Action Comics Weekly #614 (1988)



Action Comics Weekly #614 (July 5, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Bring Me a Man”
Phantom Stranger: “Death God”
Nightwing: “First Blood”
Superman: “Death Comes Calling…”
Catwoman: “The Tin Roof Club, Part Four”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 6”
Writers – Peter David, Paul Kupperberg, Marv Wolfman, Roger Stern, Mindy Newell, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – Tod Smith, Tom Grindberg, Chuck Patton, Curt Swan, Barry Kitson, & Randy DuBurke
Inks – Brett Breeding, Tom Poston, Murphy Anderson, Bruce Patterson, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, B. Sean Pinaha, Bill Oakley, Carrie Spiegle, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Petra Scotese, Adrienne Roy, & Tom Ziuko
Edits – Dan Raspler, Denny O’Neil, Mike Carlin, Barbara Kesel, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

This was a decent enough week in Action Comics Weekly Land… some controversial and noteworthy chapters here, talking specifically about Green Lantern and Catwoman.  Our weaker stories… well, they remained weak, talking specifically about Superman and Black Canary.


I guess our main “news” here is that, this coming week we’re bringing back a pair of ACW All-Stars!  That’s right, Action Comics Weekly #615 sees the return of both Blackhawk and Wild Dog (the latter is actually our cover-feature)!


Speaking of cover-features, this week’s cover is by Mike Mignola, and it’s a good one!  Figure any issue of Action Comics Weekly with either Superman or Green Lantern on the cover is a safe enough bet.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I’d really like to see the sale figures from back in the long ago to see if the covers affected sales… especially on a book of this price!


Speaking of “back in the long ago”, let’s take a look at the results of 1988’s “Great Action Comics Weekly Poll” for ACW #603… and compare it with the readers of this humble blog, circa 2019!



Well, looks like Blackhawk won unanimously!  Also, Superman lost unanimously.  So, all’s right with the world!  It’s interesting to see there being a tie back in ’88.  I gotta assume they’re getting hundreds of votes.  I mean, I’m only getting around a dozen every week, so ties will be something we’re going to have to deal with… but, back in ’88?  That’s just weird.  Unless I’m overestimating the amount of engagement this book is receiving!  I know for a fact that I overestimated how much engagement it would receive here on the blog in 2019!


Let’s look at the results for last week’s Poll!




Unsurprisingly, Nightwing blew away the field of competitors!  I struggled for a moment to decide whether I’d vote Nightwing or Catwoman, but ultimately went with the former.


Catwoman herself didn’t have too poor a showing, and wound up in second place.  Somehow, Black Canary got herself on the board… as did Superman.  Wow!


My Rankings for last week’s (#613) stories would be:
1 – Nightwing
2 – Catwoman
3 – Phantom Stranger
4 – Green Lantern
5 – Black Canary
6 – Superman


Here’s this week’s Poll!


Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #614?

Green Lantern

Phantom Stranger

Nightwing

Superman

Catwoman

Black Canary

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/BBJPUMXY








When last we left, Hal was zapped into his own ring in search of answers.  We open with the familiar scene of Abin Sur’s dying body.  Before he passes, he commands his ring to locate a replacement… a man who is “totally without fear”.  So, nothing out of the ordinary… yet.





The Ring complies with the request and searches the nearby area… electing to start with folks with minimal fear… and wean down from there.  Since time was of the essence, the Ring chose a local… with a minimum amount of fear… Hal Jordan!





Now, here’s where the other show drops.  The Ring’s instructions weren’t to find someone with minimal fear… it was supposed to find someone completely without fear.  Ya dig?  And so, the Ring made the decision to “rectify” any “inconsistencies” in Hal Jordan.  The Ring made Hal Jordan a Man Without Fear!





In other words, the Ring mucked around in Hal’s mind… in it’s own words, “rearranging his psychic profile to eliminate all fear.”  Hal is flustered at the thought that he’d been lobotomized… but the Ring ensures him that it didn’t cut away any brain tissue.  Thank goodness for small favors!





