Action Comics Weekly #616 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #616 (July 19, 1988)
Green Lantern: Safe at home”
Blackhawk: “Mission: Implausible”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter Two: Battle Gear”
Superman: “Dead Men Tell No Tales”
Nightwing: “The Cheshire Contract, Chapter Four: Counterpoint”
Black Canary: “Bitter Fruit – Conclusion”
Writers – Peter David, Martin Pasko, Max Allan 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 – Helen Vesik, Steve Haynie, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, & Albert DeGuzman
Colors – Tony Tollin, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford, Petra Scotese, & Gene D’Angelo
Editors – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Mike Gold, Brian Augustyn, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50

Sorry gang, I don’t have a whole heckuva lot to say for the pre-ramble this time out.  Our cover comes from the legendary Alex Toth, and I quite like it.  I never realized how many orange covers there were until I started the blog.

Here is my sad attempt at mimicking the Great Action Comics Poll… you can see that my free-hand game is rather lacking.

The big difference here is the placement of the Secret Six feature.  It won our poll, but barely missed out on last place back in 1988.  Speaking of polls, here are last week’s results:

Despite the poor overall voter turnout (thanks to all those still playing along), Nightwing keeps his streak intact.

My Rankings for last week’s (#615) stories would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Nightwing
3 – Blackhawk
4 – Green Lantern
5 – Superman
6 – Black Canary

Here is this week’s Poll (again, thanks to the few still playing along):

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #616?

Green Lantern


Wild Dog



Black Canary

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/EI2USJJ3

One more thing before jumping into the stories.  Tomorrow, rather than start Action Comics Weekly #617, we’re going to take a look at the Action Comics Weekly Preview Edition.  Our regularly-scheduled #ActionComicsDaily will resume on Saturday.

If you recall, last week Hal got himself “castled” into a yellow-lined electric safe.  This time out, we don’t exactly pick up where we left off, but with a brief peek into Arisia’s head.  Ya see, she imagines Hal dead… and looks to be literally suicidal during his funeral procession.  Worth noting, Guy Gardner appears to find the whole thing a complete hoot!  When we snap back to reality, well, Hal’s still locked in a yellow-lined safe… and the breathable air is rapidly running out.  In a shocking bit of continuity, Hal laments the loss of his fearlessness!

Now, in the cop-out of all cop-outs, Hal uses his ring… like physically uses it, to… get this… scrape off the yellow paint inside the safe.  This way he can actually will himself free… which he intends to do, but first only after constructing a drill to punch in an air-hole.

Next, he constructs… well, a dollar store Hulk.  Remember, at this point Peter David was about a year into his epic run on Incredible Hulk… so, I’m sure this got some nyuks at the office.  The Construct-Hulk smashes the safe, which finally frees our man.

Arisia rushes over to check on him, but Hal is so annoyed that she let the baddies get away that he dismisses her curtly.  Being the rational teen-ager that she is, Arisia proclaims that her beau must now hate her.  Hal takes off in pursuit of the Freak Show.

We shift scenes to the bathroom of Veronica Hawkes, the stunning lady in red from last week, as she is being attended to by… uh, attendants.  She refers to herself as a “benevolent dictator”, which is always the sign of a sympathetic character.

Bathtime is interrupted by the arrival of Ms. Hawkes’ little sister, Lillian.  She’s depicted as so demure and innocent that I immediately distrust her… and you should too.

We rejoin Hal as he crashes Lt. Rensaleer’s family barbecue… and it’s a good thing too, as the Lieutenant proves himself so inept at grilling that he nearly burns his house down.  Hal describes the two Freak Show baddies to him, hopeful that he could run them through the police computer system.  And by “describe”, I mean, makes constructs of them.

We wrap up with the Freak Show… and we learn that the spokesmodel that tossed Castle into the safe last issue is actually one of their number!  She’s referred to as, and I’m not making this up, “Runaround Sue”.  Dion must be spinning in his grave… well, if Dion’s dead, that is.  The geeks attend a meeting with a woman… wearing an “H” branded ring on her finger… indicating she’s a Hawkes.  Uh-oh.

