Action Comics Weekly #613 (June 28, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Head Trip”
Nightwing: “The Cheshire Contract!”
Phantom Stranger: “Can’t Judge A Book…”
Superman: “Wicked Business!”
Catwoman: “The Tin Roof Club, Part 3”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 5”
Writers – Peter David, Marv Wolfman, Paul Kupperberg, Roger Stern, Mindy Newell, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – Tod Smith, Chuck Patton, Tom Grindberg, Curt Swan, Barry Kitson, & Randy DuBurke
Inks – Tom Poston, Dennis Janke, Murphy Anderson, Bruce Patterson, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Bob Pinaha, Bill Oakley, Carrie Spiegle, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Adrienne Roy, Petra Scotese, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Dan Raspler, Denny O’Neil, Barbara Kesel, Mike Carlin, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50
It’s a whole new world this week, innit? All these non-original six features… it’s almost enough to make your head spin. Or, ya know, not.
Gotta say, this week might be the strongest week overall since we started this little endeavor. Came away from this one mostly satisfied! Haven’t been able to say that in quite some time!
This week’s cover introduces our new Nightwing feature. Even has him at (presumably) Big Ben, which actually figures into the story itself! It’s drawn by Mike Kaluta, whose done work on a whole lotta DC properties… and it’s one that will always stand out to me. This was the first-ever issue of Action Comics Weekly I’d ever laid my eyes on… I elaborate a bit more about that during our Nightwing discussion below.
Let’s get into our Polls:
Decent turnout at the polls this week… thanks to everyone still playing along. To be honest, I’m sorta feeling like a fool for keeping it up this long! We had a pretty clear winner here, didn’t we? Catwoman with a mandate! She got my vote as well. Gotta wonder, she’ll only be with us for four weeks… is it possible for her to sweep? The other stories were a mixed bag… Secret Six and Deadman kind of ended with a thud. Green Lantern treaded water, Superman did a whole lot of nothing… and Black Canary, well, let’s just say she darn sure earned her goose-egg!
My Rankings for last week’s (#612) stories would be:
1 – Catwoman
2 – Deadman
3 – Green Lantern
4 – Secret Six
5 – Black Canary
6 – Superman
Speaking of Polls, this issue featured the results for the “Great” Action Comics Weekly Poll! Let’s compare 1988 to 2019:
Wow! That’s pretty close, ain’t it? Just swap Green Lantern and Deadman, and we’re dead on! Ya see, this is why I wanted to run these polls…
This week’s Poll:
Shareable Poll: https://linkto.run/p/F525SJX3
If you recall, last week’s chapter ended with Hal getting zapped pretty good by Mind Games. This time out, we’re going to open inside Hal’s head… and see just what this zappin’ did to his noodle! We’re going to go through some very strong emotions with our man, starting with HATRED. Hal finds himself surrounded by some baddies… who he, well… kills. Hatred soon turns to GUILT, wherein Hal finds himself surrounded by… dead baddies. He attempts to resuscitate Sinestro, but it’s to no avail.
Next emotion, JEALOUS RAGE. Hal is surrounded by… fellow Lanterns, and they’re reading him the riot act for his trespass in killing the villains. He lashes out, claiming that the Lanterns have no right to judge him. Quite why this is being referred to as “jealous” in any way, I’m not entirely sure. In fact, he accuses the other Lanterns of being jealous of him! I guess we’ll roll with it, though.
Next… is kind of the one we’ve been uncomfortably edging up to for awhile now. This emotion is PASSION… and it has to do with his underage girlfriend. Arisia enters the frame wearing some very revealing undergarments… she and Hal make out for a bit, before our man comes to the revelation that, ya know… Arisia’s just a kid! She breaks the news to him that… she always has been! Uh-oh.
Star Sapphire then shows up, and asks Hal to “Take a Seat”… okay, no she doesn’t. She is there to explore Hal’s FEAR. Below Carol is the corpse of Katma Tui. This almost works…
… but, lest we forget, Hal is completely without Fear, so this is just the trick to break him out of Mind Games’ trance! Hal wakes up, kayos the baddie, and takes him into custody.
After dropping Mind Games off with the Chicago P.D., Hal heads back to the Hotel. He’s surprised to find that Arisia isn’t there waiting for him. Turns out, she’s still out with that Modelling Agent… and what’s more, she’s agreed to become a model!
