Action Comics Weekly #610 (June 7, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Risky Business”
Phantom Stranger: “Kenny and the Demon!”
Superman: “Show & Tell”
Secret Six: “… Another Man’s Poison”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 2”
Writers – Peter David, Paul Kupperberg, Mike Baron, Roger Stern, Martin Pasko, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – Tod Smith, Kyle Baker, Dan Jurgens, Curt Swan, Dan Spiegle, & Randy Duburke
Inks – Tony DeZuniga, John Beatty, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – John Costanza, Bert Workman, Steve Haynie, Bill Oakley, & Carrie Spiegle
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Petra Scotese, Liz Berube, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Mike Carlin, Barbara Randall, Dick Giordano, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50
Ten Weeks down! That puts us at just about a quarter of the way through this little endeavor. I hope folks are still enjoying this… though, going by the numbers, I already kinda got a feeling about how well this is all landing. This might’ve been a #BrightestMay-sized misreading of the audience!
Anyhoo, onward and upward right? Let’s take a look at this week’s cover. It’s Deadman standing on a tightrope-of-sorts between Heaven and Hell? Least I think that’s what’s going on there. It comes to us from David Lloyd, who we might know best from his work on V For Vendetta. It’s a pretty neat image, though might’ve been better served had it appeared a few issues earlier.
I feel like this would have made more sense to swap this for the Superman cover of ACW #606… especially with all of the revelations about the “Fellowship of Superman” this time out.
Let’s check in on last week’s poll results:
A very nice voter turn out last week. I thank you all for taking part! Here’s the thing though, your humble host (once again) forgot to actually cast his ballot! Whoops! Not that it matters much, I would have voted for Wild Dog anyway. Nice to see the ol’ Dog go out on top. Also nice to see Superman still nursing that goose egg!
My Rankings for last week’s stories (#609) would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Secret Six
3 – Green Lantern
4 – Black Canary
5 – Superman
6 – Deadman
Only one in my ranking I’m a bit iffy on is Black Canary… I could swap her with Superman and not feel all that bad about it. Though, it was just a first chapter, and I hate to be all that harsh on something based on “potential”.
Moving on to this week’s poll. Vote in good health!
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/T0EBUJ5H
We pick up right where we left off. The Mad Samurai Guy is slicing civilians willy-nilly, and Hal just tossed his ring in order to face him mano y mano. He rushes in, and socks the baddie with a solid right punch to the gut… which winds up aggravating a wound he had on his right bicep. I… uh… don’t remember when he hurt himself, but we’ll keep it going. The Mad Samurai Guy regains the offense, and is just about to strike down upon Green Lantern, when Hal gives him the ol’ kick to the family jewels to put him out!
The Police come to collect the lunatic… leaving Hal to collect his ring, and take back to the skies. He probably could’ve just rode with the officers though, as they were headed to the same place. Hal checks in with a Lieutenant Rensaleer at the Chicago Police Department… who asks why Hal’s once again wearing the ring. I mean, he took it off for like… what… a minute? Word travels fast in Chi-Town.
Rensaleer takes Hal into the Records Room, so they can do a bit of research on the Samurai Guy. Turns out his name is Morris Levine, and his record (before today) is squeaky clean. Far as anyone can tell, he had no reason to flip out the way he did.
We join Hal as he heads back to his hotel room, where he and his underage girlfriend chat a bit about his Oprah appearance. He’s beginning to think that the women in that crowd were right! It’s not possible to be completely fearless and still be… human. Arisia takes that to heart, considering she’s A) not human… and B) someone who completely misses the point.
Back at the P.D., Rensaleer receives a note… with the words “Mind Games” scrawled on it. He crumples and tosses it without much though. Wonder if that little move might come back and bit him…
We wrap up with Hal ordering some room service before hopping in the shower. When the Room Service Attendant arrives… it looks like he’s bringing something other than the “two Cokes” Hal had ordered.
An okay chapter to set up the tail end of this arc. Hal’s still questioning his fearlessness and humanity, which is all well and good… and is definitely the story here.
But, since this is still a superhero comic book story… we’re going to need some bad guys. Looks like “Mind Games” will fill that role nicely… though, we won’t be meeting him for at least a couple of weeks.
Really not all that much more to cover here… weirdness abounds in Chicago… and it’s going to be up to Hal to get to the bottom of it. Wow, there were four “to’s” in that sentence! We’ll dig deeper into that weirdness next week.
