Action Comics Weekly #603 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #603 (April 19, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Retribution!”
Secret Six: “Spread Your Broken Wings and Learn to Fly”
Deadman: “Chapter Three: Talaoc’s Tale!”
Superman: “More Powerful than a Locomotive!”
Wild Dog: “Moral Stand, Chapter Three: Censored”
Blackhawk: “Another Fine War, Chapter 3”
Writers – James Owsley, Martin Pasko, Mike Baron, Roger Stern, Max Collins, & Mike Grell
Pencils – Gil Kane, Dan Spiegle, Dan Jurgens, Curt Swan, Terry Beatty, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Tony DeZuniga, John Beatty, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Carrie Spiegle, Steve Haynie, Bill Oakley, & Gaspar
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Liz Berube, Petra Scotese, Michele Wolfman, & Tom Ziuko
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dick Giordano, Barbara Randall, Mike Carlin, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

Welcome to our third compilation post, collecting all of the silliness from the 603rd issue of Action Comics.

This week’s cover comes to us from Kyle Baker, and it’s a good’un.  Though, after seeing it over and over again for the past seven days has made me never want to see it again.  I’m guessing that will be a problem throughout this entire process.  There’s only so many times you can look at the same thing, no matter how much effort I put into differentiating the trade dresses!

Poll Time:

Last week saw the Blackhawk feature pull away with a victory.  I’m looking forward to the point where Action Comics Weekly‘s letters pages includes their own poll results so we can compare.  That could be a lot of fun.

As you can see, both Superman and Wild Dog were left voteless.  Poor things.  I’d say Superman’s goose egg was well-earned… and, that I’d expect a repeat performance for his feature this time out.  Woof… 603’s Superman strip was rough!

My Rankings for last week’s stories (#602) would be:
1 – Blackhawk
2 – Green Lantern
3 – Secret Six
4 – Wild Dog
5 – Deadman
6 – Superman

Here’s this week’s poll… Happy Voting!

Best story in Action Comics Weekly #603?

Green Lantern

Secret Six



Wild Dog


We open with a page recapping much of what we learned last issue.  If you’re just joining us, Star Sapphire killed Katma Tui… then crashed her funeral.  Hal gave chase, however, was distracted by a jet plummeting into Coast City… also courtesy of Carol.  We pick up with Hal headed toward Ms. Ferris’ penthouse apartment… which is undoubtedly going to wind up being a trap.  And wouldja look at that, it totally is!  Sapphire lets loose with a blast, and it’s all Hal can do to will up a construct to catch the debris.

Carol then creates her own construct… in the form of the fallen Katma.  This gets into Hal’s head, and opens him up to get punched right through the building.

Inside, he is confronted by Carol… who reveals the reasons for her actions.  It’s all that stuff she was ranting about during our opening chapter… her “sisters” have abandoned her… she’s all alone, and for whatever reason, she blames Hal.  Hence, now it’s time for revenge.  Keep in mind, that Hal is struggling to maintain focus and hold up all the debris during this whole weird conversation.

Hal waits for a break in the conversation, and realizing he cannot split his focus and hope to keep the debris in the air, tries to deal with her the “old-fashioned way”… and by “old-fashioned way” I mean, with the back of his hand.

With his former lover splayed before him, Hal comes to the realization that Star Sapphire might be too dangerous to let live.  She’s too far gone for redemption (which, considering everything Hal will be going through during the next decade, is pretty interesting), and so… he decides Star Sapphire must die!  Only one problem, Hal’s ring works via will power… and so, he must “will it” to kill her, and he just can’t seem to do it!  At this point, the police show up… which, is pretty crazy considering the building is being held up by a wing and a prayer at this point.  Either way, Hal decides it might be best to bug out.

Only, Star Sapphire has different plans.  She takes Hal’s momentary distraction, blasts the police, and turns the tables on her emerald assailant!  We wrap up with her vowing to exact revenge!

Well, it’s a fight scene!  A fight scene that ends with a pretty decent cliffhanger.  Sapphire’s got the upper hand, the apartment building might crumble at any moment, Hal is conflicted as to what he might be capable of… it’s a pretty good time!

