Action Comics Weekly #619 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #619 (August 9, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Veronica”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction: One Mass Murderer To Go”
Deadman: “Part 2”
Superman: “Protective Shield?”
Secret Six: “Once More Into the Breach”
Blackhawk: “What’s A Nice Girl Like You…?”
Writers – Peter David, Max Collins, Mike Baron, Roger Stern, & Martin Pasko, 
Pencils – Richard Howell, Terry Beatty, Dick Rockwell, Kelley Jones, Curt Swan, Frank Springer, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Arne Starr, John Nyberg, Tony DeZuniga, Murphy Anderson, Frank McLaughlin, 
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Daniel Vozzo, & Tom Ziuko
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Brian Augustyn, Barbara Kesel, Mike Carlin, Robert Greenberger, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

You ever have that dream, where you’re back in school, and you’re freaking out because you have this huge assignment due?  Me too… only it’s not a dream, it’s my real life.  So apologies for a brief preramble this week out.  I hope you all enjoyed (err, noticed) the new “trade dress” for ACW!

Sticking with stuff that’s on the cover, we’ve got Deadman by Esteban Maroto.  It’s not bad… perhaps a better fit for last week’s issue, but whattayagonnado?

Let’s compare and contrast the results of the Great Action Comics Weekly-Daily Poll for ACW #608!

Well, that doesn’t really match up at all does it?  Outside of the Superman strip coming in last place… I’m basically convinced it’s just objectively bad at this point (regardless of recent strange voting anomalies).

Speaking of “voting”, let’s take a look at last week’s numbers:

Welp, there are still a handful of folks voting for Superman!  Go figure… Our winner is, unsurprisingly, Nightwing… and it looks like folks just aren’t caring for Green Lantern’s “Freak Show” story arc… on that, we can agree!

My Rankings for last week’s (#618) stories would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Blackhawk
3 – Nightwing
4 – Deadman
5 – Green Lantern
6 – Superman

Here’s this week’s Poll… I’m trying it a bit smaller so it takes up less of your screen’s “real estate”!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #619?

Green Lantern

Wild Dog



Secret Six


Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/JS8DJDR9

We open with… the big reveal!  Our first look at Veronica Hawkes… and, well… prepare to be “whelmed”.  Actually, let’s talk about her for a moment.  Ya know, folks give Rob Liefeld a lot of guff about proportions and anatomy (much of it deserved), but wouldja look at the shape of this woman?  Where does food go after she swallows?  Are her legs side-by-side, or one in front of the other?  How many points of articulation would an action figure of her have?  Anyhoo… after a bit of a contentious/flirtatious introduction, she invites Hal into her office to discuss the Freak Show.  Naturally, she denies much of her association.

She claims they were sent Hawkes’ way as part of a “work release” program.  Ronnie gave ’em the boot… but pure, demure, innocent, wouldn’t even hurt a fly Lillian felt sorry for them… and put them to work.  While on the job they… well, died.  Veronica doesn’t seem especially concerned, or upset by the telling, and boots Hal back to reception.

In the Lobby, Hal is met by a Security Guard who will be giving him a tour of the facilities to prove that there’s nothin’ hinky goin’ on at Hawkes’.  Meanwhile, one of the Hawkes’ Sisters (you’ll never guess which one!) rides a secret elevator to a room where she has a video-chat with Castle about employing “Plan Omega”, whatever the hell that is.

The Security Guard brings Hal into the lower levels, to a floor referred to as the “Automated Facility Center”, which is to say… there are a lot of robots here.  Suddenly, a door slams behind out man, and he’s attacked by… duh, the Freak Show!

As the battle rages, we dip out for a moment to check on Arisia… who, by now has completely packed her bags.  Before going to leave, however, she decides to stick around a little longer… just long enough to give Hal Jordan a piece of her mind.

She may have to wait awhile, as back at Hawkes’… the Freak Show pull a demented “Care Bear stare”, focusing all of their energy-based hoodoo in Hal’s direction.  This renders him… uh, well… let’s just say it “renders” him.

Castle is especially pleased…

Lemme start with the Good News.  This chapter is the penultimate chapter of the Freak Show arc… which is to say, there’s only one week of this left!