We close out with Hal asking his Power Ring how he can be completely without fear. The Ring informs him that he is “fearless as per instructions”… whatever that means. Hal asks for clarification… and finds himself sucked into his own ring!
Now, this is more like it! This is the “meat” that we’ve been working our way towards ever since the first Oprah issue.
We hop inside the mind of Hal Jordan… and find out it’s quite the strange and creepy place. He appears to have a great deal of pent up frustration… with his friends, his enemies, his lover… and with himself.
Let’s get the most uncomfortable one out of the way first. Arisia… is a kid. Sure, they kinda swept it under the rug with some half-hearted explanation that her teen-agery form is actually that of a grown (and assumedly, legal) adult in her race… but, the fact remains that Hal Jordan, Earthman… is sexually attracted to a woman who has the appearance of a young teen. What’s more… with this chapter, he appears to come to that realization himself… and it freaks him out.
Now… here’s the thing… Hal is disturbed by this, but why? Is it because he knows it’s wrong? Is it because he fears he’ll be punished? Hmm… fear.
Let’s keep tugging at that thread a bit. Hal lashes out at villains early on in the chapter, killing them. Was any part of that rooted in fear? Once dead, he frantically tries to revive them… again, could that be rooted in fear? Fear of doing something wrong? Fear of reprisal and punishment? Maybe…
I mean, this is all going to make more sense in the coming weeks, so I’ll stifle it with the analysis for now. Fact is, this was a pretty good installment, one of the best yet… and it’s leading to a revelation that, if it were allowed to remain in continuity, would have led to some very interesting encounters to come. We’ll talk more about that next time.
We open with Nightwing taking out a boatload of Smugglers. Dick engages in some Spidey-esque banter with the baddies, and opines on the current state of hero/villain chatter being “grim”. He, of course, isn’t wrong about that considering the era in which this takes place. Dick winds up staring down the barrels of a couple of the Smugglers’ guns… thankfully, from the dock, his buddy Speedy fires an arrow which disarms ’em.
After handing the cigarette smugglers over to authorities, Roy and Dick head back to Titans Tower to chat. Roy has quite a proposition… involving a mission. A mission that the other Titans cannot be part of, because it involves Cheshire. Quite why that fact disqualifies the other Titans from taking part, I haven’t the foggiest. Dick seems confused as well! Worth noting, they also discuss a recent meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev… which, are they talking about what went down in our Deadman feature?! I hope so!
Anyhoo, Dick agrees, and next thing we know he and Roy are landing in Washington, D.C.. At the hotel, they talk about how they both used to be wards of millionaires… and they were both fired by those millionaires. Dick take umbrage to this statement, claiming that he had voluntarily quit working with/for Batman.
The heroes suit-up, and head for the rendezvous point atop the C.B.I. Building. Along the way, Dick fills Roy (and the reader) in on his evolution from Boy Wonder to Nightwing. Atop that building, Roy’s contact hands over a file, indicating that Cheshire’s next hit is in London.
Turns out, that’s exactly where she is! She, and a hostage are inside the clockworks of Big Ben. She is there in order to assassinate an Ambassador.
Next we know, Nightwing and Speedy are already in Londontown! They are rushing through a Labor Party demonstration, beelining straight to that Ambassador. Cheshire notices that her, ugh, baby-daddy is in her sights… and decides she’s going to have to pull the trigger regardless.
Really good start here!
Weird to consider that it took so long for Nightwing to get his own ongoing title after this… he seems like a safe bet to carry his own book. Though, continuity was (thankfully) much tighter back then, and I’d wager Wolfman and Co. would try and make all of his stories jive with those in New Teen Titans. Might’ve been more of an editorial headache than it was worth. Who knows?
Onto the story… it was a lot of fun. Cheshire has never been one of my favorites, but I appreciate how they’re using her here… and look forward to a little bit of “cat and mouse” that might be coming our way. It’s been forever since I’ve read this, so I don’t remember how it plays out… actually, this was the first Action Comics Weekly story I’d ever read way back in the day.
Ya see, sometime around the turn of the century (I can’t remember which side of 2000 it was, but it was around there), I bought a “blind box” of comics from a local shop. It was something like $5 for fifty random books. As you might imagine, it was mostly glut-era Image and obscure indie stuff… but also, this very issue!
