Action Comics Weekly #617 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #617 (July 26, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Assault on a Green”
Blackhawk: “Seems Like Old Times…”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter Three: Puppy Dog Tale”
Superman: “Missing Person”
Phantom Stranger: “Channel Switching”
Nightwing: “Chapter 5: Motives”
Writers – Peter David, Martin Pasko, Max Collins, Roger Stern, Paul Kupperberg, & Marv Wolfman
Pencils – Richard Howell, Rick Burchett, Terry Beatty, Curt Swan, Joe Orlando, & Chuck Patton
Inks – Arne Starr, John Nyberg, Murphy Anderson, Fred Carrillo, & Tom Poston
Letters – Helen Vesik, Steve Haynie, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, Fred Carrillo, & Albert DeGuzman
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford, Petra Scotese, & Adrienne Roy
Editors – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Mike Gold, Brian Augustyn, Mike Carlin, Renee Witterstaetter, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50

I want to start out today with something quite personal… and I apologize ahead of time.  I haven’t mentioned it outright here on the blog, but many of you know last week my great friend and podcast partner Reggie suffered a cardiac event known as an aortic dissection.  I’d never heard of such a thing before, and after reading up on it… it’s something that is somehow even scarier than it sounds.  He is still in the hospital recovering… and the road to recovery, I’ve come to learn, is absolutely riddled with twists, turns, and bumps.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with this blog.  Silly as it sounds, as in the grand scheme of things… it doesn’t much matter.  Now, I had a few days of “buffer” posts before I would have to actually sit down and write again… and, honestly, I wasn’t sure if… when the time came, I’d be able to.  In light of what was going on with my friend, sitting at my kitchen island and typing up blog posts… well, it just didn’t matter.

Ya see, comics had always been a very solitary thing for me.  Since leaving New York after high school, I didn’t really hang around people who were into them.  It wasn’t until I started sharing this passion online that I began meeting people with like interests… and, since then… I’ve associated so much of this… so much of my comics interest and fandom… with the countless hours of work that Reggie and I have put into our programs.

When the day came to begin writing again (it’s the Green Lantern feature you’ll see in a bit)… I sat, fingers hovering above the keys.  I was actually sitting on the floor at my coffee table… and… I just didn’t want to continue… I wanted to walk away.

Like I said in the pre-ramble to that Green Lantern piece, a wise man had done his darnedest to impress upon me that this is a project I should see through to completion.  That this is a project comics researchers and historians would find useful in years to come.  It probably goes without saying, but that wise man is Reggie.  And so, we are moving forward.

Upon publishing that piece, I received some very kind (and unexpected) messages from readers, who were happy that we would be continuing down the Action Comics Weekly path together.  I want to thank you all for reaching out… and apologize for my lack of reply up to this point.  I’ll do my best to do better!

While I’m thanking people, I want express my deepest and sincerest appreciation for everyone’s kind words (also, prayers and positive thoughts) about and for Reggie.  I am taken aback, and (despite this long-winded open) darn near speechless seeing our little community come together at this time.  Thank you all!

This weeks cover is brought to us by Dean Motter, a fella Reggie and I actually researched a bit for while we were learning about DC Comics’ Piranha Press imprint (Motter had designed the trade dress for the brand).  He’s mostly known for designing album covers, which is why he was probably such a good pick for Piranha’s sort of “alternative” look.  He also worked on the four-issue prestige format The Prisoner series for DC.  I quite like this one, it’s very striking… though, Superman’s head cutting into the branding made this one more trouble than I was expecting to modify!

Okay… Now, let’s take a look at the Great ACW/ACD Poll for Action Comics Weekly #606:

As far as I remember, we had a pretty decent turn out that week… but Blackhawk just blew every other feature away!  I believe the four books that were tied for second all only received one vote a piece!  Goes without saying then, that Superman received zero.