We shift scenes to the Chicago streets, where a suicidal man is threatening to jump from a ledge.  While the police try to talk him inside, Hal is instructing his Power Ring to put him “back to normal”… which is to say, remove his Ring-induced “fearlessness”.  And… it does!





Hal fears a ruckus outside, and deduces that the would-be jumper is a few blocks away.  He leaps from the window… and, get this… begins to plummet to the ground!  Heyyy, it’s just like the cover to Action Comics Weekly #602!





Our man manages to pull himself together before going splat.  Turns out, all of the fears that had been repressed in the years since his “non-lobotomy” are rushing back at once… which is really putting him through the mental ringer.  He tells himself that in order to be Green Lantern, he doesn’t need to be a “Man Without Fear”… he just needs to be a “Man”.  And no, I don’t think that was intended as a sexist statement.





He lands on the ledge next to the jumper… and, he’s still pretty freaked out by the rush of fears.  The jumper sees him, and (somehow) concludes that Hal is acting the way he is in order to illustrate how the jumper himself is feeling… scared!  This is enough for him to reevaluate his life… and climb back inside his window.





We close out with the hooting and hollering of a celebratory streetfull of Chicagoans (and Arisia).  Hal gives a victorious wave… though, might just chill up there for a little bit before daring to take to the skies once more.







So, yeah… the big reveal is: Abin Sur’s Power Ring mucked around in Hal Jordan’s brain to eliminate his ability to feel fear.


Now, I’m not really sure how I feel about all of this.  I’ve never really been one to draw a solid line under the concept that “Hal Jordan is a Man Without Fear”.  Ya know what I mean?  I feel like this is one of the things that shouldn’t really be played with.  I mean, we can assume that he is fearless… or, we can assume that he has the baser “life-preservation-type” fears.  I don’t think we need to really “dig deep” on here.


How would we even play something like this out?  Would Hal try and discuss this with the Guardians (wherever they are)?  Would he begin second-guessing all of his prior actions?  Would he begin second-guessing all of his future actions?  There’s potential for this to be either very interesting… or, very “sticky”.  Overall, if I were pressed… I’d call this a “net-negative”.


That doesn’t mean I disliked the story, however… because I did.  I feel like this was an interesting (and probably, at the time, mind-blowing… pun always intended) revelation… and it really “pays off” the story up to this point.  From Katma’s death, to the Carol Ferris “murder”, to Green Lantern’s Q-Rating taking a dive, to the appearance on Oprah, to Mind Games… it all comes together here, with this revelation.  Whether I feel like the “non-lobotomy” should be explored, I cannot deny that it was well-written… and damned creative!  I don’t think anybody saw this coming.  I give a ton of credit to Peter David for thinking “outside the box” with this one.


Let’s look at this story (and reveal) in a vacuum for just a moment.  I mentioned during the synopsis that this story featured a scene that looked a lot like the cover to Action Comics Weekly #602.





This Perez cover has almost got to be in reference to this story.  If we were to look at Mark Waid’s note in the Letters Page of Green Lantern Corps #224, he mentions that Peter David will be the incoming (and first) writer for Hal’s Action Comics Weekly exploits.  That tells me that this story was supposed to be the one that kicked off the anthology.  But then… something happened.


Not sure what… or why.  But I am interested to know what the original story-progression was to be.  Without the “build”, would the non-lobotomy story have hit the mark?  Feels like this is a reveal that needed everything that came before it in order to give us that true “A-ha!” moment.  I’m definitely curious though!


Going forward… Being a proponent of playing the ball where it lands/playing the cards you’re dealt… I don’t like the idea of just wiping this all away (which is where this is headed… the finer points of this story, to my knowledge, are never referred to again).  This is the end of the arc… and we’re going to be moving into a very different story next week… with some very different art.