Back then, I didn’t know Action from Weekly, and didn’t have a clue that this was ever a “thing”. The fact that Nightwing was on the cover of a book, which… far as I knew, was a flagship Superman book, caused me to raise an eyebrow. So, I checked it out! And, for the longest time, this was the oldest issue of Action Comics in my collection!
Anyhoo, back to the story. I appreciate Marv playing up the similarities between Dick and Roy, I’d wager that this was pretty illuminating for newer readers of the day (including myself the first time around). Also dug the quick and dirty explanation of how Robin became Nightwing. In the days before Wikipedia, this would be much appreciated by curious new readers.
Roy’s reluctance to include the rest of the Titans is pretty telling… as was some of the chatter between he and his C.B.I. contact in Washington, D.C.. Seems as though the fella was about to reveal something that Roy didn’t want Dick to know. I’m guessing this will all come to light before long.
Overall, Nightwing is a welcome arrival, and much more interesting than Deadman and Secret Six were toward the end of their first stints.
We open on the New York Subway, where a woman is reading a copy of Daniel Gleason’s latest horror novel, Mind Games. Mind Games, eh? Hmm… I thought Hal already took care of that guy! Anyhoo, Gleason’s work has been described as having the ability to (figuratively) “leap off the page”… and, well… you know where this is headed, don’tcha? After the bizarre attack, the woman lay dead, apparently dying of… old age?!
We shift scenes to Bruce (Eclipso) Gordon and the Phantom Stranger exiting a movie theater. They just saw something called About Sex Didn’t Ask, which was a “Parody of Italian Art Films”… not sure if it ever existed, but it really doesn’t matter. Whatever the case, the Stranger didn’t get the references. They pass by a Newsagent and check out the headline, which talks about the mysterious death on the Subway. The Stranger snags a copy, leaving Poor Bruce to cough up a quarter and dime.
We jump to a beach where… a young fella is reading Mind Games. You’ll never guess what happens to him!
We jump ahead to the evening… or an evening, I’m not sure if it’s the same day or not. The Phantom Stranger sits in his office… when suddenly, he feels a great and powerful evil headed his way. Turns out, he’s about to be visited by Daniel Gleason. The Writer needs some assistance of the Occult variety, and has heard that’s right up the Stranger’s alley.
Gleason reveals that the mysterious aging death on the Subway wasn’t an isolated incident… in fact, it’s become quite the thing… so much so, that the F.B.I. has gotten involved. He hands over the book… which the Stranger drops, realizing that the evil he’d sensed is coming from the book itself!
Daniel explains that his book is about Evil Mayan Spirits. Hmm, wonder if any of them know Talaoc? The Stranger presses Daniel for more information, only to learn that the book contains actual incantations… including a chant to Au Puch, a name the Stranger recognizes as a Mayan God of Death. Check this out… Daniel then proceeds to, get this… perform the chant!
The window flies open, and Daniel is suddenly overcome with this purple energy cloud… when it dissipates, all that remains is the gruesome Au Puch!
The Stranger confronts the God, and vows to separate it from Daniel Gleason’s body. Au Puch, however, has a much different idea… he snags the Stranger with one of his weird tentacles, and proceeds to drain him of his energy!
Welp, here’s where your humble host… eats crow! I really liked this! Thought it was pretty great!
I wasn’t sure what quite to expect during my initial “flip through”. Just looked like Phantom Stranger-y hoo-doo, a great big beast, and ethereal smoke. What I’ll tell ya, is… I wasn’t looking forward to it.
When I actually set in to read the thing, however… I thought this was incredibly strong! I like the dynamic of the Stranger trying to act as though he were an ordinary human. An ordinary human with an expertise in the occult, but “ordinary” nonetheless.
The idea of a Mayan Death God being trapped in a book? It’s alright as a concept… and it helps get us where we need to be. I dig the way Au Puch took over Gleason as his vessel, considering that he’s the one who “trapped” it into the book… though, Gleason chanting the incantation? That’s kind of a dopey thing to have done, wasn’t it? Anyhoo, I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out… and maybe, actually, becoming something of a Phantom Stranger fan? Oof, I feel dirty even typing it.
