Action Comics Weekly #615 (July 12, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Freaks!”
Blackhawk: “That was no Lady…”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter One: Night Patrol”
Superman: “Fatal Flaw?”
Nightwing: “Tracks of a Killer!”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit, Part 7”
Writers – Peter David, Martin Pasko, Max Collins, Roger Stern, Marv Wolfman, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – Richard Howell, Rick Burchett, Terry Beatty, Curt Swan, Chuck Patton, & Randy DuBurke
Inks – Arne Starr, John Nyberg, Murphy Anderson, Tom Poston, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Todd Klein, Steve Haynie, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, & Albert DeGuzman
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford, Adrienne Roy, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Mike Gold, Brian Augustyn, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50
It’s hard to believe but we’re already one-third through this little project… actually, since a couple of issues of Action Comics Weekly are going to be done-in-one’s, we’re actually well past the one-third point! Though, I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to run the pair of Green Lantern Specials that came out around this time. We still have some time to think on that. If anyone’s still reading, lemme know if those are something you wanna see!
Let’s look at this week’s cover. It’s Wild Dog by Barry Crain, who far as I can tell only did art for Sonic Disruptors… and this cover for DC Comics! He bebopped around Marvel a bit too. So, the cover… it’s a pretty good one! I’m a sucker for both dogs and Wild Dog, so I can dig it!
This week’s letters page (included below) features the results of the (Great) Action Comics Weekly Poll for ACW #604. DC didn’t specify which issue… but, ya know, it’s gotta be #604.
Blackhawk sits atop both lists, which works for me! Superman sits at the bottom of both, which also works for me! The middle portion is a bit wobbly, but… whattayagonnado?
Now, speaking of Polls, here’s last week’s results:
Pretty decent turnout. Thanks to everyone for participating! Sad as it may sound, it really warms my little heart that there are folks out there that dig this idea!
Nightwing takes the week… which wasn’t exactly unexpected, though it didn’t get my vote this time out. While I found Nightwing to be quite strong, I voted for Green Lantern. It’s a shame about Catwoman though, isn’t it? Guess folks didn’t take too kindly to her flat-out murdering a couple of innocent civilians. Black Canary gets herself a well-deserved zero!
My Rankings for last week’s (#614) stories would be:
1 – Green Lantern
2 – Nightwing
3 – Phantom Stranger
4 – Catwoman
5 – Superman
6 – Black Canary
Here’s this week’s poll:
We open with… great googly-moogly, is that supposed to be Arisia?! Looks like something out of a dollar-store ElfQuest knockoff! Yes folks, this is the start of the Richard Howell era. Welcome to the book, sir. Anyhoo, she zaps a Life Model Decoy with the “Hurican”, Hi-Tech Industries’ latest and greatest in personal self-defense! Ya see, we’re at a Tech Expo, and this is one of Arisia’s first legit modelling gigs!
While she shills, Hal wanders around the Expo Center… and walks past a brand-new Hand-Activated Electronic Safe. I wonder if that’ll come into play later!
Back at Hi-Tech’s Booth, a Huckster… hucksters, until being approached by a Lady in Red. She’s referred to as “Veronica”, and is evidently a rival inventor… or tech-merchant. After exchanging pleasantries she takes her leave, bumping right into our Hal on her way out. He is immediately taken with her beauty… because, he’s Hal. Worth noting, however, we do not get a look at her face.
The Hi-Tech Huckster decides to attempt to “one up” Veronica by demonstrating his “Collapser”… an invention that isn’t quite ready for prime-time. Before he can, however, a gaudily-dressed muscle man bursts on the scene! Hal rushes into a Phone Booth to change “Lantern Up”. Nyuk nyuk.
Before he can intervene, another baddie shows up. They surround Arisia, and thankfully name one another. The baldie is called Siphon, and the belly-shirt wearing goof is called Castle. They’re members of the “Freak Show”… and, for better or worse, we’ll be getting to know them much better over the next few weeks.
Hal manages to snag Siphon in a construct cage. Castle rushes over to the next booth and grabs the spokesmodel for that Hand-Activated Super Safe. She immediately snap-mares him right on into the safe, and slams the door shut behind him!
