it could be argued that it was "rushed"... I mean, the little hugging alien kid dies like two pages after he first appears, but you still feel a little something.  Not like I wanted Hal to forge a friendship with the little bugger before he bit it, but this just felt a bit quick.  It served its purpose though... Hal's on board, and willing to help shut down the war.  Fair enough. 

Tomorrow: We say the word.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (1989)


Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (1989)
Superman: "Ex-Machina"
Batman: "Land in the Depths"
Wonder Woman: "Gifts"
Enemy Ace: "Silent Night"
Flash & Green Lantern: "An Old-Fashioned Christmas"
Deadman: "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot"
Writers - Paul Chadwick, Dave Gibbons, Eric Shanower, John Byrne, Bill Loebs, & Alan Brennert
Pencils - Paul Chadwick, Gray Morrow, Eric Shanower, John Byrne, Colleen Doran, & Dick Giordano
Inks - John Nyberg, Andy Kubert, & Ty Templeton, 
Letters - John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman, & Steve Haynie
Colors - Tom McCraw, Gray Morrow, & Glenn Whitmore 
Editor - Mark Waid, 
Cover Price: $2.95

Hey everybody!

Today we're going to tie a red and green bow on the week of festive frivolity that was Christmas on Infinite Earths... in July!  I hope you all enjoyed the break from both the Summer heat and Action Comics Daily!  I know I've enjoyed the change in scenery... and, you know I'm a nut for Christmas!

Since the end of the week here at the Infinite Earths has become all about the Polls, I figured why not keep that going this time?  So next week, I'll be sharing the results of two polls!


Best Story in Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2?

Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Enemy Ace
Flash & Green Lantern
Deadman


Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/OIC65N5E

Again, I hope you all enjoyed!

--



Our first story opens... on an Eve around or on Christmas.  It's snowing heavily, and there is a motorist stranded on the side of the bend of a road.  He tries flagging down passers-by, however, nobody stops.  Deciding he can no longer stand the cold, the man reenters his car... loads a pistol, and writes an apologetic suicide note.  Before he can act, however... there's a knocking on his window.



It is, of course, Superman.  He asks if it's okay for him to hop in the passenger seat, and begins warming the fella up with his heat vision.  After that, he turns his attention to thawing the frozen engine.  He discovers that the V-Belt is shredded, which has cut off the power supply... which ran down the battery.  He then asks the man about, ya know... the loaded gun.



The man tells him he just couldn't take the cold anymore... compounded with the fact that no one would stop to help him was enough to push him over the edge.  Superman informs him that, since he'd broken down at the bend of the road, passers-by couldn't see him until it was too late... and most wouldn't dare to stomp on their brakes on these icy roads.  Superman also realizes that... offing yourself for breaking down on the side of the road is a flimsy excuse at best.  The other shoe drops, and the man reveals that he and his wife just split up.



He doesn't go into much detail, not that it matters much.  Superman asks what he was planning to do for Christmas... to which, the fella doesn't really have much of a clue.  When asked about family, he mentions an estranged daughter.  Superman prods him into extending an olive branch, citing how most children would love to reconnect with a lost parent.  The fella promises to think about it.



Superman finishes charging the man's battery, however, before he leaves... jots down some directions on the back of the suicide note.  They are directions to a family who lives nearby who would love to share the Holidays with him.  The man squirms a bit, before agreeing to pay them a visit.



Superman wishes the man a Merry Christmas before taking his leave, and our story wraps up with the man exiting off the freeway... into Smallville.



--

This was very good.

A very low-key Superman story, where we get a look at how he can take a moment and save/change the life of a single man.  It was a nice character study.  Superman listened to the man... offered him help and inspiration.  Calling him out that his initial reasons for pulling the trigger were flimsy, in order to dig a bit deeper to find out exactly what might be ailing him.

This is the way I'd imagine Superman would handle such a crisis.  I mean, we've seen the other way it could go when we read Superman: Grounded.  Here, it's all about looking on the bright side... it's about looking for slivers of hope in the darkness.  Even the possibility of reconnecting with an estranged relative might prove to be enough to help this man carry on.  Superman knows all the buttons to push to illustrate that so long is there hope, there's still a reason to carry on.  Very well done.