Speaking of poll results… let’s see how things played out last week:

Welp, it comes as no surprise that Nightwing wins the week.  That feature has gone four-for-four, and in two weeks time might be our first ever ACD “clean sweep”!  I actually voted for Wild Dog this time out, just found it to be the most fun feature.  A pair of goose-eggs… Green Lantern, so I guess the Freak Show storyline isn’t exactly capturing anyone’s imagination… and Black Canary, which landed with a thud week-in and week-out.  I mean, when a two-page Superman feature with him opening a door, or pushing a dude’s wheelchair beats you at the polls, I… just don’t have a clever way of finishing that sentence…

My Rankings for last week’s (#616) stories would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Blackhawk
3 – Nightwing
4 – Green Lantern
5 – Black Canary
6 – Superman

Now, onto this week’s poll:

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #617?

Green Lantern


Wild Dog


Phantom Stranger


Shareable Poll Link:

Hal joins Arisia at her sublet, where it would appear she has a bit of a shrine to Disney’s Lady and the Tramp… which she is meditating in front of.  I guess that makes sense, considering… ya know, she’s a child.  He attempts to apologize for snapping at her, but she is unresponsive.  Our man isn’t sure if this is actually meditation or just the silent treatment… and so, he leaves.  No sooner does he go, than Arisia opens her eyes, and moans his name.

We follow Hal over to Police Headquarters, where Rensaleer was able to procure the prison records for those two Freak Show members who crashed the Tech Expo.  Turns out there’s a pretty good reason why they were so elusive… ya see, the both of ’em are listed as deceased!

We shift scenes to the office of “a” Hawkes.  I mean, we know who we’re supposed to think this is… and, since this isn’t our first rodeo, many of us probably know who this will actually turn out to be.  Whatever the case, she is shrouded in darkness.  After receiving a Facetime from Castle (on a doohickey that looks like one of those table-jukeboxes you might find at a 5 and Diner), she instructs him to use… Incinderella to stop Green Lantern.  Incinderella?  Sheesh.

Back at Police HQ, Rensaleer gives Hal the quick and dirty about Hawkes Industries.  The C.E.O., Milton passed away a year ago, leaving the operations to his elder daughter Veronica.  Lillian is noted as having been given a “minor post”.  Hal takes his leave, and during his flight, happens across a rooftop-washer-woman who is fretting about losing her hung laundry to a gust of wind.  Yeah, really.

Hal makes the save, and our lady gives him a hug… which soon becomes heated.  Yes folks, it’s here that we meet Incinderella.

The rest of the Freak Show appear, and a fight is on!  Runaround Sue zips passed Hal with such speed, that he believes for a moment that his old friend Barry Allen has returned!  Sue snatches Hal’s ring off his finger… without considering that he might still be able to control it, even if he’s not wearing it.  The power ring “punches” her in the face.

Hal lunges in for another round, only to be halted by… yet another new member of the Freak Show, Stasis!  We wrap up with Hal stuck in… well, stasis.  The state of stasis, not the guy Stasis.  Oh!  And the geeks finally formally introduce themselves as “The Freak Show”.

So yeah, this is still pretty silly, ain’t it?

Let’s consider something for a moment.  The whole gimmick for the bad guys (as far as we know at this point) is that they’d been declared legally dead.  While kinda “ehh”, I feel like there’s still potential for this to get interesting.  I mean, as we trudge along through this arc, I’m pretty sure that whole plot point is forgotten about… or, at the very least is immaterial… but, we’ll play along for now.

So yeah, that much is interesting… or at least has the potential to be.  They’re also working for one of the Hawkes sisters… which was established last time out… which, for me… kinda lowers the stakes.  Just doesn’t seem like that big a deal.  Maybe this re-read will change my mind… but I doubt it.

I wanna talk for a moment about the contrived set-up to ensnare Hal here.  I mean, did Castle call Incinderella for help, and she was like “Yeah, right after I finish my laundry…” to which he replied, “Laundry?  That’s perfect!  The Laundry’s the thing wherein I will catch conscience of the Ring!” (lookitme, breaking out some pseudo-Shakespeare!).

