Action Comics Weekly #601 (1988)



Action Comics Weekly #601 (April 5, 1988)
Green Lantern: “… And the Pain Shall Leave My Heart”
Wild Dog: “Moral Stand, Chapter One: Point of Order”
Secret Six: “Listening to the Mockingbird”
Superman: “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet!”
Deadman: “The Section Chief”
Blackhawk: “Another Fine War”
Writers – Jim Owsley, Max Collins, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, Mike Baron, & Mike Grell
Pencils – Gil Kane, Terry Beatty, Dan Spiegle, Curt Swan, Dan Jurgens, & Rick Burchett
Inks – John Nyberg, John Beatty, Tony DeZuniga, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Gaspar, Carrie Spiegle, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Michele Wolfman, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko, & Liz Berube
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Mike Gold, Dick Giordano, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Randall
Cover Price: $1.50

One Week Down… Forty-One to go!  Well, that’s not entirely true… there are a couple of “done in one’s” later on down the line.


Whatever the case, welcome to our first Action Comics Weekly compilation post!  Every week, I’ll be compiling all of the disparate chapters of ACW into a single post… which, besides making this blog a little easier to follow for less-than-regular visitors, it’ll also assist with my anal-retentive approach to “tagging” posts.  Not that it matters (or that anyone even cares), but it’s one of those things I toss and turn worrying about!


Now, in the spirit of the Action Comics Weekly Letters Page (seen way down below), I thought it might be fun to run a little poll during these compilation posts.




If I set this poll-thingie up correctly… you should be able to vote for your favorite story of the week!  Hopefully this will add a little bit of flavor and fun to these weekly posts… and hopefully it won’t just be me voting for Green Lantern every week!  If this works out, we can try it every week… and eventually even begin comparing it with what readers back in 1988/1989 thought!


If you do want to rank the stories from Best to Worst like they did back in 1988/1989, leave a comment… or just tweet at me @acecomics.


Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #601?

Green Lantern

Wild Dog

Secret Six

Superman

Deadman

Blackhawk

Anyhoo, vote, share, enjoy… all that good stuff!  Hope everyone out there is digging this new format, I know I’m having a lot of fun with it!





We open with Star Sapphire having a space battle with a (rather goofy-looking) construct of Hal Jordan.  She laments the fact that she once loved him… but now, there’s only hate.  Ya see, she blames him for the fact that her people have vanished… and she’s going to eventually want her pound of flesh.  Meanhwhile on Earth, Hal and his… girlfriend, Arisia are couchin’ it at John and Katma’s place.  It looks like this “living arrangement” might be a bit too close for comfort for the Stewarts.





Hal complains that he’s broke (what else is new?), and so John suggests he… get this… goes off and robs a South African Diamond Mine!  No joke… he actually suggests this.  At the same time, Katma is reaming out Arisia for hogging the shower.





John ensures Hal that the African Mine is closed down… so, it’ll just be a case of “finder’s keepers”, and so our man is Africa-bound.  One page later, he’s there picking up diamonds… and getting shot at!  He uses his ring to disarm the soldiers, and asks himself why he doesn’t feel all that bad about breaking the law.





Back in the City, Star Sapphire pays the Stewart apartment a visit… annnnnd kills Katma-Tui!  They’re not messing around here, folks.





We wrap up with Hal returning to the pad, only to find John Stewart hunched over the body of his now-dead wife.  Naturally, John blames Hal.







Well, that’s what we in the biz call “hitting the ground running”!


With this opening chapter, it’s established right out the gate that we’re playing for keeps.  The Green Lantern feature is arguably/certainly the “headliner” for the first two-thirds of this weekly-run, and straight away we can see that this will be an important “chapter” of Green Lantern/Hal Jordan “lore” (or, at least it was intended to be at the time).


A little housekeeping and context.  Not too long ago, we read some of the tail end of Green Lantern Corps, featuring the Trial of Sinestro.  I’ll link to them here, so you can get caught up… and get a better sense as to why the Corps is no more, and how that ties into Star Sapphire being in a not-so-great mood.




All told, this was a chapter that would make fans of Green Lantern stand up and take notice.  Katma’s death is one that actually would stick for rather a long time… one of the few bits of Lantern-flavored Action Comics Weekly “legacy” that would continue past this run!


I haven’t figured out how we’re going to “wrap up” these piecemeal posts yet.  It feels weird to recommend a single story in an anthology… so, maybe we’ll save that for when we compile these pieces into the full-blown issue discussion.  I’ll also be sharing the “Interesting Ads” and Letters Pages for the “done in one” posts.  The Letters Pages will eventually get fun… as they poll the readers every week as to their favorite anthological offering of weeks’ past.  Those will likely be neat to contend with!