As our tale opens, we meet a fellow named Kenny Bushmiller… a poor dude who just can’t seem to catch a break. No matter what the situation, the outcome never seems to go in his favor. Down in the dumps, and feeling rather persecuted… a hairy-scary demon sees him ripe for the picking. Elsewhere, the Phantom Stranger is chatting up his pal, Bruce “Eclipso” Gordon. This is fallout from the four-issue Phantom Stranger miniseries… that we only made it halfway thru here at the humble blog before tapping out.
Back to Kenny! He’s in that whole “They’ll all be sorry” mode, at which time, his computer appears to come to life (or, be possessed by that hairy-scary demon… and, uh, “interfaces” with him!
With his newfound connectivity and power, Kenny decides to exact a little revenge on this unfair world.
This unbalance is felt by the Phantom Stranger, and he realizes it’s up to him to check into this… and so, he hops a ride into cyberspace via Bruce Gordon’s telephone.
We rejoin Kenny, who just got his gas meter read. He feels like the gas company is screwing with him, and so… he blows up the underground gas main. The Demon-PC commands more “input”, however, there’s something blocking him. Well, more like someone. The Phantom Stranger reaches from inside the monitor, and nyoinks Bushmiller inside.
They fight… and the Stranger exorcises the Digital Demon. Annnnd… that’s about it!
Okay, before we get into the content of this story… I’d like to discuss what this kind of story means in the context of Action Comics Weekly.
This strange one-and-done sort of story really illustrates the limitless possibilities Action Comics Weekly had. I wish they did more like this. Not that this story necessarily rocked my socks, but it lends a bit to the “wild west” approach to story-delivery that ACW had (in theory).
Folks of my generation (and a bit older) will probably have some familiarity with Public Access television stations. You really never knew what you were going to get… it could be the most boring, tedious garbage… or it could be the strangest most intriguing… uh, mostly garbage. This story feels to me a lot like Public Access… and I don’t mean that as a slight. There could be this air of “danger” in Public Access… and I feel had Action Comics Weekly had more oddities like this, it could have as well.
So, a random one-off non-traditional Phantom Stranger story? Like I said, might not have rocked my socks… but, I wish there was more like this throughout the run. We’re going to get a couple more… but, to my mind, there should have been a “wildcard” feature every single week.
Now… the story. Well, it wasn’t the greatest thing in the world… but I didn’t outright dislike it. It feels like it both struggled to reach eight-pages… while at the same time, struggled to end at only eight-pages. One thing I will say, the art was very fitting for the tone. If you’re a Phantom Stranger fan… you’ll probably dig it.
We open with Deadman (as Raisa Gorbacheva) about to blast… uh, Satan (as Nancy Reagan) with that Mayan gun. Wow, talk about sentences I’d never think I’d ever get to write. Mikhail Gorbachev rushes over to settle his “wife” down, at which time, “Nancy” saunters off to chew the fat with a Hollywood exec. I mean… what? Anyhoo, “Raisa” takes aim… and fires… hitting the Producer instead of the Devil.
At this point, Deadman vacates Raisa’s body… and happens across our old friend, Major Kasaba! He decides to possess her and chat up our other old friend, the Director of the C.I.A., Stan Whatshisface! He tells her that the “entity” is at the party… and that they’ll need to brief the President ASAP. “Kasaba” makes an excuse to head home and change clothes before the midnight briefing.
Back at her apartment, Deadman vacates her body… and, check this out… she can feel his presence. She asks for a “sign”, and so he pops back into her body and scribbles a note on the mirror… before vacating once again.
Realizing this “line by line” approach is a bigger pain-in-the-butt than he’d first imagined, Deadman heads out into the hallway and possesses another Peon so they can have an actual discussion. He informs her that “the entity” from the Jar is actually…. Satan! She ain’t really buyin’ it.
But then… Stan enters the room! Well, it’s actually Satan in the body of Stan, but why split hairs? Anyhoo, he confirms Deadman’s story, and introduces himself as the Devil. But then… D.B. Cooper enters the room! Heyyy, the gang’s all here… only one missing is Talaoc! D.B. informs the room that… well, he’s not actually D.B. Cooper.
First, he shrinks Stan down to the size of a “Ken Doll”… and plainly states that the entity is not the Devil… just a devil… a minor one, named Yakin. And the reason he knows this, is because… he’s Yakin’s Boss!
So… how many more parts is this? Looks like our handy ACW triptych (below) shows this as having two more parts. Okay, then. This is really starting to drag on, innit?