I don’t really have any complaints about this story… however, I’ve still yet to read a single “horror” comic book story that has scared me. I feel like this is supposed to be scary… at least a little bit, but I just didn’t get the heebie-jeebies here. If anyone reading has any really scary horror comics to recommend, please let me know!
We open in that Illuminati Board Room… we learn that these evil men in suits are calling themselves “The Consortium”… so, we’ve got “The Fellowship” on one side, and “The Consortium” on the other. Fair enough. It’s confirmed here that they are very much anti-Superman… and they discuss both discrediting and eliminating him to continue their “way of life”.
Also confirmed is that one getaway driver (from like eight weeks ago) engaged his “experimental mass teleporter” in order to evade capture. It’s that Culpepper guy… the one who was thought to have been in “an accident” on the West Coast. You remember him, doncha?
Back in Metropolis, Clark brings Galt to his apartment for safe-keeping, before ducking out, Suping up… and flying over to a California Burn Center in order to attempt to get some answers from that Culpepper.
Only… someone might’ve beaten him to it!
Well, not a whole lot of forward momentum here… but we did manage to get a few of our lingering questions answered. I mean, we’re not dumb people, are we? I think we’ve already put two and two together, and figured out that Culpepper was one of the “bad guys”… and, I’m pretty sure it was already confirmed that he used a teleportation device… which gave the impression that he “went boom”, when in actuality, he body-slid across the country.
We do actually learn that the “bad guys” are called The Consortium… which, I guess is something. It’s also hinted that they have a “different” way of life that Superman’s very existence poses a threat to? Okay.
Hopefully next week will give us a little bit more “meat”. The visitor to Mr. Culpepper… I couldn’t tell ya if it were a “bad guy” or Superman… though, Stern and Co. seem to want us to think it’s a bad guy. Who knows? And… unfortunately, who cares?
We pick up moments before we left off last week. Selina realizes something’s almost definitely “up”, and attempts to pull Holly out-da-house. Holly resists, insistent that her Arthur knows what he’s doing with the Brooch. Then… BOOM! Selina managed to miss much of the blast… Holly, however, did not. The pair share a few last words, with Selina giving Holly a kiss on the forehead before skipping out of dodge… or Jersey.
We jump ahead to Selina tippin’ a bottle in her office at The Tin Roof Club. She is interrupted by Detective George… who kinda walks the line between Officer and Friend. He tells Selina that she’d best “dry up” and get movin’. She claims that she killed Holly. George waves it off. He even goes as far as to tell her that he doesn’t know that she was at Holly’s last night… further, he doesn’t know that she stole the brooch. And, what he doesn’t know… can’t hurt her. Though, next time they meet… he will have a warrant. This was a really well-written scene!
We jump ahead again… to Gotham Plaza, where Holly’s husband, Arthur is making time with, I assume, a prostitute. Dude definitely has a “type”, doesn’t he? Anyhoo, Catwoman bursts in… and he sends the “dumb tart” away, so they can talk.
Cool as a cucumber, Arthur laments the fact that there was a “gas leak” at he and Holly’s home. Selina tells him to cut the crap and demands the Brooch. She even offers him a deal. He hands over the piece, she keeps her mouth shut about the murder. Arthur’s response? He calls Security to report a “cat-burglar”.
Catwoman don’t take kindly to this… and wraps her whip around Artie’s t’roat! He motions over to the nightstand, where Selina can find the Brooch.
Turns out, he’s tellin’ the truth! Selina admires the Kitty for a moment… but is soon blindsided by Arthur, who tosses her out the window!
Still lovin’ this!
Quickly, I feel like that scene between Selina and George really stole the show here. This was some of the best-written dialogue I’ve read in a little bit. George giving Selina enough rope to either hang herself or escape was really cool. Digging the dynamic here.
Whatta we think about Holly? Well, we know she’ll eventually be back… and, a mid-2000’s interview with Ed Brubaker reveals that he never even knew this story existed! Here, take a look:
|From The Comics Reporter (2004)
Posted: September 2, 2006
That’s the kinda research-mindedness I love seeing from our comics’ pros! Not sure what’s worse, the fact that Ed didn’t know… or that whoever was editing Ed didn’t know (or just didn’t wanna pipe up)! I mean, that’s gotta be one of the reasons they’re getting paid, right? Oh well, Zero Hour happened between her death and return, right? Guess we can just blame Zero Hour… wouldn’t be the first time, surely won’t be the last.
