Action Comics #611 (June 14, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Room Service”
Deadman: “Will the Real Devil Please Stand Up?”
Secret Six: “Bringing Home the Bacon”
Superman: “… Beyond Mortal Men!”
Catwoman: “The Tin Roof Club”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 3”
Writers – Peter David, Mike Baron, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, Mindy Newell, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – Tod Smith, Dan Jurgens, Dan Spiegle, Cury Swan, Barry Kitson, & Randy DuBurke
Inks – Tony DeZuniga, John Beatty, Bruce Patterson, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Steve Haynie, Carrie Spiegle, & Bill Oakley
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Liz Berube, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko, Adrienne Roy, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Dan Raspler, Denny O’Neil, Barbara Kesel, Dick Giordano, Mike Carlin, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50
The further we go, the more different our line-up looks. You just wait though… things are about to get really weird! Ya see, next week we bid farewell to a couple of features that have been with us from the very start! That’s right, both Deadman and Secret Six will be walking off into the sunset.
I hate being repetitive in my pre-rambles, but I wanna make sure to share this so Chris is on Infinite Earths “trade-waiters” will see it too. Considering how Action Comics Weekly-centric this place now is, my great pal Dave hooked me up with a bonafide ACW store display from 1988! Here, check it out:
It’s a super-cool piece for sure!
With that bit of self-indulgence and face-revealing out of the way, let’s take a look at this week’s cover. It’s a… somewhat dated piece by Alex Nino. Here’s a tweet reply I got when I posted it during the week:
Can’t help but to agree with that sentiment…
Also, remember how we’re talking about covers feeling sorta “out of order”? This one seems like it would’ve been more at home around #602 or #603, when Superman was chasing down that driver, dunnit? Oh well. Further “evidence” that there were quite a few confusing moving pieces early on during the endeavor.
Let’s take a look at the poll… yet another poll that your humble host forgot to vote in! Not sure what my major malfunction is, but hopefully I get over it this week.
Now, wouldja look at that… the Phantom friggin’ Stranger won the vote?! Well, ya know… despite the Stranger not being my cuppa tea, I have to admit that it was a very strong offering! In fact, when compared to the rest of the issue, I think I’d have voted for it myself… if I remembered to vote, that is.
Thanks to everyone who did vote! In a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to compare our results to the original votes tallied back in ’88!
My Rankings for last week’s stories (#610) would be:
1 – Phantom Stranger
2 – Green Lantern
3 – Secret Six
4 – Superman
5 – Black Canary
6 – Deadman
Here’s this week’s poll:
Shareable Poll Link (tell a friend!): https://linkto.run/p/S8UV9N5R
Picking up right where we left off… Arisia answers the door to grab the room service platter, however, what she finds is a rather angry attendant! I’m not sure this is the time for banter, but I did chuckle at her “Hal!! It’s for you!”. She tries to push the fella out of the room, but he barges in anyway, and the pair wrestle around on the floor for a bit. Hal trudges in from out of the bathroom just as she forces the intruder to jam his kitchen knife into an electrical socket! This stops him in his tracks.
Hal “Lanterns up” and apologizes for not being there for Arisia. She assures him that this was the most fun she’s had in weeks… and, ya know what? I kinda believe it. It’s been a rather rotten few weeks, hasn’t it?
Hal and Arisia bring the attacker down to the Police Station… where they just take his word for what the poor fella did, even though he himself can’t seem to remember what came over him… or what he even did! Hal asks to speak to Rensaleer, and is directed out back… by the dumpsters.
Turns out, the Lieutenant is, in fact, digging through the dumpster… and he’s looking for: that note from “Mind Games” he tossed out last chapter! Ya see, Chicago is up to 27 cases wherein seemingly normal folks suddenly went nuts! Maybe he shouldn’t have dismissed Mind Games’ missive?!
At the same time, Arisia is hanging out inside the Precinct… right next to a woman, who introduces herself as Cynthia Gresham. She owns a Modelling Agency in Chicago, and thinks Arisia has an “out of this world” look. Hmm…
We then shift scenes to… a room full of strange machinery, and a shadowy fella who wonders if the name “Mind Games” was too esoteric to be taken seriously. Hmm. He then presses a button, sending a beam to a satellite dish…
… which returns to Earth, and strikes Green Lantern (just as they find that crumpled note). Uh-oh!
Alrighty, Mind Games is really heating up. Well, kinda anyway.
It’s established here that the Mad Samurai Guy from last chapter wasn’t an isolated incident… and this isn’t just a “Green Lantern threat”, but something going on all throughout Chicago.
So yeah, there’s stuff going on. Is it interesting though? Well, not really. I promise it’s leading somewhere somewhat interesting… so, we’ll just muddle through for now and take it as it comes.