Well, the Freak Show rolls on… and, it’s still kinda lame.

Let’s start with the big sorta-reveal at the end.  The Freak Show (which now includes Runaround Sue), report in to someone wearing a Hawkes-Ring.  We’ve got two key suspects at this time, the “benevolent dictator” Veronica, and the demure, innocent brunette Lillian.  Anybody wanna hazard a guess?

We’ll just leave that there.  Don’t wanna spoil the whole thing… though, if you’ve consumed fiction at any point in your life, you probably already know where this is headed.

The relationship between Hal and Arisia takes a bit of a hit here… which, I mean, it’s not a moment too soon, is it?  I don’t quite feel the hot-or-cold reaction from Arisia… I mean, Hal snapped at her in a time of stress.  Sure it’s uncool, but… to just decide that he now must hate her?  It just doesn’t feel like we’ve built to that point yet… and it comes across as manufactured.

Some things I wasn’t expecting were the bits of continuity from the previous arc… both the Rensaleer appearance and the mention of Hal’s sorta/kinda-but-totally-not lobotomy.  I’d just read through this run last Fall, and I already forgot some of the finer points.

Overall, this was certainly something I read.  The Freak Show ain’t the coolest… and the Hal/Arisia schism feels completely inorganic.

We open with Andre Blanc-Dumont and Carlo Sirianni having a few drinks.  Thankfully they are both named (though Carlo is called “Chuck”), and they’re both wearing Blackhawk uniforms.  I feel like if this were written in “current year” such things might be overlooked… especially the naming.  Anyhoo, they’re chatting about stuff, and they wonder if Weng Chan might be joining them in this new venture.  Our scene shifts to show us what “Chop-Chop” has been up to, which includes hustling some frat boys at Pacifica State University.

Meanwhile, at Blackhawk Airways Inc., Jan and Natalie formally meet their client.  Something I missed last week was that the fella has a traditionally feminine name (Leslie), which is why Jan was expecting a “tomato”.  It totally went over my head that this Leslie was… a dude!  It’s all part of the rub though, Leslie wrote the Western Union a bit ambiguously because he figured if Jan thought he were a woman he might be more… uh, excited to take the gig.  Turns out, he was right!  Nat gets a good chuckle out of the misunderstanding.

Janos notes that the telegram was written by someone claiming to be married to a “Captain”, and before he can question Leslie’s sexuality, we learn that the “Captain” in question is indeed Leslie’s wife, Alice Richardson.  She perished when her plane blew to pieces while taking off after refueling in Sumatra… or, at least that’s what the records claim.  Leslie wants to hire Blackhawk to investigate the site of the wreck.

While Jan and company mull it over, we close out this chapter in Sumatra… where a fella named Van der Houten (who is trimming down a hyooge flower) is informed by an aide that “the woman” still won’t talk.  The plot thickens!

Ya know, I mentioned it during the synopsis, but I gotta say it again… I truly appreciate the fact that Pasko went out of his way to ensure all of our characters have been named.  It’s clear as to who is who, which seems like such a small thing… but in “current year”, it could make all the difference.

I tell ya what, I picked up Uncanny X-Men #1… the latest Uncanny X-Men #1 (which I realize doesn’t quite narrow it down).  Uh, the heinously over-priced, gimmicky-as-hell, piece of garbage Uncanny X-Men #1?  Does that help?  Anyhoo… these were characters that I’d grown up with… been reading them for over three decades… and I couldn’t recognize half of them!  Worse, the book didn’t exactly engage in “hand-holding”… so, I was lost… I left, and I never came back.

The thing with Marvel #1’s though… if you don’t like this one, you only have to wait about 6-8 months for the next!  Recent news about the latest-latest X-Men reboot is proof enough of that!

One of the reasons I shied away from the “war” books, besides it just not being a concept that interests me all that much, was that I knew there’d be a whole bunch of characters (without distinct “costumes”) I’d have to learn about.  It seems overwhelming… In fact, that’s what made me worry about this Blackhawk feature!