Paul Chadwick, who we've unfortunately not had much of an opportunity to discuss here on the blog, turns in some great work... both in words and pictures.  It's a shame we didn't get all that much more DC work out of him.  In doing our research for the Hal Jordan's Action Comics series of Cosmic Treadmill Episodes, we learned that Paul was (reportedly) originally tapped to provide art for the Captain Atom feature in Blockbuster/Comics Cavalcade Weekly.  It's too bad that didn't come to pass.  It's, admittedly, been a minute since I last read his Concrete... but, there was a time during the mid-late 2000's where I was eating it up.  I'm probably due for a revisit... if only I could find those 25th-30th hours in a day.

Overall, a very nice little story... even if you're not a sucker for Christmas comics (like I am), this one is definitely worth a look.


EDIT:  Some context for this story, provided by its creator: Paul Chadwick!





--
--



We open with young Bruce Wayne exploring the caves under the Manor.  He's chasing a rabbit, and trips over some rocks.  By the time he sits up, a bat has swooped down and killed the bunny.  Ya see, what we're trying to get at is... this is "dark".  It's darkness... enveloping, encompassing... dark, dark, darkity-dark.  This darkness followed Master Bruce into his adulthood... following the murder of his parents, and his adopting of his cape-n-cowl persona.



But then... light.  A young boy entered his life, and with him came hope and warmth.  We learn here that Dick Grayson received his first Robin costume as... a Christmas present.  Ah, I was wondering if and when Christmas would show up during this Christmas story.



So for a time, the Vengeance of the Dark Knight was replaced by the Adventures of the Dynamic Duo.  The darkness was lifted.



This all ended, however, when Dick Grayson went off to college... and, adopted his new grown-up hero identity.  His old Robin costume is displayed in the Bat Cave as a reminder of the "light", however, it didn't stop the darkness from creeping back in.



A couple pages follow illustrating more of the "darkness" before we wrap up with a literal robin landing in the cave... and nearly getting "swooped down upon" by a bat.  For whatever reason, the bat decides to spare the birdie... and it flies out of the cave into the night.



--

Well, this was kinda neat.  A wee bit precious to be sure, but neat all the same.  A nice look at the Bruce/Dick relationship... and how their perspectives contrast with/compliment one another.

It's written almost like a poem... which, I mean, is fine... but, maybe just a little over reliant on "darkness".  As a theme, it works... however, in actually reading through, it becomes a bit tiresome.  It almost reminds me of something I'd have written back in a high school creative writing class.

We don't get all that much in the way of Christmas here... other than the revelation that Dick got a Robin costume as a Christmas Gift.  I suppose it works... but, I dunno... I kind of wanted a little bit more in the way of Holly-Jolly.

The art comes to us from Gray Morrow, who is always a treat.  I have no complaints about how this story looks.  I don't even really have any quibbles about the story itself.  It's just not exactly what I was hoping for.

--
--



We open with Wonder Woman being stirred awake by a nightmare.  Zeus keeps pushing "gifts" upon her... and, well... this clearly makes her uneasy.  Worth noting, we do get a dead-Myndi sighting here.  From here, we jump into the real world where Pastor Sharon SomethingorOther has arrived to celebrate the Holidays with the Kapatelis family.  I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here.  Not being much of a Wonder Woman reader, I can't really say if these are long-standing characters.



We learn that Pastor Sharon is being cheated on by her husband... and is about to get a divorce.  This is a big no-no in the Church.  Divorcing Pastors have to be transferred to a new Congregation, and she's just not sure she's up for it.  She's considering returning to school, perhaps earning her Doctorate.



Just then, Vanessa Kapatelis bursts in the room, finally free from school for a couple weeks.  She excitedly asks is Diana had arrived yet.  Ya see, she's a hyooge Wonder Woman fan... which, as mentioned, might be old-hat if you're actually reading the Wonder Woman title.



We jump to the next morning, and Sharon is standing in the backyard collecting her thoughts.  She is soon joined by Wonder Woman herself.  They talk about their respective "duties", and although they worship different Gods, understand and respect each other's point of view.  Wow, how very un-"current year"!  To be fair, Sharon takes a little convincing that the Greek Gods are a "thing", Diana doesn't go so far as to prove it... but assures her that she chats them up all the time.



We join the gals for their Christmas Eve... they bake cookies, break bread, and listen to carolers.  That night, Sharon is having trouble falling asleep... and so, she heads into the living room.  There, she finds Wonder Woman lost in her own thoughts.



Diana shares with Sharon her own fears and feelings of inferiority when it comes to working for and with the Gods.  Gotta remember, this is still very early in her post-Crisis career.  She feels as though no matter how hard she fights for Peace, Love, and Truth... that nobody's listening.  Sharon assures her that the "hardest" work is the most important... which kinda sets off a light bulb in her own head.