So, what’d we learn here?  The Veronica Hawkes diet works!  There’s something called “Plan Omega” (which we’ll learn all about next week)… and Arisia is going to tell Hal off next time she sees him.

The Veronica reveal was a bit of a let-down… not that I was expecting to recognize her or anything, but… I mean, if she’s just going to be “some lady”, what was the point of obscuring her face over the past several weeks?  I mean, this isn’t a “ta-da” reveal or anything.  I suppose it could’ve been a way for us to mentally connect her obscured face with that of the one in cahoots with the Freak Show… and if you haven’t figured out the real deal on that yet… 

Anyhoo, Hal looks to have been rendered into hot jelly… which, as far as cliffhangers go, ain’t the worst one yet!  Overall though, this arc has underwhelmed and dragged on far too long.  Looking forward to having this one in the “rear view”.

We open with a really ugly dude wearing both a horrible haircut and a “Save the Animals” t-shirt as he’s opened fire on a Hap Burg fast food joint.  Ya see, he just wants the killing to stop… ya know, meat is murder and all ‘at.  The news hits the Police radio, and it just so happens that one Jack Wheeler is “tuned in”.  Moments later, the Quad-Cities P.D. arrives on the scene.

Also arriving on the scene is a trio of boys, who just came to get something to eat.  An Officer informs them that there’s somethin’ bad goin’ on… and advises them to just go home.  Little does he realize, however, that one of these young fellas just happens to be… Wild Pup!

Also, also arriving on the scene is… oh yeah, Ms. Susan King!  Ever the opportunist, she is there for a story… in fact, she claims to be there to get the lunatic’s “side” of the story.  Andy Flint tells her to beat it, but I don’t think she’s goin’ anywhere.

Just then… ROVER barrels onto the lot… and right through the wall of the Happ Burg Restaurant!

Inside Wild Dog faces off with the Lunatic (by God, is he ugly!)… who is somehow still constantly firing bullets!  The Dog attempts to reason with the man, suggesting he let his hostages go… but, he ain’t much listening.

Just then… Wild Pup arrives and hops on the crazy/ugly gunman’s back!

Well, let’s get it out of the way… the art this time out comes from a fella named Dick Rockwell, off of layouts by original artist, Terry Beatty… and, well… there be some oooooogly faces here, no?  I’ll give Dick the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were accurate representations of ugly people rather than any sort of artistic inability… after all, his Susan King looks great!  Though, I suppose it is extremely difficult to mess with perfection.  One thing I will mention though is, Wild Pup isn’t especially “kiddish” here.  In earlier chapters it was easy to tell he was a child… here though?  Not so much.  Just a small complaint.

For a story, it’s kind of an “outta nowhere” occurrence, which… for Wild Dog works quite well.  That’s kind of the thing about strictly street-level vigilantism, I suppose… these threats come out of nowhere without antecedent.  At any moment, a bank could be robbed… or, an excruciatingly ugly fellow might open fire at a fast food joint!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: I haven’t read ahead on this one, so I’ll be learning the fate of Wild Pup as I’m sharing it here.  Not sure on which side I’d stack my chips on this.  Will he live?  Does he die?  I could make a case for either outcome… which, really helps in keeping this arc as riveting as it’s been!

Overall, despite the eye-gouging ugliness of our antagonist, this was yet another fine chapter of Wild Dog!  I’m consistently surprised at the quality of these stories… and even more surprised that not much became of this character after this!

Picking up where we left off last week, Deadman-as-Cosgrove is about to have his traitorous tongue cut out by Wellman Legros, the Voodoo King of New Orlean(s).  Thinking fast, Boston makes Cosgrove mutter out a reply that he is truly under Legros’ control.  At least I think that’s what happened… as we’re about to see, controlling a zombie is a bit different than inhabiting a living, breathing human.  Now, we get a refresher on the mission… Cosgrove is to head to Madam Waxahachie’s place and abduct a pair of twin girls… which is to say, two girls total… not two sets of twins.  Ya follow?  Now, here’s the thing… Cosgrove is instructed not to speak with Waxahachie herself.