The idea of Arisia becoming a model is raised here, which will figure a bit into Peter David’s next Green Lantern arc… which, I’m already kind of dreading. The Freak Show ain’t fun, folks… but, we’ll get there!
We open with D.B. Cooper/Satan holding a Ken Doll-sized Stan Kriptman, proclaiming himself to be the one, true “Lord of the Flies”. Deadman (as a Grunt) demands he show himself in his true form… to which, Satan replies that, at this point in time, D.B. Cooper is his true form. We also get confirmation that the real D.B. never made it to Hell… so, perhaps he still walks among us?
After a little prodding, Satan expells the demon, Yakin from Stan Kriptman’s body… then punishes the lesser-devil by sending him back to Hell to… oversee the lawyers. Wonk wonnnkkkk.
Kriptman, now back at full size, gets all up in Satan’s face. He proclaims that he is both from Missouri, and an Atheist. I… uh… okay? “Yeah Satan, my favorite color is blue, and I like frozen yogurt!”. I mean, what?
Stan then demands that D.B. Cooper prove that he’s really Satan… and so…
This scene actually prompts Stan to suffer a stroke! Deadman vacates the body of “Grunt” Jones, so he can attend to the fallen Director… and catches up with Satan, who informs him that a “usurper” approaches.
A man rushes into the room looking for Director Kriptman to report an emergency. Major Kasaba takes point, and is directed to the Deep Space Early Warning System… where a flying object has been picked up. Turns out… it’s that spacecraft that bursted from the Mayan Temple like a hundred weeks ago! And check this out, on board is… our old friend, Talaoc!
These days, we talk a lot about stories overstaying their welcome… generally using terms like “decompressed” or “written for the trade”. Here, we have a Deadman arc that, if you ask me, has been played out for several chapters at this point, though… it doesn’t come across as decompressed. It’s just dull, and glacially slow.
Let’s look at our big reveal… Talaoc’s back! Whoo-hoo? Does anyone care? I mean, I appreciate the story coming full-circle, but… this really didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t get excited to see him… my heart didn’t skip a beat… it was just like “Oh, it’s Talaoc.”
This arc probably should have been an eight-parter like the first Blackhawk feature… this third-third of the story, I dunno guys… the fatigue is real. I really don’t have anything else to say. I look forward to this one being in our rear-view.
We open… kind of all over the place. Remember how Luke was attacked in the mobile command last week? Well, I didn’t realize it then, but he was attacked by the dude that Vic was pretending to be so he could procure some samples of (potentially tainted) cured meat. His audio and video connection is lost to Secret Six HQ… but he can still transmit text messages (he cannot see the replies, however). His tape reels are spinning, and he hears Farmer Ralph’s CEO acknowledging the contaminated livestock! At that very moment, Vic is still riding that little piggy (wee, wee, wee) alllllll the wayyyy down.
He lands with an “Augh”, but doesn’t seem terribly worse for wear. Vic, that is, the poor pig is still meat. A woman pops into the CEO’s office to inform him about the goings-down at the Pork Processing Plant (the cool kids call it the PPP… the even cooler ones call it the “Triple P”). He assumes it’s just those reporters “digging for dirt”, and orders them removed from the premises immediately. Also… detained!
Vic-in-disguise is helped to his feet by some Security Officers and he proves to be still “with it” enough to fight them off. He grabs his tainted meat samples and ducks into an office where he can change costumes. He emerges, disguised as a maintenance worker just as his fellow Sixers (disguised as reporters) are being escorted out. Meanwhile, it seems as though rumor-and-innuendo of the tainted meat is being spread. CEO Whatshisface has a very large customer cancel their order (accounting for 40% of Farmer Ralph’s bottom line).
As LaDonna and… uh, that other Secret Sixer are walked into the parking lot, Vic makes his move. He wallops security with his… lunch pail. Well, whatever works in a pinch, right? They hop in the back of a van being driven by Luke and make their hasty exit.
We rejoin the team that evening, where everything else falls into place. We learn that the “minipigs” were indeed contaminated, however the contamination is viral and not bacterial, which wouldn’t have been deduced during a routine inspection. Also, those minipigs aren’t specially bred for lean meats and bacon… they’re bred to be used for medical research, and as part of that research… you guessed it, they were exposed to this dangerous (unnamed) virus!
Vic and Luke head off to Sunnydale Farms, who were responsible for shipping those minipigs in order to get some answers. Meanwhile, we close out at the swanky hotel where Rafael DiRienzi is being held… and he’s about to be served a platter of Farmer Ralph’s extra-lean. Doncha just love it when everything comes together?
Now, this one’s starting to subvert my expectations… at least I think it is… and that’s a good thing. From the get-go of this second arc, I was certain that the Farmer Ralph’s CEO was going to be the “big bad”… and oh, what a cliche “big bad” he’d have been! Here, however, it’s not altogether certain that he realized just how contaminated the meat he was passing on to the public really is.