Just seems so silly… first that Hal would even stop to help, because… c’mon… it’s just laundry.  Second that he’d actually drop to the roof to give the washer-woman the opportunity to jump his bones.  Just so many tumblers gotta fall into place for this to work.  Oh well, I suppose the fact that it gets us from Point A to B is what matters… and the quicker we get there, the quicker this arc will be over!

We open with “Chop-Chop” taking some picture in a photo-booth that he can send home to the “old man” to explain why he dropped out of school… and give him a good idea of just where he went.  On their way to the airstrip Olaf chats… about a semi-recent beef between he and Janos.  Turns out, they were both wanting to… ahem… “pork” Natalie.  Weng doesn’t think this is that big’a “phuggin” deal… which, I gotta say… it really surprises me to see such phonetic-near-cursing in a 1988 issue of Action Comics!

Back at Blackhawks, the gang kicks around the idea of helping ol’ Leslie Richardson out.  Naturally, they’re going to check into his background before accepting the gig… however, they might just go out and enjoy spending some of his non-refundable retainer before attending to that!

We shift scenes to Sumatra, where that old fella (Van der Houten) is still attending to that giant flower.  He is approached by his guy again with an update.  The woman ain’t about to talk… and would rather die.  The old man demands his men head back into the swamp to look for answers while he angrily hacks the flower to pieces.

We jump ahead three days, and find Blackhawk and Company finally getting around to doing their research.  A recent Stars and Stripes tells the story of the missing American Aviatrix, though the report differs somewhat with the findings of some Dutch Investigators… though, the “meat” of their report is classified, so who knows?

The fellas try and figure out why Leslie would go to such lengths as to hire them for this.  Assuming of course, that the woman is dead… what would be the point?  Just to clear her name as a clumsy pilot?  Either way, Jan ogles her picture for a bit, suggesting he wouldn’t mind “bunking” with her, before deciding they’ll take the gig!  The celebratory glass-clanking is interrupted by the arrival of our man Weng…

… who introduces Olaf!  We quickly get the jist of the beef between he and Jan.  Ya see, it looks like Olaf actually was the one to first… uh… “pork” Natalie… even got her pregnant!  Oh, and from the sounds of it, Olaf also beat the hell out of her… even costing her her eye!  Wha–?

Jan and Olaf break into a full-blown bar room brawl, which is halted with a single gunshot.  Hmm, I wonder who this shapely silhouette might belong to…

Another excellent chapter of Blackhawk!  Ya know, I was nervous when I first noticed Marty Pasko taking over for Mike Grell for this one.  Not that I dislike Pasko in any way, I think he’s fantastic too… it’s just that, with a property like Blackhawk… a property that I have such little working knowledge of, I was afraid that I might dislike another writer’s take.  Thankfully, that isn’t the case at all!

I’m even collecting the Pasko-written New Format Blackhawk series that follows this, and I’m really getting excited about checking that out after our little Action Comics Weekly experiment concludes!

Now, whatta we got here anyway?  Well, some phonetic-near-cursing, for one!  When I first read Weng’s use of “phuggin”, I thought to myself… “There’s no way the Comics Code Authority was cool with that!”, and, as it turns out… there’s no CCA Stamp on the cover.  In fact, there hasn’t been one since the switch to the Weekly format!  You’d think with all of the manipulations I’ve done with these covers over the past several months, I’d have noticed that!  I guess your humble host isn’t as perceptive as he thought!

I guess shifting the book off newsstands and into the Direct Market afforded DC some liberties, and allowed them to be a bit more mature-ish with the dialogue and subject matter.  Not that I mind (I actually think it’s kind of a hoot), it’s just one of those weird things to wrap your head around, ya know?  I mean, this is Action Comics… arguably the flagship superhero comic book!

