Action Comics Weekly #609 (May 31, 1988)
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 1”
Deadman: “Faux Pas”
Secret Six: “Canned in Boston”
Superman: “And There Will be a Sign!”
Wild Dog: “Moral Stand, Chapter Nine: Red Pencil”
Green Lantern: “Cutting Remarks”
Writers – Sharon Wright, Mike Baron, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, Max Collins, & Peter David
Pencils – Randy Duburke, Dan Jurgens, Dan Spiegle, Curt Swan, Terry Beatty, & Tod Smith
Inks – Pablo Marcos, Tony DeZuniga, John Beatty, John Nyberg, & Danny Bulandi
Letters – Steve Haynie, Carrie Spiegle, Bill Oakley, Gaspar, & John Costanza
Colors – Gene D’Angelo, Liz Berube, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko, Michele Wolfman, & Anthony Tollin
Edits – Mike Gold, Barbara Randall, Dick Giordano, Mike Carlin, & Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.50
Lookit that, we survived a week without Blackhawk… and next week will be our first without Wild Dog. So far, so good… I suppose.
Let’s talk cover, because this issue has a… I dunno if “iconic” is the word for it, maybe “relatively iconic”? I mean, it’s one of the few from the Action Comics Weekly run that kinda sticks out.
Gotta say, when I first read (or flipped) through this issue, I would’ve bet money that the “burning of the costume”, as rendered so well here by the Master, Brian Bolland… was symbolic. Like, it wasn’t going to happen in the story… but (spoiler alert for something you’ll see in like a minute) it does!
The interesting thing about that, is, well…
|From Detective Comics #554 (September, 1985)
W – Joey Cavalieri / A – Jerome Moore, Bruce Patterson & Shelley Eiber
… they kinda made a big deal about those duds being fireproof! And so, I gotta ask: what kinda crazy mystical flame is comin’ off’a Dinah’s match?! Is there some’a Etrigan’s Hellfire gimmick goin’ on in here?
Anyhoo… no use bein’ a stickler fer somethin’ silly like that, even if that is one’a the things we do around here.
Let’s check out poll results!
Pretty nice turnout this week, which is super-cool! Thanks to everyone who voted! Looks like Blackhawk leaving on top just wasn’t in the cards this time, he lost by a single vote.
… er, my single vote. It was a tough decision, but at the end of the day… I just had to go with the Dog!
Dig that goose-egg next to Superman though! It’s like one of our longest-running traditions! I will say, his feature wasn’t my least favorite this time out!
My Rankings for last week’s stories (#608) would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Blackhawk
3 – Green Lantern
4 – Secret Six
5 – Superman
6 – Deadman
Here’s this week’s Poll (Dig that New Secret Six button!):
Shareable Voting Link: https://linkto.run/p/7Y32XPJS
We open in a California orange grove, where a pair of workers are… well, working… and sweating. They talk about the job opportunities afforded to them in the United States… and how the rest of their families still live in Mexico… and the danger of being “sent back”. I guess we’re going topical. Oh yes, we certainly are… our next scene is in the Headquarters of Immigration and Naturalization in Lincoln, Nebraska. A William B. MacDonald is addressing his staff… with some, likely biased reports of mentally ill and dangerous “illegals” needing to be rounded up. I’m guessing subtlety will not be a hallmark of this story.
We next travel to Seattle, where a young man is being chased by.. several other young men. They catch up to him in an alley that can be seen via the kitchen window of a woman with a rather impressive Kid N Play hairdo. She recognizes the boy getting beaten as “Luis”, and rushes out to his aid… baseball bat in tow.
Next, we shift to Sherwood Florist… where Dinah is, you guessed it, burning her Jazzercise uniform! Ollie remarks that it smells like “hot plastic”. Dinah doesn’t really give a reason for burning it… but I’m sure it resulted in a few reader fist-pumps nonetheless. As this goes down, there is a news report on the television, that I’m going to assume will become more important as we move along.
Dinah and Ollie head into the kitchen for some tea… at which time, Dinah reveals that she invited a woman named Rita over. She is a recovering drug-addict (though Dinah refers to her as “chemically dependent”) who once dove through the front window of Sherwood Florist. Anyhoo, now that she’s clean (or “chemically independent”, if you rather) Dinah wants to offer her a job. Ollie ain’t too sure… and honestly, neither am I.