I didn’t mention it during the synopsis, because… well, that was more muddled than I hoped for as it was… but, he seemed genuinely shocked to learn that the contamination couldn’t be “cooked out” of the meats. My Bachelors of Science degree has nothing to do with bacteria, but I think we’ve all heard that certain bacteria can’t survive at high temperatures… so, we might assume that the CEO was buying cheaper stock to increase his profits, never thinking that he’d be passing certain death on to his customers.
Because really, why would he want to kill the people filling his pockets, right? I’m not saying he’s completely without blame… when human lives are being lost/affected, ignorance isn’t all that great an excuse. All’s I’m saying is… the CEO doesn’t appear to be the “final boss” of this arc… and that’s pretty damn refreshing!
The Sixers all fill their roles well here… and, despite their pangs of guilt and conscience telling them everything they’re doing is wrong, seem to be coming together as a team. I came down pretty hard on the Secret Six feature last week… but this one was rather good!
Our cliffhanger all but promises us that Rafael’s story will have “a” resolution… just as the feature goes on hiatus. That’s right, next week is it… for a little while. By the time the Secret Six come back… why, Action Comics Weekly will have a whole new “banner” (more to come on that soon)!
We pick up inside of Galt’s mental projection. He, Clark, and the Chief are observing “The Fellowship”, a California-based Collective that worships Superman. Clark gives Galt the ol’ x-ray once over to ensure he’s not wearing a projection device… meaning, as far as we can tell… these powers are “natural”.
So, The Fellowship is bowed before Superman in a sort of ritualistic state. They are hoping to be gifted with superpowers… and, check it out, some of ’em are!
Then, a Laser Tag Club shows up and starts blasting away at Fellowship members. They fight back, but lose half of their number. Clark looks on, and begins to fume at the carnage… he wonders just who was behind this attack!
Well, it looks like the ante has just been “upped”.
Before getting into the carnage, I wanna address one thing that jumped out at me. Superman waited until right now to give Galt the x-ray once over? I mean, he didn’t check him out before bailing him out of police custody? You’d figure that’d be the first thing he’d do? Then again, this story also featured him destroying a train instead of just swooping a fella off the tracks… so it seems, he’s not thinking too clearly.
The attack on the Fellowship? It’s… interesting. Galt claims that this all went down a month ago, which kinda begs the question as to how zero members of the superhero community had any idea… but, we’ll allow it. The geeks who committed the act though? Ay yai yai, I’ve seen less nerdy looking outfits in Laser Tag commercials!
I guess we’ll see where this is headed. I will say, though silly, this Superman feature is improving by the week!
We open with Catwoman (which I’m going to type out as “Catowman” every. single. time.) stealing a precious Egyptian (cat-shaped) brooch from the Gotham City Museum of Fine Art. We jump ahead to find out just what Selina Kyle is up to at this point in history. Turns out, she’s a pretty successful businesswoman, and owner of The Tin Roof Club, a nightclub where the elite and shady alike congregate to drink (and play) their cares away. In one of the “shadier” rooms, the talk is all about that stolen brooch.
Selina is visited by her old pal Holly Robinson (from Year One), now a married lady living in Joisey… but written with more of a Lon-Gylund accent just the same… maybe there’s crossover, I never spent much time in Jersey. She keeps badgering Selina to come out to the ‘burbs, but keeps getting run-around replies. Selina then gives her a boxed gift… and tells her not to open it until Christmas.
As Selina asks her bartender, Willy to serve Holly a Shirley Temple, Detective George Flannery enters the Club. Holly excitedly shows him the gift (box) that Selina had just given her, which gets his wheels ta’ turnin’. He’s about 90% certain that the box contains the stolen Egyptian brooch… and heck, so am I! He reminds her that he’s let her get away with a lot over the years… but this is a bridge too far. She maintains her innocence, before heading back to her office…
… where she realizes she probably ought to deep-six the cat suit for now. It’s not outside of the realm of possibilities for Flannery to procure a search warrant. As she starts changing clothes (I guess she’s going to wear the cat suit out under her clothes?), a trio of armed baddies burst on the scene! Selina grabs her whip and starts fighting them off.
With the trio kayoed, Selina attempts to flee her office… only, she runs right into her bartender, Willie! He’s also holding a gun… and asks where Selina is running off to… before pulling the trigger!
This I like.
Anytime we’ve come across a Mindy Newell piece here at the blog, I always walk away from it feeling like I’ve read a pretty darn good story. First time I noticed her name in the credits was in that two-part Lois Lane: When it Rains, God is Crying story from 1986… and I really liked that! This Catwoman four-parter starts off very strong as well.