Now, here’s the trick. We call this dude “Castle” because his powers are not unlike “Castling” in Chess. And so, he “castles” with Hal… who now finds himself locked in the safe. And the kicker is, the inside of the safe is painted… yellow!
So, yeah… a far less, uh, “cerebral” Green Lantern story arc starts today. We meet some members of the Freak Show… we sorta meet Veronica… and Arisia is looking like dollar-store Dewshine.
See what I mean? Let’s get the art out of the way. It’s not that it’s bad or anything… it’s just not terribly pleasant, and quite jarring when compared with the work that’s come before (Gil Kane/Tod Smith). Howell’s going to be with us for a little while, so hopefully his style starts to grow on me. It never has in prior reads, but, you know what they always say, “Sixth Time’s the Charm!”.
Let’s look at the Freaks… starting with our man, Castle. This fella strikes me as a “very Peter David” sort of villain… which isn’t a bad thing. So, what’s his power, and why is he called Castle? Well, click the pic below and it’ll take you to some information on all’a that.
So, yeah… this is the direction Green Lantern will be headed in for the next several weeks. I’ll be honest, for me this is the low-point of “Hal Jordan’s Action Comics”… and was the absolute toughest slog to push through when putting together the Cosmic Treadmill series of ACW episodes. We’ll take it as it comes, and try to remain positive.
Singapore. June, 1947. Janos is meeting with a group of folks who want some freight delivered. It looks like a whole bunch of flour sacks, however, the “client” lets it slip that those sacks are actually full of opium. Janos ain’t digging the sound of that, and backs out. The client doesn’t take kindly to that, and before we know it, we’re in a fire-fight! Jonas uses the “boss” as a human shield… which, turns out was a pretty smart thing to do. The “boss” gets shot in the chest a mere moment later! Blackhawk retreats into the rainy night.
After emerging from a back alley, he runs right into a bicycle rickshaw. He hops on, and finds himself sharing a ride with (I assume) an old associate… a one-eyed woman in purple named Natalie!
He and ol’ Nat Fury ride back to the brothel he’s been staying at. Janos is immediately met by a, uh, lady of the house… but he’d rather make time with Natalie. She passes on a trip “upstairs”.
She will, however, chat him up at the Singapore Sling Saloon. We get the impression that this Natalie Reed might be a little on the “Red” side. She left the United States, and a presumably lucrative entertainment career due to a “Red Consciousness”. She asks Janos for a job… and also asks if he’d ever heard of a man named J. Parnell Thomas.
Blackhawk gives her a job at his Airline. In a neat bit of continuity, we learn that he’d cashed in his share of gold from the earlier ACW feature to set himself up here. Janos shares a Western Union telegram with Natalie about their next gig. She’s not so sure it’s a good idea, but our man smells “mucho dinero” and also a potentially “great-lookin’ tomato”.
We wrap up with Natalie settling in to her new position as “Gal Friday”, “Flight-Traffic Clerk” and “Ground Crew” for Blackhawk Airways, and the arrival of Leslie Richardson… the point of contact for that Western Union telegram.
Perhaps not the “hot” start I might have been expecting, but a welcome return for this wonderful feature. I was a little concerned about how much I would enjoy this without Mike Grell in the writer’s chair. I probably shouldn’t have worried, as Marty Pasko seems to have a real good handle (and knack) for writing our fella.
I appreciate that we find out, right off the bat, that Janos does have a “line”. He refuses to traffic Opium, when I gotta say, I wasn’t entirely sure he’d have any reservations about that kinda thing. My familiarity with Janos Prohaska comes from… well, that first arc… and whatever I can remember from the Chaykin Prestige Format series. He seemed to me as a guy who “had a price”, and wouldn’t ask many questions… keeping himself willfully ignorant in potentially “murky” situations, while still looking to profit.
Again, I don’t know a heckuva lot about this guy… so, my perception might be (or almost certainly is) completely off-base.
I like Janos having a “second”. Last time out it was Sister Cynthia, this time it looks like it’ll be Natalie Reed. I’m already looking forward to more of their back and forth!