Overall… an interesting and creative ending to a very unique Green Lantern story.  Despite it being swept under the rug (like so much of Hal’s late-eighties exploits), I recommend checking it out, whether as a novelty, or for the very well-written “What if…?” story it’s become.











We open with Au Puch tormenting the Phantom Stranger in Chichen Itza.  The baddie refers to it as his “Realm”, and that’s good enough for me.  The Stranger states that Au Puch was foolish not to simply kill him, for he will continue to fight so long as he draws breath (which is something I wasn’t sure the Phantom Stranger even did!).  The Mayan Death God informs him (and us) that he is powered by the “Cosmic Life Force” of his worshipers… and that Daniel Gleason’s book brought him back to this mortal plane.  He then tosses the Stranger into the “Sacred Cenote” aka. the “Well of Sacrifice”… which is, believe it or not, a real thing that exists!





In the depths, the Stranger regains his heft and more normal form… Au Puch had drained him of much of his essence beforehand.  Ya see, this is the baddie’s plan… he’s going to continue to feed of the Stranger, again and again… for all eternity!  When our man protests this decision, dozens of skeletons rise from the Cenote floor.





The Stranger fights his way through the skeletal “cattle”, being careful not to take his full aggression out on them.  Thing of it is, it ain’t their fault they’re being used this way!  The Stranger escapes the Well, and engages in battle with Au Puch in the skies above it.





They fight, and it appears as though the Stranger’s offense is in vain.  Amid the battle, however, he manages to sneak one little spark of light into the nape of the baddie’s neck.  This opens up communication between the Phantom Stranger, and Au Puch’s “human vessel”, Daniel Gleason!





Daniel is instructed to make his way toward the light… which, I mean, if the Phantom Stranger (or anyone!) is telling me to “Go toward the light”, I might not be so sure that it’s a good idea.  Daniel, however, does what he is told.





The Stranger finally lets loose with a massive blast of light energy which reduces the Mayan Death God to a pile of goopy flesh and bone… from which, Daniel Gleason emerges!  All’s well that ends well!





And so ends our second stint (of six or seven) with the Phantom Stranger.  I feel like the ending didn’t quite measure up to the open, but it was still quite good.


I appreciate the use of the real world Cenotes… which, up until right now, I didn’t even know were a thing.  Who says comics can’t be educational!


The Au Puch “life-draining” gimmick is a pretty well-trodden trope… kind of like the Vampire who keeps his victims alive in order to keep feeding on them.  I suppose, in a way, Au Puch very much is a Vampire… so, it works!


Convincing Daniel Gleason to approach the light was a creative way to shake him back to reality… and ultimately, a creative way of beating the baddie.  This was well done.


My only complaint is… I don’t feel like we get all that much in “closure”.  Maybe I’m just too accustomed to exposition to the Nth degree, but this ending didn’t feel like it tied up properly.  What happens to the Mind Games book now?  Can it now be read without summoning a Mayan Death God Energy Vampire?


I guess it was more a morality tale… or sorts.  We learn not to muck around with forces we don’t know (or respect) enough.  Fair enough!  What’s important (to me) is… I enjoyed it!









We pick up where we left off, with Cheshire about to assassinate that Ambassador.  From above the clock of Big Ben, she spies in her scope… Roy Harper!  She decides that she’ll try and complete her contract regardless.  Before she can pull the trigger, however, Nightwing pushes the Ambassador out of the line of fire.  Unfortunately, this leaves a fella named Nicolas wide open for a shot through the heart (and Dick’s to blame)!





Roy reacts by firing an arrow in the exact direction of the bullet… which winds up lodging right up Cheshire’s barrel (getcher minds out of the gutters).  Roy then charges toward Big Ben (or whatever the actual building is called)… and winds up getting his butt kicked by his former squeeze.





Nightwing joins the fight, and takes some battle-damage via Cheshire’s poison-tipped “toe claw”.  Jade goes to make her escape, but not before tossing an egg-shaped explosive into the crowd.  Luckily, Dick manages to catch the thing…





… and toss it into the drink before it explodes.