But… at least we’ve finally met our “big bad”. Oh man, at least I hope this is the big bad… not sure I can take another “nyah-ha-ha” reveal. Also, I was pleased that they shuffled the Reagans and Gorbachevs off the stage early this time out… though, naturally, not before making Ron and Nancy look like complete clowns.
The “D.B. Cooper” as Satan reveal does bring up some questions… like, how did so many entities bust out of the Sumerian Jar, when we were told from the start that entities could only leave on a one-to-one exchange? Maybe I read that wrong, but I could’ve sworn that was a part of the deal. Though, I suppose it could all be summed up and wiped away by saying “The Devil is a liar”.
I will say that I did like Major Kasaba and Deadman’s ever-so-brief chat. I thought it was cool that she was able to “sense” his presence… and realize that he might have some of the answers she was looking for. Not sure if Kasaba ever appears outside of this little arc, but she’s definitely been a neat “cast member” throughout.
Overall… the arc’s getting a little long(er) in the tooth, and has (so far) done in ten chapters what it could have done in six. Art’s great though!
Having “seen the sign”… which opened up his eyes, Mr. Galt decides to TRUST KENT. Clark tells him that anything he says will be heard by Superman, because, ya know, they’re “real close”.
He takes Galt to the Daily Planet so he can share his story with Perry White… who, believing Kent just put a crazy person in front of him, doesn’t appear to appreciate the visit.
Galt then uses his… Power of Projection to make it appear as though the trio are… elsewhere. He claims that he discovered these powers through “learning the way of the one, true Superman”!
Well, that was unexpected… and, by “unexpected” I mean… yeah, something like this was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
I mean, believing in Superman as a God isn’t the most outlandish thing for a denizen of the DC Universe. I mean, I feel like when we all reach that age of “enlightenment” and realize and notice some of the parallels between the stories of Superman and Jesus Christ (ya know, when we become teen-agers, and know everything)… so, again, not the most outlandish thing.
However, comics are a visual medium… and so, there are going to have to be some more “visual” story beats in order to really hammer the point home. Hence, a believer of Superman as God… gets an incredible power! It was decently done… and is actually making me look forward to what’s next.
That’s about as much of a victory we can hope for!
We open with Luke chatting up a woman inside the offices of Farmer Ralph’s, Incorporated. After getting the skinny on Mr. Dorn’s interview schedule, he checks in with Vic… confirming that the “bugs” are in place. Vic breaks communication so he can throw on his prosthetic mask, and “clock in” for his day of work. Meanwhile, outside LaDonna and Tony (disguised as reporters for the Trib) are being given a guided tour of the facilities. LaDonna is especially thrown off at the sight of some very small pigs. The tour guide assures them that those “mini-pigs” are bred specifically for Farmer Ralph’s Bacon.
Vic finishes applying his mask as Luke enters the mobile-command center. After sharing some last bits of Intel with Maria, he heads out to “work”. Back at Headquarters, Maria and Mitch discuss the Mystery of the Disappearing DiRienzi.
Speaking of whom, we join ol’ Gino… who’s being confined in a rather swanky suite. A guard enters the room with a platter of food… and gets kayoed for his troubles. Gino tries to make a run for it, but isn’t fast enough to beat the hydraulic-electroshock door!
Back at Headquarters, Maria and Mitch are chatting with Luke via comm-link, when suddenly… the line goes dead! We can see that someone has infiltrated the mobile command. Meanwhile, Vic is working on the line, collecting samples of potentially-tainted meat… and is approached by, I wanna say the guy he’s disguised as? It’s hard to tell, so many of these Meat Plant people have similar faces! It doesn’t help that the color of their smocks seems to change from panel to panel.
Anyhoo, there’s a stand-off… and a fight, which Vic flees from, jumping right over the ledge of the work platform. He grabs onto a carcass hanging from a hook. An Officer shoots the hook, severing the meat… and dropping poor Vic into the darkness below.
Yesterday, we talked about the Deadman feature getting a bit long in the tooth… and I can’t help but to feel this Secret Six feature has also began to overstay its welcome.
This is a feature that both has too many pages, and not enough pages. There’s just too much going on for this to feel like a “story”. Our main “beat” here is the Farmer Ralph’s deal… but, we just keep bouncing around from HQ to Mobile Command to friggin’ Rafael DiRienzi’s holding room… there’s just too much.
It flows… moderately well… but, still… we don’t get much of a second to breathe here. I’m just thankful we didn’t have to deal with the crashed plane this time out!