We open with Lt. Andy Flint, Reporter Lou Godder, and Auto-Mechanic/Vigilante Jack Wheeler stood before a dead body… the victim of a slashing. Flint proclaims this to be the work of the Quad Cities first-ever serial killer… which tells us this ain’t an isolated incident. He vows to find him, which Lou Godder is quick to suggest they might be dealing with a her, citing a “Jill the Ripper” case that occurred in the Chicago singles-scene not too long ago.
We jump ahead to the trio having drinks… and they’re still talking about this case. Jack offers to help, claiming that, since a “Certain Canine” can avoid jurisdictional hassles, he might be able to dig up some more dirt than a badge-carrying officer. Andy doesn’t say no… though, Godder passive-aggressively suggests that Wild Dog might be the Quad Cities real first serial killer. What a killjoy.
Later that night, Jack types up a letter to Lou Godder… and plainly writes that, while Lou may disagree with his methods, he has become something of a “silent accomplice”… and he’s not wrong! Last time out, Lou did save Jack’s bacon! Whether or not that was a “make right” for saving his daughter isn’t really the point. Jack then suits up, and heads out on patrol. Hey, it works for Batman, right?
Wild Dog happens upon a Convenience Store being held up… and decides to dispense with some street justice. He approaches the three would-be robbers… and perforates their legs but good!
A young boy sees this all go down, and appears to have decided that Wild Dog is his new hero! He felt so inspired by Wild Dog’s actions that he, himself, realized he had the power to take on the bad guys. Though, I wouldn’t quite put that theory to the test, kiddo.
We wrap up (in only seven pages) with a woman getting dressed in a smart outfit… and sliding a rather large knife into her pocketbook. She approaches a man at the bar… and they slink into a darkened alley to make out. Then… the knife!
I tell ya what, it’s nice to have Wild Dog back. Heck, over the past couple of days, both ACW-Originals we brought back have been of great comfort.
This chapter is a decent enough launch-point for our next arc… though, I wonder why it only “weighed in” at seven pages. The ad that follows it (for CBS/Columbia House) is a three-pager, so I wonder if that might have had something to do with it. I’ll try and include that ad this week… because, if you act now… I can hook you up with 6 CDs for $1.00! That includes such albums as Terence Trent D’Arby’s Introducing the Headline! Be still my heart.
Back to the story… I really liked Jack’s letter to Lou. It’s funny the moral high ground stance that Godder tries to project. If we go back to the original Wild Dog miniseries, Jack saved Lou’s daughter from terrorists. In Moral Stand, Lou saved Jack from being discovered and arrested by the police. As I mentioned in the synopsis, while that might’ve been a “make good”, it doesn’t change the fact that Lou is now sorta-kinda “on the hook” for anything else Wild Dog does. Those shot-up legs at the Convenience Store? Some’a that blood is on Lou’s hands. Conversely, the lives Wild Dog saved taking out the would-be thieves, also have Lou to thank.
It feels like, at this point, Lt. Andy doesn’t even have the energy to dissuade Jack from Wild Dogging it up. He gives him a very weak, “Eh, this one isn’t Wild Dog’s style”… kind of his way of going “on the record” that he’s against the vigilante thing… while at the same time, not exactly putting up much of a fight.
As for the Singles-Scene Killer, as soon as Lou suggested it might be a woman… I think we all kinda figured out that it would be. It’s not the worst thing though… I’m genuinely curious as to how Wild Dog might deal with a female serial killer. I haven’t read this arc yet… so, I’m really looking forward to watching it all play out.
So, overall… a really solid start, and I can’t wait for next week’s installment!
Superman manages to stop the orderly from smothering Culpepper with a pillow, and in so doing, pushes the fella into a conveniently-placed wheelchair… and into the wall.
A Doctor rushes in and confirms that Culpepper survived the attack… unfortunately, a Security Guard also enters… and confirms that the fella Superman hurled into the wall is dead! Uh-oh.
So… involuntary manslaughter, eh? Well, this might not be the first time Superman can be charged with such a thing during this slog of a serial. If you recall, he nearly destroyed a train back in the second “chapter” of this thing… I don’t doubt there could’ve been a casualty or two during that mess.