And yet, here we are.  Pasko is introducing and naming the characters we need to know… and so many of my concerns have been brushed aside.  Add to the fact that this is just a fun story, and it feels like we’ve got another winner on our hands.

I’m sorry that I missed the profundity of the final panel of last week’s chapter.  Generally speaking, I think I’m a fairly perceptive dude, but I must have glossed over the fact that Leslie was a fella… and exactly why that might’ve been shocking for Jan.  I really dig the explanations given here though… Janos’ womanizing ways being used against him is a really fun idea.

Overall, once we read about Alice’s “death” I think we all had that sneaking suspicion that we’d eventually get around to meeting her… so, that wasn’t exactly a surprise.  Though, for all I know, the fella at the end might actually be talking about a different woman.  I don’t think so, but… I’ve been wrong before.  Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to what’s to come!

We open with… Ah!  There’s our girl… Ms. Susan King!  She’s interviewing Lt. Andy Flint about the “Night Slasher” case… and they’re really emphasizing the probability that the Slasher is a woman.  Also of interest (especially to Ms. King) is the reemergence of Wild Dog!  After confirming with Andy that the vigilante is, in fact, back on the scene, she throws to an interview she conducted with that young fella from the convenience store last issue who saw the whole event go down.

From here, we shift scenes to a nearby comic shop, where that young fella (Daniel Crown) has become quite the local celebrity!  He regales his fellow fans with his Wild Dog tale, drawing the ire of a pair of nerdy-er patrons who give him the ol’ “Wild Dog ain’t a real hero!” treatment.  After all, he’s not a real hero like… Captain Electric or the Mutant Men.

Now, that’s one demented Sugar & Spike fan!

Wait, what?  Okay… I hate to do this, but I gotta invoke my inner-Zack Morris for a moment.  Time Out!  This story takes place in the actual DC Universe.  I mean, Wild Dog himself compared his night patrol to Batman’s just last week!  So to say that Wild Dog isn’t a “Real Hero” like Captain friggin’ Electric?  The hell is that all about?  I mean, Superman lives here!  This might be a tiny little thing to harp on about, but c’maaaaan.  Okay, Time In!  Another pair of fellas approach Daniel to ask him some questions, as they are looking into creating a Wild Dog comic book (imagine such a thing!).

We jump ahead in the day… and learn a few things about young Master Crown.  He’s an only child, and his mother is an alcoholic hairdresser… which might explain the haircut this kid’s got.  Being an only child, he gets a whopper of an allowance… with which he can buy himself whatever his little heart desires… ya know, like weapons…

… and, and… a Junior Wild Dog Commando Kit?!  Uh-oh.

We shift scenes to Wheeler’s, where Jack is filling out Day Two of his “Combat Log”.  Imagine it, Wild Dog Combat Log… man, what the 1990’s could’ve been!  He reflects on the previous night, and laments the fact that the Night Slasher struck despite his patrolling.

But… that was yesterday.  Tonight the Dog will be hitting various Night Clubs… including one where some dude named Harry just popped two into another fella’s chest!  We wrap up with Wild Dog confronting the killer… and Kid Wild Dog’s arrival… and it looks as thought he’s itching to get involved!

Kid Wild Dog.

Oh boy.

Just how much fun is this story?  I mean, c’mon… Kid Wild Dog (Wild Pup?) is just so ridiculous, and yet, something that could actually happen!  Look at things like Mark Millar’s Kick Ass… I mean, it’s been an age since I read that, but… this isn’t too dissimilar from that idea.

Thing of it is… I wouldn’t bet a penny that this kid makes it out of this story alive!  With this sort of story, I feel like it could go either way… which is a pretty darn engaging thing.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

I feel like I already made my thoughts on the “comic shop scene” known… but, to harp on for just a couple more lines… I gotta wonder if there were rights issues with Wild Dog… like, would this property default to Collins and Beatty if DC stopped using him?  Is that why nobody mentioned Superman or Wonder Woman when describing what a real superhero was?