We open during a Davenport City Council meeting where a member of the Committee For Social Change has taken over the proceedings.  He is demanding Wild Dog be handed over to him for his crimes against their organization… otherwise, he’s going to start putting holes in members of the board.  The Quad-Cities Police Force already has the place surrounded.





Back inside the C.S.C. spokesman continues ranting… and gives Wild Dog thirty-minutes to appear, otherwise innocent blood is going to be on his hands.  Reporter, Susan King (who we met during the mini) is on-hand to cover the meeting… and isn’t quite sure how they’re going to get out of this one.





Well, it just so happens that at that very moment a maintenance man enters City Hall.  After bumping into a Civil Servant, he ducks away in a closet, where we learn that he is, in fact, Wild Dog!





Meanwhile the Police put their heads together over how to handle this present crisis.  Lieutenant Flint (at least I think that’s who this is) suggests maybe they just dress a dude up like Wild Dog… after all, his costume is pretty easy to replicate.  Well, he’s not wrong!






The point is, however… moot.  Wild Dog’s already locked and loaded as he approaches the Chambers… and proceeds to blow the C.S.C goons away!  It’s been a little while since I’ve read a Wild Dog story, so it’s a little shocking just how violent this fella gets!





We wrap up this chapter with Quad-Cities’ Finest rushing into the Chambers to discover the wake of Wild Dog’s latest endeavor… however, the man himself is nowhere to be found!







Wild Dog is… a lot of fun.


We’ve talked in the past about how he might be dismissed as a “funny, ha-ha” type of character… I’d almost put money on him being a Wizard Magazine “Mort of the Month” at some point in time.  Maybe at some point I’ll do a thorough scan of my Wizard Mags and try and confirm that.  With that said though, I quite enjoyed this.


It’s a bit of a palette cleanser after the Green Lantern chapter… and I feel like the anthology format might just be the “right” format for this character.


Let’s do the context thing.  We discussed Wild Dog’s four-issue mini wayyy back in the long ago… If you’d like to be brought up to speed, click’a da pica’s.




 It’s a rather underrated little story… which I enjoy unironically.  I feel like he gets written off as a “so bad it’s good” character too often… though, I might just be projecting.  It’s really a lot of fun though… especially in that we readers don’t actually find out who Wild Dog even is until the last issue!


Okay, so… this story.  We’re (re)introduced to the threat of the “So-Called” Committee for Social Change, who is very much at odds with our lead character.  Thorn-in-the-side reporter, Susan King gets some panel time, as does the Quad Cities P.D.  We’re laying a foundation here, which is all one can hope for from an introductory chapter.  Gotta assume some of the folks reading this issue of Action Comics Weekly at the time might not have checked out the prior miniseries… so, this serves to get everyone up to speed.


Thoroughly enjoyable in an action-movie sort of way (which isn’t a bad thing!)… and as said, a decent palette-cleanser after the much “heavier” Green Lantern chapter.









We open in Orsonville, where there is quite the heavy acid rainstorm going on… it’s literally melting the flesh off of the citizens!  Ya know, Acid Rain is up there with Quicksand on the list of things I was sure would impact my life in a profound way.  Anyhoo, we get a shot of the Technodyne Plant, which may or may not have anything to do with anything… but almost certainly does.  From here we shift scenes to this odd woodland mansion called “The Enchanted Forest” where Bert Convy tells all of the patrons that they’re going to be closed the following night for a private party.





After making the announcement he follows up with a couple of fellows (including original Secret Six member, Carlo di Rienzi) regarding some R.S.V.P.’s… and so, we’re about to meet some of the invitees.  Starting with Mr. King Savage… another original member of the Secret Six (they’re all going to be members of the original Secret Six, by the by).





Then, Lili de Neuve… an aged French film star.





Next, Crimson Dawn… which isn’t that red mark that Psylocke had on her face during the late 90’s, but yet another Secret Six veteran.  She is Kit Dawn-Langman, a model.





Then, Tiger Force… a beat-up old boxer, who appears to have trouble even signing his name… though, he tells a fan that he’s going to write a book one’a these days.





Off to August Durant, a former Physicist… now an old man reliant on pills to stay alive.  He quarrels with… I dunno, maybe his wife… before getting in the car.





Back at the Enchanted Castle, Bert Convy (actually a dude named Rafael) is pleased to hear that the gang’s all RSVPed… and hopefully, this will draw the mysterious Mockingbird out of the shadows as well.

Do you see a bird… or a bunny?

We shift scenes to San Francisco, where a man is arriving for a “job interview”.  It’s ten o’clock at night, so he’s a bit suspicious.  Upon arrival, he meets five other people… including a woman in what appears to be a hockey mask.  Nobody comments that this is weird… so, whattayagonnado?