We jump to Christmas Morning, where Sharon reveals that she will stick to her mission, and take the transfer to the new Congregation.



--

This was pretty good!  I feel like if I were more well-read in post-Crisis (or any) Wonder Woman, I might've gotten a bit more out of it... but I don't feel like it really hurt me to come in "fresh".

What we have here is a couple of personal "crises" running parallel.  I think it was Erikson who suggested (and I'm about to butcher this) that our development is predicated on crises.  It's how we deal with and overcome that makes us who we are moving forward.  Here, both Sharon and Diana are faced with either change of... or adherence to "duty".  Both are very trepidatious about what's to come, and their roles moving forward.

In coming together and sharing their insecurities, they are both able to find the strength to carry on.  Sharon, ashamed that her husband had been fooling around with another woman in the Church... unsure if she can continue her "mission".  Diana, tasked with ever-so-much from friggin' ZEUS... finds herself only seeing the futility of her calling.  It's pretty deep stuff, and I think it was handled quite well here.

There's something to be said about coming-of-age stories occurring around Christmas.  That's the time of year when it feels like most anything is possible... at least if you ask me.  I think placing this story during the Holidays really added a warm and familial element... which made it all the more special.

The story and art come to us from Eric Shanower... who, to be honest, I only know from Marvel's "Oz" series-of-series's that came out in the mid-2000's.  I was actually rather surprised to see his name on this story.  He delivers a nice, personal story... and the art is really very good!  Vanessa might look a little demented, and Diana might've looked like she was enjoying her Christmas Eve chat with Sharon a bit too much... but, still... I really dug it!  It's too bad we didn't see more DC work from Shanower!

Overall, a nice story... and, one I'd recommend.

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We open at a military hospital... there is a downed plane nearby.  Inside a man with a mostly-bandaged head sketches Von Hammer's airplane... which his attending nurse seems to appreciate.  This is, however, not as appreciated by a one-legged fella with a mustache... who swats all of the art to the ground.



Time passes, and Enemy Ace himself arrives at the hospital.  He's brought with him provisions to ensure the patients and residents can have themselves a nice Christmas meal.



After the food is prepared and the meal shared, Von Hammer has himself a dance with the attending nurse from earlier.  This doesn't go unnoticed by the bandage-headed fella.



After the dance, Hans walks over to the list of patients being treated, maybe some casualties too... and salutes.  Just then, a man points a gun in his direction.



It's the bandage-headed fella!  The one-legged mustachioed guy makes sure the situation doesn't escalate any further.



He then suggests Hans take his leave... which he does.



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Not gonna lie... this one took me a few tries.  I question the wisdom of making the Enemy Ace feature a "silent" story.  I mean, if it were Superman or Batman... or any "mainstream" DC character, I could see this working for anyone reading it.  With Enemy Ace though?  He's just off the beaten-path enough to where I wasn't sure who was who... and what was what.

I know Enemy Ace primarily from his distinctive mask.  You take that off... and give him a standard non-distinct Byrnian face, and he kinda gets lost in the crowd.  My first couple of times through this one, I wasn't even sure if Hans stayed for dinner!

In subsequent re"reads", the story became a bit more clear... but I still wouldn't swear to anything I'm about to say.  I get the impression that many of the injuries and casualties that this remote hospital has seen were due to the actions of Enemy Ace himself.  We see the bandaged man sketching Hans' Fokker Triplane... so, I think we can assume he's the one who shot them down.

Hans, who I don't know from Adam, seems like during combat he's just "doing his duty"... following orders, and all that.  Otherwise, he might be a caring and empathetic guy.  We can see this in how he salutes the fallen after having a dance.  This story reminds me a bit of the Christmas Truce of 1914... where German and British troops had a brief ceasefire in the midst of World War I.

Before we cut out, let's have a look at the art.  I'm a pretty big Byrne fan, though even I will admit that his faces tend to be a bit generic from time to time.  Having Andy Kubert provide finishes really jazzed up the work.  I feel like Byrne/Kubert might've been one heck of an artistic "marriage".  Really solid stuff here... wish there was more of it!