Then… the doorbell rings. It’s Rita… who is that same woman with the impressive Kid N Play hairdo (or maybe she’s a Bull Nakano fan?)… and she’s in quite a state!
I’ll say this much. I really miss Blackhawk.
There’s really not enough here to pass judgment… but what we do get is awfully heavy-handed and unsubtle. I have a feeling that this arc will be kind of a bummer… and more interested in making a statement than telling a story. This is just my “hot take”… I haven’t read any further, so I could be (and hopefully am) completely wrong.
What did I like? Well, Ollie interjected a bit of levity… that much was fun. The burning of the costume… ehh.. a bit over-dramatic perhaps, especially from someone who, not two panels later, refers to herself as a “hopeless nostalgic”. I mean, nostalgic folks don’t normally burn their possessions, do they? I consider myself nostalgic… to the point of being a packrat. Oh well.
The Immigration bit. I’ll withhold judgment for now… I don’t know how Wright will handle this. I have my suspicions… but, I’ll keep ’em to myself. I will say that ol’ Mr. MacDonald may as well have had horns and a forked-tail. Just cartoonish… which, goes back to our “unsubtle” situation.
Overall… well, I’m not sure. The art is good, though it will take a bit getting used to. We haven’t had any Dinah-in-the-suit yet, so… what say, we just treat this as “prologue”?
We pick back up at the Big U.S./U.S.S.R. Gala, and Deadman is still in the body of C.I.A. Director, Stan Kriptman. When we left off, he was confronted by his Mistress, Lynn… now that his wife left him, she can’t think of a single reason why they can’t be together. Well, there are a couple of reasons I could think of. Anyhoo, Boston-as-Stan guides Lynn out to a balcony so they can talk… and sorta-kinda comes clean. Tells her he’s there to fight Satan… then tells her that Stan never loved her, before vacating his body. Kind of a jerk move… but, Stan had it comin’.
Okay… then we get to the “meat and potatoes” of this chapter. Deadman can see that the Devil has inhabited the body of Premier Mikhail Gorbachev… who just so happens to be chatting up President Ronald Reagan. You can probably guess what happens next.
And so, we get a couple pages of… well, Mike Baron illustrating his distaste for the President of the United States. Bet a lotta new comics readers out there thought that was a more “current year” sort of thing.
After some chatting, Deadman and Satan vacate the bodies of the two biggest political movers and shakers of the day, and hop into… their wives! This time, however, Satan picks the American. Little does he know that she’s… ya know… A MANHUNTER!
From here, we get a couple of pages of… well, Mike Baron illustrating his distaste for the First Lady of the United States… before “Nancy” hauls off and socks “Raisa Gorbacheva” in the mush.
Worth noting that Ronald Reagan thinks this is a hoot. Anyhoo, “Raisa” rushes off, and returns… with that Mayan rifle!
If you’ve read this little blog for any appreciable time, you’ll know that I’d prefer to keep comics and politics just about as far apart as humanly possible. That, of course, is a pipe dream. I’m not really a “political animal”… and hate the way American political discourse has become “team sports” rather than acting in anybodies best interests.
Thing is, when you’ve got a 22-page comic to fill, you might be able to “hide” some political commentary (regardless of how subtle) somewhere in the issue. It might be an offhand remark from a character… maybe a news report in the background of a panel… maybe a character is reading a newspaper. Whatever.
Here, all we’ve got is 8-pages… and the crux of it is “Reagan. No Sir, I do not care for him”. Hey, it’s Mr. Baron’s platform… he can do with it as he pleases, but… I mean… it just feels like this was written to get high-fives around the office. I will say, however… at least he kept it lighthearted.
From a “funny, ha-ha” perspective… I mean, this is sort of a “must see”. It might not be as weird as Oprah interviewing Green Lantern… but, it’s still quite silly.
I’m thinking back to a contemporary of this issue… another late-80’s book, that we discussed here back in the long-ago… Millennium. An absolute train-wreck all-around, that seemed nearly as interested in painting the Reagan’s as villains, as it did actually telling a story.
Guess I can’t really blame them… because the “story” of Millennium was damp garbage.
Keeping with Millennium for just another sec. That story established that Nancy Reagan was……… a Manhunter! Wouldn’t Satan, upon possessing her body, realize that she’s actually a thousands-year old killer robot? Maybe they were already walking that back… which, is
probably the smart play.