We rejoin our heroes back at their hotel.  Here, Roy gives the quick-n-dirty on how me met (and mated with) Cheshire.  While working undercover in Japan for the C.B.I’s Drug-Trafficking Division, they’d meet… feel an instant attraction… and, well, you know.



We shift scenes over to the Ambassador’s room, where he’s having a bit of a fit.  He doesn’t like being under constant watch by his bodyguards, and excuses himself to take a shower… only, this shower proves to be fatal!  The old-man scrub-a-dub action is cut short when we learn the shower has been rigged with gas.



Shortly, Nightwing is on the scene to investigate… and is starting to feel pangs of doubt about how much he can trust his partner.  He feels as though Roy isn’t quite telling him everything… and, duh, he’s right.



We wrap up with Speedy in a darkened alley calling out to Jade.  She appears behind him, but tells him not to turn around.  She tells him that he’s the only man she’s ever loved… but that won’t stop her from killing him.  Then, Poof!  She vanishes!





Another fine chapter… that managed to intertwine exposition and story-progression.  So often we only get one or another… and here, in only eight-pages, we get both… and it’s great!


Establishing the link between Roy and Jade was necessary.  Regardless of how many folks know the ins and outs of their relationship, you almost have to write with the assumption that there will be a great number of ACW readers who might not be so familiar with it.  The way it was handled here was really well done (with an editorial note to check out New Teen Titans #20, if anyone wanted further information).  It didn’t overstay its welcome, and was told in an easy to follow way.


As for the action, this chapter delivered.  Not only does Jade fulfill her contract, she also got to take out one of the Ambassador’s bodyguards as a “bonus”.


I’m enjoying the Dick and Roy dynamic… with Roy giving just enough information to keep Dick in the dark.  What he doesn’t realize, however, (though he probably should) is that Dick is on to him.  I’m looking forward to watching this all play out.


Good stuff!










Superman flies to the Hospital where Culpepper is laid up… and catches a dude about to smother him with a pillow.


That’s… it?




I’ve often joked that Superman-day is kinda like my “day off”.  I’ve also joked that I almost feel guilty doing such “light duty” every Monday… but, this?  I mean… this could have been done in two panels, much less two pages.  What an absolute waste!


I’ve got nothing more to say… I’m sorry!










Remember last week?  We ended with Catwoman being tossed out a window and plummeting to her most definite doom.  Only, well.. of course she doesn’t land with a splat.  After a little aerial voodoo, Selina manages to land on a flagpole sticking out from the building.  Back inside, Arthur and his Lady Friend are approached by Hotel Security.  They demand to look around, unless Artie can cough up some, uh, “charity”.





And so, one of the Guards proceeds to snoop around the room (while the other keeps Arthur and Whatsherface out).  The snooping guard takes a look out the room’s open window, and… well… Catwoman grabs him by the shirt, and… get this, pulls him out, dropping him to his death!  Wait, what?  She… killed him?!





Next, tired of waiting, the other Security Guard peeps out the room, leaving Arthur and his Mistress to argue, giving us the confirmation (as if there were ever any doubt) that Arthur did kill Holly… annnnd, the same thing happens!  Catwoman yanks this poor sap out the window, too!  So, in the course of two pages, Selina has killed two (relatively) innocent men!





She climbs back into the room, and… puts the Brooch back in its box… and places that box back into Arthur’s nightstand.  Hmm…





Arthur and Whatsherface re-enter their Hotel Room… and just then, they find themselves swarmed by Police Officers.  Ya see, a couple of poor goons were just tossed out their window… stands to reason, Artie might know a thing or two about it!  Far as the Cops know, Arthur’s the one who tossed ’em!  That’s not going to be his only charge, however… they also locate the purloined Brooch in his nightstand!





So, after killing two dudes and planting some evidence, Selina Kyle wins the day!  Yay?  We wrap up back at the Tin Roof Club, where she and Detective Flannery share a drink… and a smile.