I thought the death scene was… as well done as it could be, considering the circumstances. The story needed Selina to survive, and Holly to die… with a measure of deniability for Arthur. This way of doing it worked!
Our cliffhanger is about as “comics-cliffhangery” as possible, but, again… it worked! It looks as though Selina dropped the Brooch as she was tackled, so, this visit to Artie might’ve been a total loss. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out.
We open in Hector Librado’s hospital room… so, it looks as though he survived that attack. That’s the good news. The bad? He is currently comatose. Dinah, Luis and Rita are standing vigil… with the Librados begrudgingly filling Dinah in on the potential “hows” and “whys” of everything that’s gone down so far. At the same time, Weird Beard is talking to somebody on his car phone. Somebody named “Doug”. Not sure if this is “Cowboy Doug” or “Hollywood Doug”… I’m guessing it’s the latter, though I mean… we could probably just flip a coin here.
Back in the hospital, Dinah asks if either of them know of a Doug Vallines. They can recall the name from their Father’s days working in the Orchards. Doug was apparently a Crop-Duster.
Further, Luis assumes he might be the one Hector reached out to in order to “verify their status”. When asked for elaboration, it’s revealed that the Librados are in the country illegally. Now who saw that coming? Okay, okay… hands down. We learn that, since the Reagan Amnesty they’ve been trying to track down the proper paperwork they need… which is difficult when you’re living a sorta-kinda nomadic lifestyle. And so, Hector hooked up with a Forger. This causes a lightbulb to pop up over Dinah’s head…
Next we shift scenes to… a “faceless” man in a cowboy hat, who may or may not be “Cowboy Doug”. I mean, if it is, there’s no reason to shield his face they way they are here. If it’s not… it’s just yet another new character we don’t know or care about. Anyhoo, he’s talking to a fella, who might be Vincent Scales? Or, maybe he himself is Vincent Scales? They’re talking about a Hank Beecham, and a Gary… I mean, just too many names, with not enough faces. Just a mess.
Next stop, the I.N.S. Office in Seattle. A woman named Ellen Waverly receives a piece of mail regarding the Librados… and calls it in to William MacDonald (remember that guy?). We learn that Librado’s application had been flagged due to his being a Convicted Felon in Mexico. Further digging by Ms. Waverly reveals that none of that is actually true. Librado is (relatively speaking) squeaky clean.
After an overlong and confusing conversation… I mean, the word balloons were all over the place… and, at times, hard to attribute to a specific speaker, MacDonald ends the call. From here, he contacts… somebody… and requests “Chimney Sweeping” service in Seattle. Yeesh.
We close out with Dinah just happening across Beecham’s Market. We might assume this was Hector Librado’s “Forger”. Anyhoo, she peeks through the window, and witnesses him being beaten up by those same two goons who approached her at the Bar.
What’s the onomatopoeia for an exaggerated and overblown sigh? Is it “uhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hh-h-h-hh-h”? Or is it just “Sighhhhhhhhhhhh”. Whichever it is, that’s pretty much all I have to say here. This really isn’t very good.
This sort of story (and storytelling) would be more at home in the DC Sampler or DC New Talent Showcase than Action Comics Weekly. There are just too many fundamental storytelling hiccups here. Even if the story was interesting, it’s just too damn difficult to read.
I mean, how many names do we need dropped in our lap before the all cease to have any meaning or importance? How many shadowy people do we need to be introduced to before they all blur together? Why is everything such a mystery? This is Part Five (of Eight), let’s start shedding some light on things! Let’s know who we’re up against here! If we wait much longer, the “big reveal” will fall even flatter than it’s likely going to anyway.
There’s also the “message” that I think they’re trying to push here. We discussed this a few chapters back. The “Robin Hoodiness” of the Librados. How they might have engaged in unsavory ways, but always for the “right reason”, which… I dunno, is supposed to assuage them of guilt? Maybe?
I mean, we’re dealing with some “gray” stuff here… and yet, the Librados, for all of their “less than upstanding” behavior, are being depicted as relatively clean. I know terms like “whataboutism” has become fashionable (and overused), but this feels like we’re only supposed to empathize with the Librados because the are the less-est of all evils here. This just isn’t “landing” for me. Hopefully there are folks out there who are digging it.