It’s quickly established that each of these folks have disabilities.  One’s blind, another’s deaf… one’s in a wheelchair, and as mentioned, one’s wearing a hockey mask.  They were all called here by a Mr. Byrd (hmm…) and none of them seem to be all that pleased.  In fact, a fight breaks out between them straight away!





They are then interrupted by a video monitor… it’s Mockingbird, who offers them each a new life they’d never dreamed possible… so long as they agree to be his new Secret Six!  We wrap up with a mention of an entire city having just been wiped out… going to assume that has something to do with the acid rain.







I’m going to be honest, this one took a few passes to get through.


Not that it’s necessarily a bad story… but, if you’re coming in cold… which I’d have to assume many of the readers of Action Comics Weekly were… you’d have absolutely no idea who any of these people were!  Outside of an appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986) they hadn’t been seen since Secret Six #7 (April-May, 1969)!  Who’s going to know who or what a “Tiger Force” is?!


The only way I was able to make sense of this was with use of the DC Wikia… something I’m fairly certain the readers of 1988 didn’t have access to.  Now, as you know, I’m a big fan of “lore”… but this feels like it might be just a little too obscure.


The story itself?  It was kind of tough to follow.  The panel layout here didn’t really lend to the idea of scenes shifting.  It was difficult to understand (at first blush) where one scene ended and another began.  We’re going to give ’em the benefit of the doubt though, and chalk that up to the idea that writing eight-page stories was a bit of a novelty to a writer more accustomed to writing full-length issues.


The idea of the New Secret Six being comprised of folks with disabilities is interesting… and I gotta admit, I’m looking forward to finding out what’s going on under that hockey mask!









We open with Clark Kent stood atop the Daily Planet Building enjoying both the view and a beverage.  Among the voices he tunes into, he hears a man crying out for help.  Clark “supes up” and heads down to see what’s up.


Annnnnd, that’s it!



Wow, this is really like a “day off” for your humble host.  I suppose I could make the joke that what we just read in two pages would take two issues in 2019… but, why ruin a good time?


Yeah… really not much to say about this.  I am happy that Curt Swan still has a presence in the Superman family of creators in the post-Crisis/post-Byrne landscape… so, there’s that.  Otherwise, we don’t get a whole lot to “sink our teeth into” just yet.


Gotta start somewhere… and this is that place!











We open with Deadman stood atop a satellite somewhere between the Earth and the Moon.  His mission, at present, is to track down the 278 criminals who had escaped from Nanda Parbat… and I think I’m bored already.  It’s like reading an Iron Fist story and seeing mention of “K’un-Lun”.  Anyhoo, he heads toward Earth and intercepts an airplane in the middle of a “Guns for Drugs” operation.  The Pilot and Co-Pilot are speaking in somewhat hushed tones as to not wake the “Section Chief” (who we’ll meet in a minute).






Deadman heads into the back to check in on the Chief, and finds her wide awake.  A bit about “Guns for Drugs” for context… because the story itself is kind of light on that, and a quarter-century removed… it’s easy to get lost in.  During the 1980’s, the C.I.A. was allegedly involved with trading weapons for cocaine.  This was pretty timely when this story was written.  I hate linking to Wikipedia, but you could read more about it here.  Anyhoo, Deadman winds up face to face with the Chief, who looks like she’s checking the sight on her rifle.






The plane eventually lands on a small strip in Belize.  The Section Chief introduces herself to some locals… we learn that her name is Major Grace Kasaba.  The Central Americans are a bit disappointed Ronald Reagan himself didn’t show up, but, whattayagonnado?  Together, they head into the jungle and toward a Mayan Temple to do the thing.




Kasaba and Company run into an archaeologist who isn’t keen to the idea that they’re here.  He’s afraid they’ll wind up vandalizing the priceless ruins… and he’s probably right to feel that way.  This is, after all, kinduva war zone.  At this point, Deadman remembers that this whole thing was a trade of weapons for drugs… and decides to head back to the plane for some hocus-pocus.




Deadman takes control of the pilot of the rig, and… get this… calls into Dade International Airport in Florida to tell them to expect a plane full of cocaine!  They think it’s a gag… but he assures them he ain’t kidding around.  Deadman takes out the co-pilot, then diverts course from the clandestine airstrip in the Everglades to Miami-Dade.  Take a look at the “symbols” used to disguise the cursing here… never seen a swastika used before!




With this part of the gig done and buried, Deadman returns to the Mayan Temple to check in on Major Kasaba… and, get this… as he approaches her, it seems as though she can see him!