I really dig Hal trying to convince himself that the best thing for him to do is kill Star Sapphire.  I mean, that’s one heckuva bridge to cross, innit?  I thought it was cool that no matter how he tried to justify it to himself, the ring just wouldn’t cooperate.  I guess you can lie to yourself… but not your willpower-fueled cosmic jewelry!

I feel like every third or so chapter, we might be able to take a look back at “the story so far”, since we’re now up to around 24-pages of story… or, as close to one full “normal” issue as we’re going to get.

So how do these three parts measure up as a “single issue”?  Pretty well, I’d say.  The pacing is dense, and we do get a whole lot of story!  I feel like this definitely could have been “massaged” (recaps removed and whatnot) into a darn good single issue.

We open on June 7… which is right where we left off last week.  If you recall, the original Secret Six’s air-transport vehicle exploded.  Turns out, that happened somewhere in a remote part of Northern California.  At that very moment in a not-so-remote part of Northern California, blind Vic Sommers has just stepped into traffic, when his sight-visor-doohickey deactivated.  He’s saved by Luke McKendrick.

Ya see, this is due to the fact that Sommers was planning on turning down Mockingbird’s offer to join up with the all-new Secret Six.  It really doesn’t make much sense without the context, so I suggest you check out last week’s bit, if you haven’t already.  Anyhoo, Vic seems to have learned the error of his ways, and decides to hear Mockingbird out, at the very least.

We jump ahead to Midnight at the Embarcadero, where Mockingbird is transmitting live over the closed-circuit airwaves to chat up his potential new team.  He gives them the lay of the land… the Secret Six are in place to apprehend criminals who cannot be touched by conventional means.  Once apprehended, they… er, mock them, hence the name “Mockingbird”.  Yeah, he really says that.

We jump ahead a week.  The new Sixers have familiarized themselves with their equipment and are awaiting orders.  Mockingbird pops in, and tells them all about Elvis Brockman… a tech wunderkind, who looks like he’s probably always offended over something.  Anyhoo, Elvis is now running TechnoDyne, who may or may not be responsible for the Orsonville Acid Rain from a few issues back.

Mockingbird reveals that TechnoDyne is profiting from the rains by selling “Impenetrite”, a new alloy more durable than steel… with which they can rebuild Orsonville, ya see.  The Sixers are going to be sent inside to see if they can’t get to the bottom of this… and if it’s deduced that the company is responsible for the Acid Rain, to publicly discredit them.

The next day, Barney’s Electronics makes a delivery to Brockman’s sprawling estate… only, it’s actually a couple of our new pals (Mitch and Tony).  Ya see, Maria was able to use her computer expertise to hack into TechnoDyne’s files to coordinate this whole thing.  So, at this point, we’ve got two on the ground.

Elsewhere, Vic and Luke land in some nearby vegetation, awaiting a TechnoDyne truck that happens by a few moments later.  They hop on, and crawl under.  I tell ya what, I don’t care what kind of cyber doohickeys I’m wearing, I’m not sure I’d be up for that!  Actually, I’m sure of the exact opposite.

We wrap up back in the remote part of Northern California, where a couple of hikers have come across… bodies?

Decent enough chapter, but part of me can’t help but notice that the pacing is kind of all over the place.  I did my best during the synopsis to make it flow a bit smoother, but it’s a little wonky.

That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it however, because I am.  I think this is a really fun idea for a team.  I dig the idea of these folks being beholden to Mockingbird, only if they want to maintain a certain quality of life.  I mean, we can look at the Suicide Squad and their exploding collars as a way of keeping the members in line, but here it’s a bit more nuanced (at least as far as we know at present).  These new Sixers can leave anytime they like… but, they’ll have to go back to being disabled.

We see Vic temporarily lose his vision… and that’s enough for him to decide to throw in with Mockingbird… at least for now.  I think that really widens the “gray area” the team might be willing to work in.  Who’s to say that sometime down the line, Mockingbird might ask the Six to perform some unsavory acts?

The Orsonville Acid Rain story comes back around… which I’m happy to see.  Up until now, those scenes felt like they didn’t really fit.  I’m glad to see we’ll be addressing that straight away.  Also, the mortality of the original Six is still up in the air… however, the fact that those hikers came across (what I presume is) the wreckage, tells me that this will also be addressed shortly.

This is really gearing up to be a lot of fun.  That pacing though.  Hopefully this will work itself out as we continue along, and as the creative team become more comfortable writing 8-pagers.