Well…


This certainly… uh, turned… didn’t it?


Not digging the idea that Selina would kill a pair of dudes as nothing more than a means to an end.  I mean, I can’t root for that!  Up to this point, Selina has been a mostly sympathetic character… I’ve been rooting for her throughout.  But this… this is a step too far for me.


I mean, Arthur needed to pay for what he did to Holly… but, other people didn’t need to die for that to happen.  Selina should have been smarter than this.  She didn’t kill those Security Guards because she “had no choice”… she chose to do it!  It was a decision she made!  I don’t like that… don’t like it one bit.


Really not much more to say about it.  After three very strong installments, this final chapter really… uh, pooped the bed.  I’m very disappointed.











We open with William MacDonald (of the I.N.S.) making a call to someone named “Fyres”… so, we’re only two panels in and already we see yet another “new name” entering the story.  Fyres is a thin man in a loud (and pointy-shouldered) sports jacket.  He is advised that his “subject” is Ellen Waverly.  Now, that’s not a new name for us (though it was last week).  She’s the woman working on the Librado file.  Speaking of Ms. Waverly, we shift scenes to her receiving a call from Weird Beard.  He claims to have a package for her, and agrees to meet with her at her home to make the exchange.





After a brief update on Hector Librado, we join Dinah who is beating up those goons at Beecham’s Market.  Ya know, I try and write these synopses in a way where you don’t need to go back and read other posts for context (though, they’re there if you want)… however, this feature kinda refuses to be synopsized that way!  So yeah, Dinah is fighting off the pair of goons who are hassling Mr. Beecham, and they’re the same two goons that hassled her at the bar (like four weeks ago).  She accuses them of “coldcocking” her and “The Cowboy”, which they both deny.



Hank Beecham then returns to the scene with his shotgun.  He fires it, causing the goons to scatter.



Dinah and Hank talk a bit about the matter at hand.  She learns that Librado wasn’t in any sort of debt, as he paid for all of the services in cash.  Further, he explains that the two goons work for a guy wearing… an old cowboy hat and flight jacket!  Uh-oh.



We shift scenes to the Scales Building, where (I assume) Vincent Scales is on the line with William MacDonald, who is on his way to Seattle.  Not sure why that Fyre guy is part of this… or, honestly, if he even is!  Anyhoo, Cowboy Doug enters Scales’ office and is handed a note, and orders to check out a boat.  Scales refers to Cowboy Doug as “Gary”, which clears up one of the skatey-eight hundred names we’ve had dropped on us over the past several weeks.



We next jump to California where Hollywood Doug is peeking into some fenced off land.  Worth noting, there’s a scale on the signage… and while Scales owns it, the government still sorta “works” it.  He realizes he’s gotta check more into this.



We wrap up back at Sherwood Florist, where Dinah makes a call to Doug Vallines (not sure which one), she leaves a message on his machine, informing him that she thinks she knows who attacked Hector Librado.





This is still going on, innit?


I’m sitting here wishing there were a Who’s Who? edition focused on Bitter Fruit.  Heck, Bitter Fruit the story, or actual lemons, limes and the like.  I’ve pleaded a bunch over the past few weeks… please quit dropping new characters in… and please start sorting out the ones we’ve already got!


It’s okay for Dinah to not have all the answers… it’s okay to leave some things nebulous… but, for the readers to be quite this lost?  That does not make for a fun, satisfying, or rewarding experience.  Next week is (thankfully) our penultimate chapter, and we still have so many questions.  Who attacked Hector Librado?  Who is this Fyre guy?  Why is this Fyre guy involved if MacDonald and Weird Beard both have eyes on Ellen Waverly?  Who is Doug Vallines… and why are there two?


What I’m saying is… we’ve only got sixteen pages left, and I’m bracing for about a dozen and a half anvils to drop on our heads.  This is not a well-paced story… and, worse yet, it’s not interesting in the slightest!  A total “miss”.





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