I guess the “good news” is that Culpepper survived… and, maybe… just maybe… we’ll eventually start getting some answers, and maybe… just maybe… actually finally flex the gearshift outta neutral. Then again… at this point… fifteen weeks in… I honestly don’t care either way.
After a bit of a recap… least I think it was a recap, we join Nightwing as he rides over to Lord Lawrence Hill’s place. This fella’s a bigwig in Parliament, and he’s been expecting Dick’s visit. Nightwing tells him that, per his association with Speedy, he’s here on C.B.I. business. This does come as a bit of a shock to his Lordship… more on that later. The pair talk about who might be paying Cheshire for her the assassinations, especially in this age of supposed Glasnost. Hill brainstorms, reflecting that many countries are in serious debt at the moment. Dick brushes those concerns off, because… get this, he took economics in college! Global debt doesn’t stand a chance against a kid who took ECON-101!
When the conversation ends, Nightwing does the Bat-vanishing act on Lord Hill. We then swap scenes, joining Cheshire, who has just sunken a shuriken into some poor dude’ face! Turns out, it was another ambassador, cranking her kill-count up to five! Seven, if we’re counting his aides!
We follow Jade back home, where she lovingly cares for her daughter, Lian. She scolds her… older male companion for referring to her by her “assassin name” in the house. While there, she is not Cheshire… only Jade.
We shift scenes to Lian’s daddy, Speedy, who has a fella named Weist in a pretty uncomfortable position indeed. He wants answers, and isn’t afraid to fire a bolt or two into some very… sensitive areas in order to obtain them. Weist decides squealing is a preferable option to a long-range vasectomy, and Roy leaves him be. We don’t get to hear the answers, but I assume they’re coming.
Roy makes a tearful phone call to Dick, and when confronted with withholding information, promises to be straight his partner the next time they meet up.
Turns out, this isn’t good enough for Mr. Grayson… and he decides it’s time to involve the rest of the Titans. We wrap up with the revelation, via Danny Chase, that Roy Harper was canned from the C.B.I. a few months prior… so, whatever it is they’re doing in London… this is Speedy’s gig, and Speedy’s gig alone!
Now, this is how you build a mystery… and keep a reader engaged! While there’s another story in Action Comics Weekly we’ve been reading/slogging through over the past several weeks, which seems to be getting everything wrong, leave it to Marv to get everything right.
We leave this chapter with the revelation that Roy Harper is acting of his own volition… but, the question remains: Why? Well, maybe it’s kind of obvious… Cheshire is the mother of his child, so he has a vested interest in anything she might be up to. But, why now? Ya know? He could have drafted Dick into a “Cheshire Contract” at any point in time… why now, while she’s picking off Ambassadors like they’re going out of style? I suppose we’ll find out in time…
It was nice seeing the Titans, and I’ll hand it to DC… it took them until the third chapter to include ’em! I mean, the Titans were among the top dogs at DC… it almost feels wrong that they’re playing such a small role. Then again, if we’re looking for “heavy hitters”, Batman’s only shown up in like a single page of the Green Lantern feature… and not even in costume!
If I had to pick out something I didn’t totally like in this chapter, it would probably be the explicit duality of Jade/Cheshire. I remember in the mid-2000’s, I had a pal who kept pressing me to watch The Sopranos. He talked about it like was the best thing ever put on television. When I finally sat down to watch an episode, it ended with a “hit” (or some other sort of nastiness) going down, while Tony was getting all teary-eyed watching a recital or something. I thought that was just so cliche… and just such forced “depth”, that I never watched it again. I’m feeling similar pangs of that here.
Overall though, Nightwing continues bringing the quality and has proved itself to be a most welcome addition to the rotation.
We open with Hollywood Doug checking his answering machine, and listening to the message left for him by “Bonnie Cardinal”. She reveals that she knows who attacked Hector Librado, and proposes a meeting later that week. They meet in Greenlake Park, and Bonnie/Dinah is pretty surprised to see this strange bald man instead of the cowboy she was probably expecting. “Hollywood Doug” proves himself the real-deal, and offers up that “Cowboy Doug” is likely Gary DeMott, an associate of Victor Scales. Wow, are we finally going to start giving faces to the onslaught of names we’ve been buried in?! Considering that there’s like 12 pages of this arc left, I sure hope so!