We pick up right where we left off (I feel like I’m saying that a lot lately), where Deadman and Talaoc are facing off atop the Temple… and everyone can see them both!  But how?  Well, ya see… um, lemme try and explain this… Talaoc is powered by how how much faith his followers have in him… and, uh, somehow that allows people to see them?  Okay.  Among the “peanut gallery” is Major Kasaba and that Archaeologist fellow who’d rather everybody just leave so he might continue his research.

Kasaba’s interest is piqued… she wonders just how much power she’d wield if she were able to take control over these fantastic fellas.  We immediately jump to a mid-air fight between Talaoc and Deadman, during which Boston makes a lot of “short” jokes… like, implying that Talaoc is short in stature.  He’s certainly smaller than Deadman, but… I dunno.

They don’t fight for long though… after the initial tussle, it seems as though they respect one another as warriors… though, Tally still wants to “kill” Deadman.  Well, not so fast, kemosabe… “Dead” is the dude’s first name, after all.  Tally claims to be a God… Boston suggests he’s just a tiny man who made a bum deal with a God.  Potayto Potahto.  Okay, not quite Potayto Potahto.

It really doesn’t take all that much in the way of convincing… Talaoc comes around to the idea pretty quickly.  He remembers great shining ships flying in the sky… that burned him with light.  They wanted to rule and conquer… and the key to all of that, was horrible machines.

Okay, so after a few body swaps… and the arrival of Quetzalcoatl, everything was cool.  Only, the machines remained in the pyramid/temple thingie.  Tally and Boston have gotta head back with the quickness before Kasaba and Company realize what they’re standing on!  Only… they’re too late.

By now, Kasaba has deduced that the temple was built on top of a flying saucer… and commands her men to tear the whole thing down so they can find it!  The Archaeologist, naturally, ain’t hip to this jive… though, he’s the only one present without a gun, so what’s he gonna do about it?  We wrap up with a strange humming emanating from the temple itself… a very familiar humming to our new pal Talaoc!

Okay, after two better-than-expected chapters, this is where I kind of get “iffy” with this one.

First… that explanation as to why people can see Deadman and Talaoc.  Okay, so, the more faithful Talaoc’s followers, the better they can see him?  Sounds good… but, why then, can they also see Deadman?!  Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’m just not wired for this kind of story… but, to me, it would stand to reason that the “followers” would only see ol’ Tally.  Lookit me, applying logic to a Deadman story.  Nevermind.

Deadman being able to convince Talaoc that he’s not really a God, and instead just a short dude who made a bad deal with a God is pretty neat… and plays on his own origins… but, I mean, he was able to convince him of this within like… two panels?  I dunno… seems a little too easy.

Let’s jump to the end.  So, there’s a flying saucer under the temple, right?  But… but… this is the DC Universe… that really isn’t so much of a novelty, is it?!  I mean, Kasaba just saw a pair of ethereal God-like characters having a chat… and a lousy UFO is what piques her interest?!

So yeah, definitely the weakest Deadman chapter so far… which is a shame, as I was actually beginning to “come around” over the past couple of weeks.  The cliffhangers had been riveting, unfortunately the explanations and revelations have been rather lackluster.

We pick up right where we left off last week… that one dude got thrown from the hood of the getaway car onto the train tracks, where he done messed up his ankle… and wouldn’tcha know it, on this day, the trains were running on time in Metropolis!

Superman swoops in for the save, but… get this, rather than scooping the poor goofball off the tracks, he totally smashes into the train itself!  Whaaaa?  I mean, there had to be an easier way, no?

Meanwhile, in the getaway car, the passenger begins to get cold feet.  He didn’t sign up for a potential tango with Superman.  Din’cha hea’, he’s from a whole nudda planet aw somet’in.  The driver of the getaway car is more than happy to oblige, and gives the passenger an “out”… in the form of a bullet to the heart.

The driver then dumps the body out of the moving vehicle, and we wrap up with Superman finding it… and wondering just what this poor fella was shot with.  We didn’t get a good look at the pistol, but it made a BTOOM sound, if that’s any help.