I’m probably just thinking too hard about it… that’s what I tend to do.  Besides, DC didn’t exactly use Wild Dog in the decades that followed, and… as mentioned, the Dog himself evoked the name Batman just last week.  Still… it’s weird.  Maybe it just shows how disconnected from “reality” those comic book enthusiasts were?  Who knows?

Overall, a solid chapter of Wild Dog!  Really enjoying seeing this Kid Wild Dog, and Ms. Susan King is always a welcome presence… I’m pulling for her to be more of a thorn in Wild Dog’s side in the next few weeks!

When last we left the Man of Steel, he had unwittingly killed a dude!  It was a dude with bad intentions, but a dude nonetheless.  Superman is incredulous, claiming that he barely pushed him at all.  A dubious claim to be sure, considering the velocity he smashed into the wall with.  The Doctors aren’t so sure… but, in any case, don’t hold it against him.

Superman engages in some X-Ray vision, which reveals a little doohickey lodged in the dead guy’s brain.  He assumes that when the heat got turned up, whoever this fella was working for decided to “shut him down”.  As he explains this theory to the doctors, the dead guy… explodes!

The Docs are shocked, wondering who could’ve done this.  Superman smirks (yes, really…) and assures them he’ll find out.

Well, stuff actually happens… which is more than we can say for most “chapters” of Superman.

Naturally, Superman is off-the-hook for murder… that was never really in doubt.  I do appreciate the doctors not holding it against him in the first place though.  It just illustrates the amount of trust they place in him… which, feels right to me.  I mean, even if the would-be smotherer did die… Superman was only trying to save Culpepper’s life.

The brain doo-dad is, well, unimaginative… but, it works for what it is.  I mean, what else could it have been?  The baddie going boom at the end also works… especially when we consider that the very same thing “happened” to Culpepper earlier on.

I think my only real complaint here would be… Superman’s odd smirk in the final panel.  I mean, this is a morbid scene, Superman really shouldn’t be smiling.

Overall, a step in the right direction for this serial… though, we’ve said that before!

We open with Speedy staked out at, what we might presume to be, Cheshire’s “compound”.  As he watches Wen Cheng chop wood, he thinks to himself how nervous he is.  Wen finally heads inside giving Roy the opening he needs… that is, until Wen reveals that he knew of Roy’s presence and decided to pull a fast one on the archer!

Speedy fires an arrow, which Wen catches with ease.  The two then engage in a bit of a knock-down drag-out, which Cheng gets the best of.

Meanwhile, at New Scotland Yard, Nightwing is chatting up some officials.  He learns that Speedy has been visiting several local pubs, and beating up a bunch of local pub-patrons.  Dick then bikes it to Ya Olde Mill to see if he can sniff out Roy’s trail.  I mean, it should be obvious that he’s searching for Cheshire, right?  We’re really making this a bit more difficult than it needs to be.  Anyhoo, Nightwing pops in, which freaks out that one guy who Roy nearly castrated last week.

Dick tosses a projectile in the fella’s direction to stop him from fleeing, and attempts to reason with him in order to get some answers.  Just as he’s about to crack, however, he begins to choke and slumps to the ground?

Dick looks up and finds Cheshire perched on a railing.  Not sure how she choked the fella out… maybe a poison dart so small we couldn’t see it?  Either way, she and Dick engage in battle…

… with Cheshire quickly taking over the offense.  We close out with her just about to claw Nightwing’s face with her poison-tipped fingernails!

This is still quite good, but I can’t help but to feel like we’re getting into “filler” territory… at least a little bit.

I get having Roy get captured… that’s going to set-up the the next beat of the story, but spending half the chapter with Nightwing trying to figure out where his partner ran off to?  I guess it’s lucky that Dick just happened to start his search at the very pub that the arrow-vasectomy guy was having a drink.  Still, feels like this could have been tightened up a bit.