So Doug, the real Doug, explains that he once worked for Scales himself as a crop-duster and sales rep. Apparently some of Scales’ products weren’t entirely safe, and upon discovery of this fact, Doug decided to explore other career options with Pacific Northwest Airlines. Thing of it is, he’d been exposed to Scales’ products, which rendered him unfit to fly! Guess those newspaper clippings from the first couple of chapters were referring to this guy? Anyhoo, Doug describes his symptoms as something akin to emphysema… which, just so happens to be some of the same stuff Hector Librado is dealing with!
And so, Doug hired a lawyer, Barry Neiman, to track Librado down to corroborate his case that Scales’ stuff messed up his respiratory system… but, it looks like somebody got to him first!
|Wow, that third panel really makes great use of space!|
We shift scenes to a boat… it looks as though Gary DeMott (Cowboy Doug) and Weird Beard (at least I think it’s him) are on board. From here, we join Ellen Waverly… you remember her, right? She’s that woman from the I.N.S. who was working on the Librado file. Though, I would understand if you didn’t… since she looks completely different in this scene. Anyhoo, that loud-jacketed fella from last week kills her.
Next, at Calon Hospital, Weird Beard goes to check in on Hector… so, maybe that wasn’t him on the boat? I’m tellin’ ya, the art here makes it a bit tough to tell people apart… or, to be honest, even recognize them in the first place. Anyhoo, he’s advised that Hector’s in a coma… which is overheard by Dinah, who decides to follow this Weird-Bearded stranger out.
She follows him all the way to Ellen Waverly’s place (walking right past ol’ broad-shoulders), where, upon discovery of her corpse, he freaks out and runs away. Dinah peeks into the apartment before giving chase.
Here it’s finally revealed that Weird Beard is… Doug Vallines’ lawyer, Barry Neiman. So, yeah, one of the good guys! Barry calls Doug via his fancy car phone and learns that his client is about to go after Scales directly!
Scales is apparently on board the boat… not that I could tell, thanks to the art. Doug plans to track Scales via his seaplane. Dinah ain’t got time to wait for a boat, and so, she leaps into the drink to follow dat boat!
I don’t like being a negative guy… I hope that is something you all can pick up on. For the past three and a half-ish years, I’ve reviewed something from DC Comics every single day. Generally speaking, it was something of my choosing… an individual issue that interested me enough to where I wanted to share my thoughts. Oftentimes, those thoughts would be positive. So positive, that I’d actually received a bit of criticism and accusations of being a “DC homer” of sorts.
This Black Canary arc though. You guys, it’s just no good. Worst part is, I can’t even summon up any anger to really give it a more entertaining (at least to me) discussion. This isn’t like Superman: Grounded, where I can really dig my heels in and let loose… this barely evokes a yawn.
If we were to look at an “Abstract” for Bitter Fruit, it doesn’t sound like too bad an idea for a story. Sure, it’s agenda-driven, and absolutely dripping with “commentary”… but, the elevator pitch for this story might actually sound interesting. When we break away from the “Abstract” and try and make this a fully-fleshed out story… I’m sorry, it’s just poor. The pacing in both writing and art is shoddy at best, and we’ve got this embarrassment of riches when it comes to un-fleshed-out characters that it’s nearly impossible to give half-a-damn about a single one of them!
Here we are, what, 56 pages (out of 64) into this story… and we’re just barely putting faces to names? This isn’t good storytelling! These aren’t “reveals”! If you keep hammering us with new characters at every turn, you’re not really “slipping one past the goalie” when you reveal that one of the several guys we might’ve thought was bad, is actually good.
Hurting the “impact” even more is the art, where faces keep blending together… and changing from panel to panel! There is a guy who looks a lot like “Weird Beard” Barry Whatshisface on Scales’ boat. Ellen Waverly has a completely different look… when I first saw her here, I was sure she was a member of the Librado family! When the “beats” of a story hinge on these character moments, it would help a great deal to have them all “on model”… and leave as many confounding-characters off the page!
Overall… this has been a slog. Thankfully there’s only one week left before we get a break from this feature!