I mentioned above that this felt more lighthearted then it could have been… and I definitely want to hand it to Baron for that. Such levity would not be possible had this story been written in “current year”… orrrrr, between the years of 2000-2008.
Overall… I guess we got a tiny bit of forward momentum. Hopefully our writer has it all out of his system by next issue, and we can just get this thing moving along.
We open in Boston… where Vic and Gary are still duking it out over the lovely, lovely, Mel. Gary is shocked when Mel refers to the tall drink of water who just threw him through a window as “Vic”… because, ya see, Vic’s supposed to be dead. The fight escalates, with Gary hitting Vic so hard, it cracks his make-up… rendering him not unlike something out of Terminator 2… or maybe Cyborg Superman. Boston’s finest arrive, and haul ’em both off to the precinct.
We jump over to Frisco (I hear they hate it when you call it that), where the Secret Six is still discussing the who DiRienzi affair. LaDonna finally wakes up, and facilitates a neat and tidy exposition dump. Mockingbird might have lured the Originals to their death… their interloper is the son of one of those originals, yadda yadda yadda.
Speaking of that interloper, he’s currently hiding out at the Barclay Hotel under the name “Gino”. Probably not the most creative thing to use your well-known nickname as your alias… but, whattayagonnado? Anyhoo… “room service” arrives, only it’s actually a couple of Mockingbird goons. Gino gets slap-jacked and loaded into a crate.
Back in Boston, Mel arrives to bail Vic out of the clink. Ya see, Gary is a wealthy fella… and has the ability to make things “go away”. Vic begrudgingly accepts… because, I mean, what other choice does he have? He could stay locked up… and in a day or so when Mockingbird realizes he’s of no more use to him, flip the switch on his headgear?
Vic walks Mel out to her car, and we learn that they have a daughter together… a daughter who believes her father died in the war. This is how Mel would like to keep things. She reveals that she only married Gary because she believed herself to be a widow… and by this point, she ya know, loves the guy… so she’s not going to divorce him. It’s a tough spot to be in… though, I’m sure the size of Gary’s checking account makes it a bit easier. She hops into her convertible (complete with MEGABUX vanity plate) and drives off.
Back in Frisco (they hate it when you call it that), it’s back to business. The Sixers got a tainted meat plant to investigate. Here’s the thing, there’s going to be a news item in the Washington Sentinel about Farmer Ralph’s (it’s “Meat Week”, donchaknow), and so, a couple of the Sixers are going to pose as a reporter and photographer to try and get to the bottom of this. They’re wanting to know if the meat is being contaminated during the packaging… or, if there’s something wiggy in the livestock. Mitch’s makeups will play a large part in this mission… which makes me feel like he might be the only Sixer earning his keep!
We wrap up with the actual Washington Sentinel staffers getting into their car to head over to Farmer Ralph’s. Then… the airbags deploy, putting them both to sleep. Our Sixers are now about to get into position!
Alrighty, so we officially kick off the Six’s second mission. It’s probably going to wind up being their final mission for this stint, because in a few weeks it’ll be going on hiatus. Checking with our handy-dandy ACW triptych… this feature will run until ACW #612, then return for ACW #619-630.
We’re going talk more about “Meat Week” next time out, this week I wanted to focus on the Vic/Mel/Gary relationship. It seems like a pretty rotten situation all around. Mel and Vic are married. Vic’s feared dead, and so… (presumably) after grieving, Mel moves on with her life… meets a rich dude, gets remarried… only for Vic to reappear. I mean, nobody did anything wrong here, right? It’s just a really uncomfortable situation.
Now, one of the things I’ve called so many of these stories out for (especially of late) is their lack of subtlety. I get the feeling here that we’re supposed to really dislike Gary. Sure, last issue he had a little too much to drink… though, he only did so because he isn’t terribly keen on his wife disappearing for days on end. But this time out, he seems like, I dunno… a fairly reasonable dude.
When he realizes the horror of tearing off Vic’s face… he kinda cools his jets. Heck, he even bails Vic out of jail. That’s not something he had to do, right? He could’a left him to rot. Maybe, considering the awkward circumstances, he should’a!
But… I feel like the point being hammered home here is… Gary’s so stupidly rich, that he can only be the villain. I mentioned that Mel’s ride had MEGABUX as its vanity plate… and just to prove I wasn’t joking, here it is:
Just pure silliness.