Okay, so Superman has a split-second to make a decision.  He can either a) pick a guy up off the train tracks, or b) slam, back-first into the train, tearing up the tracks in the process in order to stop it from hitting the fella.  I mean, the guy on the tracks wasn’t like literally stuck there… as far as we know, he just twisted his ankle!  He says “Leg… all busted up”, not “leg… stuck between the rails”.

Just so dumb… and irresponsible.  Superman just mangled a train and the tracks.  Did he even give a thought to the passengers on the train that might’ve been thrown about via the sudden stop?!  I mean, he saved the criminal, sure… but what about the several dozen concussed commuters on board the train?!

Hell, even those passengers who weren’t injured… how are they going to get to work tomorrow with the tracks all destroyed?  Just so bad.

The getaway driver seems a rather heartless sort, don’t he?  Leaving two of his partners behind, shooting the third in the chest and leaving him for dead.  Worth noting, Superman did seem a bit concerned about what sort of firearm the baddie was using.  Not sure if that’ll come back around, I hardly remember a single beat from this story.

Overall… I feel like, at this point, I’ve spent more time writing about it than Roger Stern spent writing it.  Kind of a mess… and poor form for Superman.

We pick up right where we left off… ReadWorld Books went boom… er, Ka-Whoom!  We see here that ReadWorld was just a few blocks away from Jack Wheeler’s garage, where he and Lt. Andy Flint are wrapping up their chat.  Andy heads over to check out the blaze, and Jack tags along.  Andy reveals that, only a few hours prior, this was the scene of an anti-porn demonstration… which absolutely baffles Jack.

Andy tries to corral the lookie-loos, and keep the peace… when Jack notices a freshly-painted “calling card” left on the side of the building.  It’s that Ghostbusters logo… just without the ghost.

Susan King arrives to report the news, and we can see that among the onlookers is… Dr. B. Lyle Layman, and he currently looks like the cat that ate the canary!  Susan questions him, but he has nothing to say.  Well, that’s not completely true… he does say “The Lord works in mysterious ways”.

Jack and Andy are watching the news broadcast from a local bar, and they both notice the lapel pin the Good Doctor is wearing… it’s that Ghostbusters-without-the-ghost logo!  Uh-oh.

Andy laments the fact that they don’t have anybody on the “inside” of Layman’s organization… which Jack takes as a sorta-kinda invitation to “play Wild Dog”.

The next day, Dr. Layman visits Helen Scournt, the President of the local chapter of the Legion of Morality… and he offers her a promotion!  Ya see, he’s thinking about hanging around the Quad Cities for a spell, and even opening up an official “Field Office” there.  He also hits on her… like really hard.

We shift over to Lt. Flint’s office, where Lou Godder has arrived for a visit.  We learn that in the ReadWorld fire, the nighttime security guard “burnt to a crisp”, which ups the stakes on tracking down the responsible parties.

We wrap up with Jack Wheeler, local businessman meeting with Dr. Layman about a contribution opportunity.

Last week I was enjoying the story so much that I didn’t even realize that Wild Dog wasn’t even in it… and this week, it’s more of the same.  We’re building a neat little story here, Wild Dog or no!  I assume he’s going to be making an appearance next week considering the “blurb” in the final panel, but so far we’ve gotten along quite well without “him”!

I think last week I described the Legion of Morality as “unsubtle”… I’m not sure if there’s a stronger word that could be used to describe them… I dunno, maybe “blatant”?  I mean, this Dr. Layman might as well have horns and a forked tail.  Just cartoonishly driven in his cause.  From his visit with Helen Whatsherface, it looks like he’ll eventually be exposed as some sort of perverted hypocrite down the line… which will be a fitting end for this type of baddie.  If I’m not mistaken, this is hot off the heels of the Jim Bakker/Jessica Hahn scandal… 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now… I really like the world-building Collins and Co are doing here.  Jack Wheeler may be Wild Dog, but he’s hardly the only character we’re paying attention to here.  This is a fun cast of characters, and it’s neat having them all get “panel time”.

Overall, another fun chapter… and if we were to package the last three parts into a single issue, I feel like they’d make for a nice little read.  Now that the table is set, I’m really looking forward to what’s to come.

We open with Janos and Cynthia getting into the skinny on the “Finder’s Keepers” gold.  Apparently, it was part of a Japanese hoard left in Indochina back in 1945.  After the French returned in 1946, they discovered it… but, it would come up missing again.  A Parachutist named Robert Massie is thought to have stolen it… and had hoped to take it out through an abandoned airstrip in Northern Burma.