So, phugs and porks aside, I think we’re building a really neat story.  There is mystery in the classified files, we’ve also got that wacko with the giant flowers… but the most interesting part to me concerns the Olaf-Nat-Jan business.  Janos believes Olaf responsible for Natalie losing her eye… though, Weng tells him (and us) that he has the story wrong.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.  I mean, if Olaf did knock her up… then, rough her up… to the point where she loses an eye… there isn’t going to be any way to redeem him, right?  There’s got to be more to this story.

Overall, really enjoying this… and very happy Rick Burchett stayed on for the art!

We open with Wild Dog facing off with that one dude Harry.  Harry’s got his ol’ lady in a headlock with a gun pointed at her dome.  The Dog tries to reason with him… by, uh, insulting his manhood.  That oughta work!  Harry concedes that maybe he is no longer a man… and if that’s the case, it’s his lady’s fault!  During the hostage negotiation, Wild Pup sneaks in and is able to distract the baddie long enough for the gal to break away.

Scared, Harry fires his piece… and winds up winging some other dude in the arm.  Wild Pup gets tossed, however before Harry can perforate him, the real-deal Wild Dog zaps him good with his taze-glove.

With Harry out of commission, Dog turns to Pup and tries to figure out just what in the world is going on!  Before getting too deep into the chat, however, the police arrive on the scene… and so, both of our goalie-masked vigilantes sprint out.

From here, we head to the end of the chapter.  Wheeler heads home to write in his “Combat Log”… and he’s both shocked and disturbed to see that a child is looking up to his alter-ego as a role model.  At that same time, the Pup is having a “Dear Diary” of his own, wherein he excitedly reports his first successful outing!  We close out with our gal, Ms. Susan King delivering the news of Wild Pup’s arrival to the Quad Cities!

A sort of “blink and you miss it” chapter, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.

Wild Pup meddles in a heated standoff, and winds up being a difference-maker.  Not that there was any doubt that the Dog wouldn’t have diffused the situation anyway… which, makes me think I know where this might be headed.  Well, one of the ways this might be headed…

Way I see it, the Pup’s either going to wind up in over his head and getting himself maimed or killed… or, he’s going to ultimately prove himself to be useful in the Wild Dog’s war on crime.  Could see it going either way, but I’m leaning toward the less-pleasant option at present.

Not much more to say about this one… like I said, “blink and you miss it”.  Good, enjoyable, and fun… while “putting in the work” to establish the Sensational Character Find of 1988.

We open with… well, a recap of what happened over the past couple of weeks.  Dude who was supposed to kill Culpepper had a little bomb in his head, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Superman then takes off… and, are you kidding me… we get a recap of everything else that’s happened up to this point?!

We wrap up with Superman using his telescopic vision to scan for Galt… and, get this… he’s nowhere to be found!

And that’s it!

I… I dunno, you guys.  I’m really trying here with this Superman strip… but, there’s just nothing going on!  I mean, do we really need all of these recaps?  I could swear we’ve already had two or three recap strips already!

Not much more to say about this one… actually, I’m sure I’ve spent more time thinking about what to say that Mr. Stern spent writing the script for it!

We open with the story of Ky’lhorr (wonder if that’s “killer” phonetically), an Atlantean Warrior King… from before the place went underwater.  This is a story being told by a woman named Sylvia Blaine before a crowded room full of folks looking to… I dunno, take back control of their lives or something… a room also including the Phantom Stranger!

The Stranger wonders if this woman is just a fraud or charlatan, taking advantage of folks looking for answers.  This is revealed not to be the case as she continues speaking… suddenly in tongues.  She begins to seize up, and from her emerges… why, Ky’lhorr of course!

Ky’lhorr isn’t sure quite what’s going on, and approaches the Stranger, revealing that he had been cursed/possessed long ago.  The Stranger attempts to reason with the Warrior, but it’s no use.

Believing the Phantom Stranger to be a sorcerer… or a demon, Ky’lhorr flees into the busy streets.  Our man gives chase, still trying to reason with the Atlantean.  Ky’lhorr begs to have the curse removed… or be sent back to limbo where he can do no harm to others.  Ya see, his blade hungers (more on that in a bit).