This might actually shine a light on the major flaw of anthologies… most every chapter has to end in a cliffhanger.  And so, we’re always building to the next “gasp”… which, results in some weaker chapters every now and again.  Here, it feels like we were just building to Cheshire pinning Nightwing down.  I have little doubt that next issue will open with him flipping her off of him… but, we need that final cliffhanger panel…

… and to get there, we had to spend more pages than I feel necessary visiting the Pub.  Again, not a bad chapter… still strong when compared to other ACW fare, just not up to the caliber of previous installments of the Nightwing feature.

We open with Dinah in the drink… if you recall, she hopped in with hopes of catching Doug’s seaplane… which, she somehow does.  She uses her belt to get a grip on the seaplane’s landing gear, and then climbs up into the cockpit.  Doug draws on her, before realizing that she’s a friend.  He refers to her as Bonnie… and she corrects him, so I guess they’re on a “real name basis” now.

He reveals that they’re headed to the San Juan Islands where Vincent Scales has his “executive retreat”.  Them islands between Washington State and Vancouver have some pretty nice real estate, so it’s not much of a surprise that Scales has a place up there.  And so, we check in on the man himself… who, in between puffs on a cigar, is talking to (perhaps) the fella I mistook for Weird Beard last week… who might actually be the I.N.S. guy?  I mean, outside of Hollywood Doug and Weird Beard, all of these guys look basically the same.  They’re discussing the Vallines lawsuit… and are planning to dump the chemicals he (and Librado) was exposed to somewhere in Central America.

Back on the plane, Doug reveals that he’s probably going to kill Scales.  Dinah tells him to settle his tea kettle, and volunteers to scout the island herself.  Doug seems cool with the compromise, and so, Dinah does some reconnaissance.  She manages to get inside the “executive retreat” with zero challenge… and even gets close enough to overhear Scales’ discussion (which she records with a tape-recorder conveniently left on Vinnie’s desk).

Back outside, the fake Doug finds the real Doug pickin’ his teeth… and holds him up.

Back inside, Dinah garrotes Vincent Scales and reveals that she knows that he’s dying of cancer.  Worth noting that she flipped through his files prior to the confrontation.

Gary then brings Doug into the office… and gets smashed in the face with a desk lamp for his troubles.  Vincent gives Dinah the ol’ “Whattaya gonna do?”, after all, he’s going to be dead in a couple of months anyway.

We wrap up with news that Bill MacDonald of the I.N.S. was relieved of his duties… which is a plot point I know we were all losing sleep over.  Also, Hector Librado’s funeral!  Dinah looks on from the other side of the fence… and we can see that she still has the Vincent Scales audio-cassette.

You ever read something knowing there’s supposed to be a “take away”… but, after you’re finished you haven’t the foggiest idea what it was supposed to be?  Like, there’s definitely a reason for what you’re reading (unlike what you’re reading at this very moment), but… damned if you know what it is…

That’s how I’m feeling here.  This story, overall, was so muddled and disjointed… and I’m not even sure what the whole point of it was.  We’ve been following some of these characters for eight weeks now… and, there’s little to no closure.  Does Hollywood Doug succumb to illness?  Does Vincent Scales… the “big bad” we/I didn’t even realize was someone worth remembering until a week or two ago… die?  Does it matter in the slightest what’s on that audio cassette?

I mean, if these are intended to be cliffhangers… if these are the breadcrumbs to keep us excited for the return of this serial… they’re pretty weak!

Now, aesthetically… this was probably some of the most confusing “safe” art I’ve encountered.  The art style is traditional (DuBurke will get a bit experimental next time out… sort of a Kelley Jones-lite style), but the fact that the faces were interchangeable made this an absolute chore to both follow and “analyze”.  I mean, the synopsis portion of a review (or whatever it is I do here) might be the most tedious aspect of… whatever it is I do here, but it’s also the easiest.  I’m just summing up a story.  Here, though?  There were weeks where I wasn’t even sure where to start!

Overall, this story… I could’a done without it!  It’s not something worth getting mad at, it’s just a slog-and-a-half that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.  They say every writer has X-amount of lousy pages (or, I suppose, blog posts) in them… let’s hope this arc ate up the last of Sharon Wright’s, and the next arc fares better.

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