But that’s where the trail ends!  It’s believed Massie was intercepted by a Chinese bandit called “The Red Dragon”.  Cynthia believes that the gold is still in the possession of The Red Dragon… and so, that’s their current target.

Blackhawk’s all “Why in all hells would I want to get tangled up in this?“, to which Cynthia informs him that she’s “done her homework” on him, and knows that this sort of gig is right up his alley.  Of course, she’s right.  They bargain a bit about the split of the loot, and Janos decides to “throw in” after an offer of 30%, plus all expenses paid.

There’s also a bit of trademark Blackhawk lechery before the agreement.

We jump ahead to the hangar, where Blackhawk bribes a clerk to follow up on a telegram he’d sent to Saigon.  Cynthia arrives, and Janos again asks who she is affiliated with… and she still won’t say.

Upon seeing the plane, Cynthia is somewhat surprised.  They’re going to be flying in a cargo plane rather than a fighter.  Janos explains that this will be the easiest and safest way into wherever-the-hell they’re going… after all, a fighter jet would very likely be shot down upon sight.  The cargo plane is full of bootleg booze, which will serve several purposes, not the least of which, getting people drunk.

We close out with the plane taking off… and Blackhawk hoping The Red Dragon might be a formidable… and therefore, fun… foe.

Another nice chapter… and, I feel like if we were to compile/massage the three bits we have so far into a “full-size” single-issue, it’d make for a good one!  One of the things I’ve been trying to keep in mind when reading these “features” is that, many of the creative teams involved might not have been completely comfortable writing in 8-page “bursts”.

That said, I might be giving some stories a “pass” when it comes to pacing.  So like, while these Blackhawk chapters have featured quite a bit of “sitting around” and talking… I’m willing to accept that.  I’m doing my best to read these with a few days between to best emulate what readers back in 1988/89 had to do… so, I guess we’ll see over the next few weeks if I can maintain my optimism.

So, whatta we got here?  Cynthia Hastings lays it all out.  The war gold has changed hands a number of times, and is now believed to be in possession of a Chinese bandit called the Red Dragon.  Sounds dangerous… and I hope it proves to be!

I still dig the back-n-forth between she and Janos, lechery and all.  I also appreciate Janos’ logic… “delivering” hooch rather than flying in guns blazing is an awesome idea on so many levels.  The revelation that they could use the booze to possibly get their enemies drunk, and therefore easier to beat up, is pretty awesome.

The art continues to deliver… I’m not sure if I said it here, or on social media, but I feel like Burchett’s work is like a more “comic-booky” Darwyn Cooke.  I think it’s pretty great!  Feeling really good about this one overall!

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4 thoughts on “Action Comics Weekly #603 (1988)

  • Billy Hogan

    I'm enjoying your look at Action Comics Weekly. As a Superman fan, it's sad his feature wasn't better, but I'm glad to see that readers of your blog like Blackhawk as well as I do.

    • Chris

      Heyyy, thanks so much Billy! Means a lot that you're digging it!

      This week's Superman… yeah, a bit of a let-down to be sure! It's been so long since I last read it… and honestly, I'm not sure if I ever read it all the way through. I'm interested in seeing how I receive it this time around.

      I feel like Blackhawk has definitely been the strongest of these early features! Having a lot of fun with it, and next week's looks to be just as strong!

      Thanks again!

  • Jeremiah

    I voted for Wild Dog this week because, despite no Wold Dog, the story really is getting interesting. The intrigue is really picking up where, for example, it is not in the Deadman story. Deadman was still good, but as you pointed out some of the plot points really are a little wonky.

    • Chris

      I haven't voted just yet… I'm vacillating between Wild Dog and Blackhawk, enjoyed them both a great deal this time out. Next week's offering are pretty great too!

      Secret Six has been a pleasant surprise as well, and Pasko is really cramming a whole lot of story into his eight pages! Lantern was decent enough too… posed a few interesting questions about certain actions being a "bridge too far" too boot.

      Deadman… I'm still liking it more than I thought I would, but this outing was pretty weak… the dialogue between Deadman and Talaoc (which I didn't capture nearly enough of) was pretty fun though.

      Superman… woof!


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