A horse-mounted Officer sees the hub-bub and attempts to disarm the Warrior… he winds up dismounted, and horse-jacked for his troubles.  The Stranger steps into the charging horses path… and ensnares Ky’lhorr in his magical sphere.

Here we learn of the Curse of Ky’lhorr… doomed to be obsessed with death and bloodlust, he became an indiscriminate killing machine.  And so, the Phantom Stranger frees the Warrior of his curse… which causes him to vacate Sylvia Blaine’s body, and returning to… wherever.

We wrap up with Sylvia giving a statement to the press, which only proves she did not learn her lesson of tinkering with dangerous and unknown forces.

Taken on its own, this is kind of a “blah” outing for the Phantom Stranger.  As many of you know, this character isn’t one of my favorites, as I find him just too powerful to really get invested in.  Take this chapter for example… it’s a very brief chase scene, ending with Ky’lhorr getting locked in a deus ex magic bubble for the instant-cure.  On the face of it, that’s kind of weak.

But… that’s not what this story is about.  The thing I really appreciate about the Phantom Stranger stories here are that they’re more based on examining the “evils that men do”, or more specifically, the “evils that men unknowingly do”… and either learning from those mistakes, or (like in the case of Ms. Blaine) do not.

When we look at this as just another Phantom Stranger chapter in the part of a greater “whole” in Action Comics Weekly, it remains thematically similar, and adds to the idea that, while the Stranger is stupidly powerful, even he cannot get through to everyone.  It is ultimately up to the individual to decide to change their ways… and, in that regard (and especially when compared with earlier outings), this chapter was a success!

I’d be remiss not to mention that the legendary Joe Orlando provides art this week… and, to me, it really looks like a more polished later work of Carmine Infantino (think Trial of the Flash era).  Good, not great.

We pick up exactly where we left off… Cheshire has Nightwing pinned down, and is threatening to swipe at him with her poison-tipped fingernails.  Naturally, and expectedly, Nightwing is able to flip her off’a him.  She manages to twist her body enough to land on her feet… at which point, Dick takes a powder.  Jade laughs at his perceived cowardice, and decides to head home herself… confident that it won’t be long before they meet again.

Dick gives chase in a police helicopter… which, I dunno, feels a bit like overkill… but it gets the job done.  We rejoin Jade at home, where we can see that she is holding Roy hostage.  She taunts him with the fact that, though their daughter is just in the next room… he’s never gonna see her!

Just as she draws back, ready to strike at him with her poison-tipped nails, Nightwing burst through a nearby window!

Nightwing and Cheshire have a knock-down drag-out fight over the next couple of pages.  In the fracas, the chair where Roy sat gets destroyed, and, though still bound, he attempts to interject himself into the battle.

Cheshire swipes at Speedy, both slicing through the ropes that bind him… and cutting into his chest.  Remember, dem fingernails be poisonous!  She then jumps out the same window Dick busted in and skedaddles… without Lian!

We wrap up with Cheshire and that old man whose name I can’t remember.  When reminded that she left Lian behind, she coldly snaps back that, right now… she is not Jade, only Zuul Cheshire.

Another very strong outing for the Nightwing feature… though, one that leaves us with a few questions.  Like, why did Dick need a helicopter to follow Cheshire?  Was that the same helicopter Cheshire later escaped on?  Were there two helicopters on the same lawn?  Why would Cheshire abandon her daughter with the last fella she’d wanna leave him with?

I guess that’s all part of the “penultimateness” of this chapter, right?  We’re getting questions… and they’re questions (my silliness over the helicopteriness, excepted) that we wanna see answered!  This isn’t like that tepid Black Canary feature where the penultimate chapter was basically an expository dump just to give some context to the mysteries we had been reading about for the six weeks prior… this is actually building up quite well!

That said, there really not much more to say… we got a couple of very well done fight scenes, and a reason to come back next week!  Sometimes, that’s all we ACWers can ask for!

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