In other news: Rafael DiRienzi gets kidnapped after using the laziest alias possible… and LaDonna finally woke up. I swear, for a series called “Secret Six”, we only really get to see 2-3 people actually do anything… and one of ’em ain’t even part of the team!
Overall… despite the sorta-kinda heavy-handedness of the Vic/Mel/Gary bit, I found myself really enjoying this. I also really dug the visual of “Cyborg Superman” Vic.
Picking up right where we left off last week… Galt is being interrogated, and is very likely about to be committed, when… Clark Kent arrives!
The Officer is happy to see him, as he’s a pretty big fan of his writing. Clark (somehow) convinces him to let Galt go. I’m not so sure I’d let a random reporter “vouch” for a man I thought might be a dangerous loon, but there ya go.
On the street, Kent asks Galt about his beliefs… and also if he recognizes the man, Culpepper, who he believes was trying to have him killed. Galt grows more and more squirrely… and so, Clark’s gotta figure out a way to gain his confidence.
He decides to… well, exploit the poor sap’s beliefs by heat-visioning a message that Kent is to be trusted.
Well, this wasn’t so bad. Didn’t make a heckuva lot of sense to just let Galt walk… but, I suppose the things we do to facilitate story-progression don’t always need to.
Clark exploiting the dude’s beliefs was… I dunno, morally gray? I get why he did it, and, in fairness, he seemed to be pretty conflicted about it himself… it’s just kinda strange.
Overall… I’m hoping, now that Galt knows he can “TRUST KENT” that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be getting a decently-sized expositional dump next time out.
We open with the Legion of Morality storming that art exhibit at the Museum. Naturally, they enter the scene guns blazing, picking off both of the on-duty Security Guards… and a civilian or two for good measure. Meanwhile, back at the Legion Compound, Jack Wheeler has been laid out. Dr. Layman, for whatever reason, has left him under the watch of… a single (white-suited) Moralist. Jack overpowers him in no-time flat, and attempts to suss-out the location of the next target.
We shift back to the Museum, where the Moralists have placed a bunch of explosive charges all over the place. They return to Layman, who has arrived to begin directing traffic. Also on the scene… Wild Dog! Layman commands his followers to, get this, shoot him down “like a dog!” Oh, c’mon.
Anyhoo, a firefight commences, with the Dog proving to be a far better shot then a half-dozen masked Moralists. When the dust settles, the only ones left standing are he… and Layman.
Wild Dog socks Layman, knocking him out. When he comes to, he finds himself tied to a chair… with a belt-full of explosive charges wrapped around his chest. Dog politely asks where all of the planted charges are… and, at first, Layman hesitates.
Until, of course, he realizes his captor means business… then, he cries like a canary. The day is saved, and Layman is taken into custody.
Only… not so much. Ya see, Layman’s a clever boy, and it turns out… even with all of the evidence against him, he was still able to wriggle out of imprisonment. The only way they could convict him… involved Jack Wheeler outing himself as Wild Dog, and we all know that ain’t about to happen.
But, ya know, things have a way of working themselves out. Ya see, one of the Moralists who was killed at the Museum, just happened to be the son of Helen Whatsherface… that lady who Layman’s been sniffin’ around for much of this arc… and, well, she’s terribly displeased.
Well, that was a pretty strong (and satisfying) ending! While justice wasn’t quite served, ol’ Layman sure wound up getting his comeuppance in the end.
That’s not to say this was a perfect story… we’ll leave that kind of hyperbole to “current year” reviewers.
Let’s start at the start. Layman discovers that his organization had been infiltrated by the vigilante who has been trying to take them down. Still with me? He kayos this self-same vigilante at the end of the previous chapter, and… just leaves him laying in the locker room under the watch of a single guard?!
I mean, to this point, Wild Dog has killed what, a dozen members of the Legion of Morality?! Shouldn’t Layman make sure Wheeler is dead before moving along to “other business”? I mean, I get that Layman’s kind of a cocky fellow, and would probably want to rub the Dog’s nose in his exploits… but, c’mon, maybe put a couple of guards on the job? Oh well.
Another thing about cocky Layman… he doesn’t wear his mask when he’s “on the job”? That strikes me as weird… though, I guess if Layman is that full of himself, it stands to reason he’d not be shy about showing his face… though, that kinda goes against so many of the failsafes he’d put into place to hide his organization’s involvement with all of the terroristic attacks.