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We open, and it's Christmas at the JLA Satellite.  Not only that, it's a pre-Crisis Christmas, because our featured players here are Hal and Barry.  The latter is on monitor duty, and the former is keeping him company, while lamenting the fact that Ollie bought him yet another copy of Das Kapital... I think I'd feel the same way.  Anyhoo, the pair become restless and have a hankering for an "old-fashioned Christmas", and so... Hal zaps them to a quiet burg where they might be able to find one.  Naturally, this doesn't quite work out the way they'd hoped.



Just then, they come across a man being mugged.  After making short work of the baddies, Flash and Green Lantern are introduced to C.B. Fenster (yes, that C.B. Fenster... apparently).  C.B. tells them they should've just let him die... which begs the question as to why he was calling out for help not four panels earlier.  Anyhoo, this coot has issued a challenge to his hoi poloi pals: He'll give five-million bucks to anyone who can prove that Santa Claus exists.



Well, that's all our fellas needed to hear.  Before we know it, Fenster is decked out in red, and flying above the city in a one-Flash construct sleigh.



Ya see, Flash, GL, and C.B. are going to go all around the world giving gifts to all the good girls and boys.  Their first stop... well, it goes alright, but our Santa is definitely lacking in the "Ho, Ho, Ho" department... he even makes a child sign for a teddy bear!



Their next stop is in a rather posh neighborhood, where Santa Fenster meets a newly-single mother who is struggling to put together the bicycles her late-husband bought for their children.  He offers her a hand... and might be starting to learn a thing or two about "good will toward man".


Another stop... I think we're in Germany now... and Santa meets a very lonely guy, who is just looking for someone to talk to.  Fenster hands over a teddy bear... which, I suppose is better than a sharp stick in the eye.


After hitting every house (on the planet), Hal and Barry return Fenster to where they found him (I think...).  They came up one house short... ya see, this one family... the Harpers, they just weren't able to track them down.  Their last known address was just a "burned-out house".  The heroes apologize for wasting the millionaire's time, and leave.


Fenster notices a nearby car, and knocks on the window... ya see, this is where the Harper are now living.  Mr. Harper exits the car and tells C.B. about some of his family's recent struggles... while assuring him that they'll be okay.  Fenster asks Harper to let him help.


Here's the thing... Fenster himself was the Santa he'd been searching for.  The millionaire goes to hand over a five-million dollar check, which Hal refuses.  Yeah, that doesn't seem in character.  I guess Christmas will make people act in strange ways.


We wrap up with Fenster throwing a big party for all the pals he just met... and Hal wishing Barry a Happy Hanukkah?!  I swear, I never knew that Barry was Jewish!  I guess that's why he gets stuck with Monitor Duty on Christmas!


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Sometimes, especially of late with our Action Comics Weekly "duties", when I find myself reading an "anthology-length" story, I kinda get lost in it.  I forget that I'm reading an eight-pager, and by the time I'm done, I could swear that I'd just read an issue-length epic.  This is certainly one of those times.

So, whatta we got here?  Two old pals trying to have themselves an "old-fashioned" Christmas.  Worth noting, I don't think this story is actually titled that, but it's what the internet calls it... and that's good enough for this guy.

What they find is a fella whose lost that "Christmas feeling".  He's a rich guy, so naturally, doesn't know anything about the "real world"... and so, the heroes take him on a (literal) world tour so he can ultimately discover that there's a little Santa Claus in each of us.  It's cliche, yes... but, it works... and I quite enjoyed it.

It was, at times, touching... also, a bit funny.  Can't ask for much more than that for this type of story.  Art comes to us from Colleen Doran, and despite the Harper children looking more like the offspring of Terry Long, it's really very nice.  I'd recommend seeking this story out.


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It's Christmastime, and Deadman is being kind of naughty.  Ya see, he's been scoping out a rather rich fella by the name of John Turner Danforth.  After taking possession of this dude's body, Boston goes about using his immense (and arguably, ill-gotten) fortune to send gifts to his old friends at Hill Brothers Circus.  Pretty sneaky, pal.  That's not the story we're going to tell today, however.  No, no, no... this is a story about how during Christmas, Deadman is at his most lonely.  All that "good will toward men" in the air gives him a bit too much idle time.



Boston spots a skater on the ice... and decides to take possession in order to feel what it's like to have the cold air on his face.  After a couple of axles, he spots... a most arousing (his words, not mine) woman.  He figures his next "stop" will be inside the body of her male companion.



The woman kisses him, because she doesn't realize she's, ya know, kissing a dead-man.  Together, they head to a friend's house for a Christmas Party.  Boston is greeted, and treated as though he belongs there.  Again, this is because none of them realize that their buddy Paul is currently being possessed.