In fact, my sole complaint (thus far) is that this feature will only be around for four-weeks… then it goes away forever! It’s worth noting that this feature is being promoted as a “Showcase Presents”-branded story… whatever that means. Perhaps this was intended to launch into an ongoing series? I know the first Catwoman miniseries (also written by Newell) will come out in 1989… so, maybe this is a lead-in to that. It almost certainly must be… though, I’ve been wrong before.
Anyhoo… into the story. It’s really just a table-setting chapter, but it’s done quite well. Really, where so many of the ACW features have struggled out the gate is in straddling that line between introducing their cast and establishing their purpose. Catwoman manages to successfully do both here. Really looking forward to what’s next.
We open with a few people getting caught at the border by Immigration… this turns out to be a dream being experienced by Rita and Luis Librado’s father… who is laying in a hospital bed, being visited by those same (grown) kiddos. He’s upset at the state of them… having been all beaten up, and recommends they stay in their own neighborhood. They tell him the beating happened in their neighborhood… and well, Papa is all out of suggestions.
We shift scenes to a dive called Rosario’s, where an all gussied-up Dinah is looking for some information. She immediately attracts the attention of a pair of goons.
Back at the hospital, a Nurse informs Rita and Luis that visiting hours are over… and they’re given the boot. As they leave, we can see Mr. Weird Beard from last chapter. He attempts to get Mr. Librado’s room by telling the Nurse that he’s a family friend. She gives him the boot too.
Over at Rosario’s, the goons approach Dinah… who, in a very odd and confusing series of panels, manages to disarm one… and jam their gun into their, uh, lower-midsection. This is a really ugly-looking little scene. I think Dinah’s supposed to be pained, but it looks like she’s having a laughing fit.
She brings the goons outside, and starts questioning them about the attack on the Librados. Initially, they feign ignorance… but, ultimately come around. They claim not to know who ordered the beating… and before Dinah can dig any deeper, she hears the *click* of a gun behind her. She puts her hands up, and the goons beat a hasty retreat.
The new gunman, a feller wearing a cowboy hat, introduces himself as Doug Vallines, a friend of Hector Librado. Dinah returns the favor, introducing herself as “Bonnie Cardinal”. They shake hands before Doug pistol-whips “Bonnie”. Welp, that came out of nowhere.
We wrap up back in Hector’s hospital room, where someone has joined him. After looking at his chart, the visitor pulls an Evelyn Cream on the poor guy!
Still not quite feeling this one.
Though, I will say… so far, we’ve received 24 pages of Black Canary… and, yeah… while I’m not really enjoying it, I can’t deny that we’ve gotten “one full issue’s worth” of story at this point.
I may have been unfair in the earlier chapters, where I placed the blame for my indifference plainly on the writer… because, this time out, all I could see was some very unpleasant art. So unpleasant, that it actually distracted from the story.
The opening scene in the hospital room was well-written… but I couldn’t take my eyes off the fact that it appeared as though the elder Librado was breathing through a spinal column… oh, and the ugly faces didn’t help either.
Speaking of ugly faces… what in the world happened to Dinah? Just so unpleasant all throughout. She kinda looks like she’d run afoul of this guy:
I mean, just look at her face…
Anyhoo… while we’re a whole ‘nother chapter deeper (and this was probably the strongest yet), we really haven’t gotten many answers. Weird Beard is still lurking… and he (or whoever he’s working for/with) has got some sort of a problem with the Librados. We get a reminder that there was a Border Crossing. We’re nearly halfway through this arc, and everything still feels just so “piecy” (much like my own thoughts!). Hopefully it’ll come together.
Something I meant to mention last week, but neglected to… mostly because I wasn’t sure how to word it, was that I both liked and disliked the Librado’s being sort of “Robin Hoody” in their “mischief”. During Dinah and Rita’s chat, we learned that all of the illegal activities the Librado’s engaged in were done so only for the noblest of reasons.
Stealing, selling drugs, gang activity, yadda yadda yadda… all for the survival of the Librado family, and in service of their ailing father. It’s the whole “Would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?” sort of ethical dilemma. Sure, we can see that they’re doing dangerous, and potentially dastardly things… but their hearts were in the right place, maaaan. Very Robin Hoody… which, ya know, when we’re Green Arrow-adjacent, it kind of works.
It’s also… just so damn cliche. I feel like we’re supposed to forgive them… or, rather, root for them to be forgiven, because of the reasons behind their behavior. I feel like Wright is trying to blur the lines between legal/illegal, right/wrong, and ethical/unethical. It’s tropey, it’s cliche, it’s a slippery slope, but it’s one of those things I feel we’re going to have to accept for this story to land the way (I believe) it’s intended to.
Letters Page (they’re really dragging their feet on getting us the results of the first vote!):