Alright Gang, I’m going to come clean here… this was the first time I ever read this.  Anytime I’d start an Action Comics Weekly “reading project”, I was usually good for the Green Lantern, Wild Dog and Superman features in these early issues.  I’d try to get through the others, but it never really worked out.  That’s another reason why I’m happy to be doing this project.


So, what did we think?  Honestly, I didn’t think this was half-bad… and had a heckuva nice cliffhanger to boot!  I’m a bit trepidatious about some of the potential political hand-wringing we might be seeing in upcoming chapters… but, so far, this was alright.  I’m hoping folks like Ronald Reagan won’t be making any appearances… but, I’d almost put money on it happening.  The folks at DC didn’t seem to be his biggest fans during the 80’s… and that goes for his Manhunter wife too.


I’ve been trying to give a bit of a “how did they get here?” context for these arcs, but I couldn’t tell ya what was going on with Deadman before this started up.  Far as we can tell here, he’s on a mission from the Goddess Rama Kushna to corral some criminals… or something.  Seems an easy enough premise for an anthology… though, I’d bet we’ll be sticking with the Major for the foreseeable future.


Overall, I didn’t actually dislike this!  Maybe the character will grow on me yet!  Ehh, probably shouldn’t start throwin’ babies in the air just yet.  I really dug Dan Jurgens’ art here, and feel like he’s a good fit for the character.  I guess we’re leaving this chapter feeling “cautiously optimistic”, which beats several alternatives!








We open in Flashback Land… and it’s V-J (Victory over Japan) Day (September 2, 1945).  American streets are filled with celebration and ballyhoo following the unconditional surrender by Japan.  American soldiers returned home, reunited with their loved ones… and in the words of one guy, pretended that life wasn’t “boring as hell”.





That boredom was short-lived, however… as just a year later there was some goings on in Vietnam that required their attention.  Fed up with French rule, the Viet Minh started a revolution.  Battles raged during the Winter of 1946/1947.  This brings us to “now” as we jump ahead to February, 1947…



… Where Janos Prohaska… Blackhawk is taking a bath in a Singaporean… uhh, cathouse (?) while reading the funnies in Stars and Stripes.  He’s rather displeased to learn that Milton Caniff had left Terry and the Pirates to start Steve Canyon… something Reggie and I briefly discussed during a recent Cosmic Treadmill After Dark!



Suddenly, the door is kicked in by a man called Zalecki.  He’s ticked off… and wielding a blade, while demanding $10,000 (that’s about $112,604 in 2018 bucks).  Meanwhile, downstairs a blonde woman arrives at the… uhh, cathouse… and she’s looking for Blackhawk.



Back upstairs, Blackhawk pulls the ol’ “You Brought a Knife to a Gunfight” thing… and shoots Zalecki in the gut.  Our mystery blonde hears the gunshot, and might now know exactly where to find her fella.





This was pretty great!  I liked it a lot.


The only (Janos) Blackhawk I have any real familiarity with was from the Howard Chaykin Prestige Format miniseries… and even that, it’s been over a decade since I read it.  Really wasn’t sure what to expect going in here.  Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose the Blackhawk I really know is Lady Blackhawk from Birds of Prey… which really doesn’t help us here!


It’s interesting how much “time removed” makes actual real-world history more acceptable to me as a storytelling device.  The previous chapter of ACW featured Deadman tied up in some Contra stuff from the Reagan era… and, I dunno… it just didn’t connect with that as much as this.  Ya know?


It’s almost like when I read All-Star Squadron, and see them check in with Franklin Roosevelt…. I can accept that (and actually feel like it adds to the “lore”), but I’d hate to see the Justice League confer with Bush, Obama, or Trump.  Ya know?  Maybe it’s just an unironic case of “Too Soon” for me?  I dunno.  Maybe I just trust Mike Grell to give us a great story?


What we get here… isn’t all that much.  Blackhawk himself only shows up in the latter half, but I appreciate the “table setting” we get in the lead-up.  Blackhawk is depicted as a prototypical action hero, spouting off cliche lines about “knives at a gun fight”… things I might usually roll my eyes at… yet here, I dunno… it kinda works!


Overall, at first blush… this arc is something of a “dark horse” for me.  Wasn’t expecting to be quite this captivated… and certainly didn’t expect to be excitedly looking forward to the next installment!





Letters Page:





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  1. The MEGA POST is cool! I just caught up on the dailys as I refused to read Deadman lol. It was pretty good tho. The BlackHawk segment shows the dents in the armor of DC using this format. The early entires in the story are mere table setting for stories like Secret Six, Deadman and BlackHawk so it seems like nothing is really happening…YET.

    Green Lantern started with a Bang and Superman was so quick you didnt notice or get a chance to have expectations.

    Overall..great first week.

    Thanks

    Chris

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