Speaking of the failsafes, I love the fact that one of Layman’s own “silencer belts” wound up being his undoing. Seeing him crack like an egg was pretty cool too!
The ending… made a lot of sense. Layman’s clearly a powerful and connected guy. It’s not so outlandish to consider him calling in a few favors and shrugging off the charges against him. It shows that “vigilante justice” and actual justice don’t quite go hand-in-hand.
Though, Layman (we assume) does get his in the end. Helen winds up losing her Son in Layman’s scheme… and heck, when you stop and think about it… she’s kind of complicit in all of it. Had she not lied for Layman and given him an alibi… there’s a good chance that her Son would still be alive! It’s really quite well done.
All told… Wild Dog: Moral Stand was a heckuva little story. I’m glad that the Dog got a bit of a life following his miniseries. We’ve already covered his 1989 one-shot here, which kind of puts a “cap” on the character… barring an appearance in Lobo, and his Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye appearances, but it’s a shame he didn’t become more of a “thing” during the speculation era. Seems like it would’a been a lay-up during the days of Marvel having nearly a half-dozen Punisher books on shelves, doesn’t it?
Oh well. See ya in May, Jack!
We open with a fellow purchasing a sword… and it ain’t one’a them cheap ones either! By golly, this is the Antique Swords & Weapons Shop. The fella tests the blade by cutting into his palm, which prompts the Shopkeep to question his sanity. This was a bad decision, because it gets him killed with the quickness. Not being a total heel, our new sword-owner does pay for the blade.
What in the world does this have to do with the Oprah Winfrey Show? Well, not a whole lot… yet. Let’s join Hal, who when last we left, he was being laughed at by a jam-packed studio audience. Oprah asks Hal how he can be completely without fear… because, ya know, if someone doesn’t have basic self-preservation-type fears, he might just be a lunatic. Hal doesn’t appreciate the assertation, especially since it reminds him of one of his contemporaries… one Guy Gardner, a fella who would consider himself as being “without fear”, but also a fella who’s juuuuuuuust a little bit crazy!
At this point, a Psychologist named Dr. Stephanie Cole stands up to give her two-cents on the subject. Hal floats over to her so he can… I dunno, show off that he can fly? Anyhoo, she brings up a good point. If Hal is truly fearless… and doesn’t even have the basic “self-preservation” type of fears, how did he survive long enough to even get the ring? Like, with the ring, he’s nigh invulnerable… so, fearlessness isn’t really a danger… but, before he got the ring, fearlessness just becomes recklessness… and could very easily lead to an early grave.
Then, another woman stands up. This is a Mrs. Hough, and she suggests that Hal might not be crazy… in fact, he might just be dumb! Hal shrugs off the suggestion, and compares himself to a police officer. This is a bad move, because Mrs. Hough is married to a plainclothes officer… who doesn’t have the benefit of a Power Ring to save his bacon throughout the day. Turns out, Detective Joey Hough is watching this all unfold on TV from the (wait for it) Donut Shop.
Just then… that dude who bought the Samurai Sword bursts through the Donut Shop window, and starts slicing folks up left and right… including, naturally, Detective Joey Hough.
The Oprah Show is over, and Hal just happens to be flying by the carnage… and stops in to check it out. When confronted by the sword-wielding foaming-at-the-mouth maniac, Hal decides to… get this… toss his ring, and see how he can handle himself with his bare hands!
Well now, it looks like Hal really took what the Oprah crowd said to heart, dunnit? Tossing the ring away to confront a homicidal maniac… hmm… maybe the (now) Widow Hough was right, and Hal is just kinda dumb?
Don’t get me wrong though, I really enjoyed the Oprah scene here. I thought the questions asked were pretty great. How can someone be completely without fear? It just doesn’t seem possible… if we’re dealing with a rational individual.
It’s a great question… and it’s leading to a pretty big-deal reveal which could have had some very interesting ramifications for Hal, the Guardians, the Corps… the entire lore of Green Lantern. Naturally, DC would brush it under the rug, and act as though this never happened… but, we’ll get there… and we’ll discuss it in greater detail when we do.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty strong chapter… though, it’s hard to really look at it without being kinda bummed that everything it’s leading to would be walked back so quickly.
Letters Page (featuring a bunch of pros!):