He loses himself in the fun, frivolity, and warmth of the occasion.  He takes in the sounds of laughter, and smells of food.  He reminisces about Christmases long long ago.  But then, the harsh reality of the situation sets in.  This isn't his Christmas... it's Paul's.  And what he's doing is robbing him of a wonderful experience... and ultimately, wonderful memories.


After one more scan of the table, and one more look into Kerry's loving eyes, Boston decides to vacate.  He's already taken too much from Paul, and doesn't feel right taking any more.


Outside, he curses Rama for his lot in (after) life before sitting down to sulk.  The pity-party is interrupted by the arrival of a blonde stranger, who... oddly enough, can see Deadman.


She offers an unsolicited opinion, in that she suggests Deadman might be feeling the way he is because nobody can see all the good he's done.  He's very much an unsung hero... righting wrongs without ever getting recognition or credit.  Boston asks if anyone cares... to which, the stranger replies "Probably not."  Ouch.


Deadman relates his feelings to when he was a circus performer.  He was fueled by applause... something he certainly doesn't experience these days.  The Stranger removes Boston's mask so she can look him in the eyes, and assures him that what they do isn't for recognition.  They do what they do because no one else will.  They act in the interests of the greater good... even if no one remembers they ever existed.  Remember that last bit.


Deadman apologizes for his outburst, and tells the Stranger that she's right.  After wishing our man a Merry Christmas, the Stranger goes to take her leave.  Before she can, however, Boston asks for her name... to which, she replies "Kara"... buuuuut, she doubts that means anything to him.


We wrap up with Boston floating away letting the situation set in.  He thinks to himself that Kara was right... that name didn't mean anything to him.  He wishes her a Merry Christmas... whoever she is.


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Okay, so we've got a little bit to unpack here, don't we?

Before addressing the elephant in the room, I want to spend a few moments looking at the first-half of this story.  Maybe I'm too much of a Christmas-Softy, but this scene really got to me.  Deadman having the opportunity to take part in the love and warmth of a Christmas Gathering... with a woman who looks at him with nothing less than adoration on his arm.  Sounds like a pretty good time, don't it?  Until, of course... he lets himself think about what he's taking from the man who owns the body he's currently occupying.

It's heartbreaking.  I mean, again... this is coming from Christmas-Softy Chris, but... even taking the "Deadmannyness" out of the equation... it feels like every year we're gently dropped into the festivity and warmth of Christmas... family gatherings, neighbor after neighbor decorating and lighting-up their homes, reconnecting with friends... then, suddenly... it's over.  We're yanked back to reality for another eleven months.  Family and friends go their own ways, the neighborhood returns to normal... the warmth kind of fades.

I think of that one line from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas... one that never fails to move me.  "Someday soon we all will be together - If the fates allow - Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow".  So much of life can come down to "muddling through"... if we let it.

Which brings us back to Deadman.  He's doomed to work in anonymity... doing what's right for people who will never know he was there.  It doesn't get much more "muddling through" than that... which is something that is all the more apparent during the "most wonderful time of the year".  It's only in meeting a stranger named Kara, that he begins to make peace with that.

I'm not blowing any minds here, and it's never said outright... but, "Kara" is pretty clearly meant to represent the pre-Crisis Supergirl.  A Supergirl that no longer exists... and, in fact, never had!  She can identify with Deadman, in that everything she'd ever done... or ever will do, will be done without anyone acknowledging her existence.

This is also pretty heartbreaking.  While I'm certain I'd have been more "moved" by this scene had I grown up in the pre-Crisis era, the poignancy and tragedy of this meeting was not lost on me.  In a way, it reminded me of how I felt when reading those (mostly tepid) Convergence mini-series' from 2015.  We were given a fleeting opportunity to say goodbye to "our" heroes... before returning to "muddle through" The New-52!

When I read those series', I lingered on the final panels... realizing that this was very likely going to be "it".  I was never going to see my Superman again... or my Titans... or my Outsiders.  Of course, some half-decade later, I've got a bit of egg on my face... but, that's neither here nor there.  I gotta wonder how this sorta-kinda cameo was received by folks back in ye old 1989?  If you're reading this, and were around... I'd love to know how seeing your Supergirl again felt!  Also, did you look at this character as Supergirl... or simply an "Easter Egg" of sorts?

Overall... there's just a ton to love about this little story, and if you only read one from this 1989 Special, I would urge you to make it this one.


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