I feel like we gotta address the art here a bit. While good… it became rather hard (for me) to follow toward the end. I get that there was supposed to be this “doppelganger” moment… but, the storytelling was a bit unclear (at least to me).
Vic leaping onto the pig carcass sure was something… as was the, uh, extreme measures taken by that officer. Not sure it’s wise to open fire inside a crowded metal-walled room… I mean, bullets are sometimes known to ricochet, right? Just seems like a poorly thought out thing to do to squeeze a trigger in that situation.
I mean, what was the best-case scenario there? Killing Vic? Again, that seems a little extreme. Oh well… guess cliffhangers ain’t gonna write themselves! Only two chapters left… let’s hope they’re a bit more satisfying than this!
We open in Seattle, with a fella who has a Baron Winters-style chin-beard getting a call from… well, some dude. The “dude” will be heading into town shortly, but has to find a route where he’ll avoid scales. The chin-beard is then instructed to take out some folks, including a “Librado”, whoever that is (okay, we kinda know who that is). Worth noting, the newspaper headline has to do with that suspended pilot. At that same time, back at Sherwood Florist, Dinah invites roughed-up Rita inside. She’s pretty evasive about how she got into such a state.
Dinah presses the issue, which causes Rita to storm out. She only takes a few steps before returning… and completely spilling the beans about everything that’s gone down. Ya see, her brother Luis borrowed some money on the street to make ends meet… and it’s time to pay up, only… they don’t got the dosh.
Rita tells Dinah about the loan sharks… and where they hang out. I mean, for someone who didn’t want any help two seconds ago, she’s really letting it all hang out here. Anyhoo, she leaves a little bit later… and hops into a van. We can see that Chin-Beard is watching this all go down.
We jump ahead to, I assume, the next day… where some wheeling and dealing is going on inside a building marked with the Scales of Justice. I suppose this might be the Headquarters of Immigration and Naturalization in Lincoln, Nebraska from last issue? Suppose it could be something altogether different though!
At this point, Dinah is “suiting up”, putting together her all-new costume, and…
… BWAH-HA-HA! Oh man… Jazzercize-Fans, you’ve just been vindicated! Jazzercize-Haters, here’s your monkey’s paw wish come true! Holy smokes… wouldja look at it! Oh man, coffee nearly came out my nose. Whew…
Anyhoo… we wrap up with a couple of Game and Fish Employees shooting at birds? Wow, our writer does not seem to appreciate government employees!
What was that I said last week? Oh yeah, I really miss Blackhawk.
That’s not to say that this feature is the worst thing ever or anything… I just feel like it’s not terribly well-suited for the anthology format. At least not at this point. Feel like we’re wasting too many pages on stilted conversation… while at the same time, we’re trying to introduce a cast of characters… and a mystery about a suspended pilot? There’s just too much going on.
Let’s start with Chin-Beard. He’s not so much introduced here, as he’s dropped into the story as though we’re supposed to recognize him. Has he appeared in Green Arrow stories? Is he someone we’re supposed to know? What about the guy on the other end of the phone call? At first, I assumed that Chin-Beard was part of the Immigration and Naturalization plot…
Speaking of which… whatever happened to the Immigration and Naturalization plot? Is that what the Scales of Justice Building scene was referring to? Does it have anything to do with those guys shooting gulls at the end of the chapter?
Speaking of those guys… at first, I assumed they were the Orange Pickers from the opening of last chapter. Whatever happened to them? This is just so disjointed… really doesn’t lend itself to these “bite-sized” episodic installments.
Let’s talk… that costume. Yeah, I might’ve been a bit too rough on it during the synopsis… but, I was just really taken aback by the dramatic “no-nonsense” pose… especially with the “suiting up” montage leading up to it. It’s just so over the top… especially when we consider this was supposed to be an upgrade from the (fireproof) Jazzercise suit.
I mean, she mentioned last issue that she still had the fishnets. The cover of last issue featured her in those fishnets… and here we get “Working Girl” Dinah Lance? I mean, check out those shoulder pads! Maybe another artist would make it look less… I dunno, snickerable? Even scrolling back up to refer to it is giving me the giggles. It’s like I hear RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” every time I look at that panel.
Overall… Ya know, the jury’s still out. I feel like it could be tightened up a fair bit… but, it’s still too early to tell. How’s that for riding the fence? I will say that… so far, I personally, ain’t digging it.
(Not the) Letters Page:
None this week! Same ol’, Same ol’