Deadman-as-Cosgrove hops into a squad car and… begins driving directly to Waxahachie’s place.  This comes as a surprise to Boston, as… well, he hasn’t the foggiest idea where they’re headed!  He assumes that the corpse is simply following Legros’ power of suggestion.  Along the way, he attempts to contact the local police… however, they assume the call to be a prank, since… ya know, Cosgrove is dead and all.

Upon arrival at the Day School (nevermind that it looks to be nighttime), Cosgrove is admitted entrance by a woman named Clara.  Deadman is instinctively drawn toward the twins… and is powerless to stop the body he’s inhabited.  Panicked, he begins to shout for Madam Waxahachie!

Moments later the Madam arrives (wearing the Comedian’s Button to boot!)… Boston attempts to convince her that he’s not actually a policeman… but a deadman.  Waxahachie quickly realizes that this is Legros’ doing… just as Cosgrove’s corpse wraps his hands around her throat.  Boston tells her to do whatever she can to stop him… because, he’s not an ordinary zombie, but a Double-Zombie!

Waxahachie complies by… breaking all of Cosgrove’s fingers!  Well, that was all kinds of hardcore…

She then plunges a ceremonial dagger into Cosgrove’s gut in order to allow Deadman to escape the vessel.  He bodyhops from the corpse to Clara so he and the Madam can talk for a bit.

While Deadman-as-Clara shares his experience with Wellman Legros (and learns that “perfect twins” make for the best zombies), another school aid named Sid bursts into the place.  He reports that, despite Boston’s best efforts, the Brogden Twins have in fact been abducted!

Ya know, I think I just realized why Doomsday Clock is running so far behind.  I betcha Geoff Johns is reading every single comic book DC has ever put out, and is marking down every time a smiley-face button ever shows up on panel… with a plan to make them all somehow “sync up”.  I mean, that’s just gotta be it right?

Well, to do my part as a DC shill, I might as well help out… besides the one on Madam Waxahachie’s blouse, here are a few more appearances of “The Button”:

From Hero Hotline #3 (June, 1989)
Bob Rozakis (w) / Stephen DeStefano (a)
From Justice Society of America (vol.3) Annual #1 (September, 2008)
Geoff Johns (w) / Jerry Ordway (a)
From Beetle Bailey (5-29-20XX)
Not DC, but I’m sure we can make it fit

Alright, with that bit of frivolity out of the way… let’s chat about this chapter.

I quite enjoyed it!  The new wrinkles about how different/challenging it would be for Deadman to fully control an inhabited zombie really added to the tension of this one.  Despite the convenience factor, I appreciated that the only part of the corpse he could control was the tongue (and I assume the vocal chords).  This, more or less, rendered Deadman a powerless “passenger” for this little excursion.

Let’s talk Waxahachie (waxahachie, waxahachie).  Now, let’s say you’re a parent in New Orleans.  Would you A) leave your child(ren) in overnight daycare? and 2) leave ’em with… Madam Waxahachie?!  I mean, this is one scary-looking woman!  For heaven’s sake, she carries around a skull on a stick!  Think about that for a second… a skull on a stick!  And… AND… since she intends for it to have affects against random zombies, I think we might assume that it’s an actual human skull!  I don’t think I’d want my kids hanging out there.

Now, that’s not to say I dislike the character… from what little we know to this point, I think she’s pretty cool (I just wouldn’t entrust my kids to her).  I like that she is knowledgeable about the Nawlins Zombie scene… and that she’s aware of Wellman Legros.

I’m still not quite sure what he wants with the Brogden Twins… something about their having the makings of the “perfect” zombies?  So, are we to assume that Legros is going to sacrifice them?  I guess we’ll find out!

Overall, even though I didn’t hate the previous Deadman (Baron/Jurgens) arc… this one is worlds better so far!  I’m actually looking forward to seeing where this one goes!

We open with our lone shot of Superman… who, you might recall is looking for Fellowship member, Bob Galt… who he’d left at Clinton Street for “safe-keeping”.  Being a jerk, Galt decided to “take in the sights” of Metropolis… and has, naturally gotten himself into a little bit of trouble.

You also might recall that Bob found his way into a t-shirt shop, and has taken umbrage at the fact that they’re selling wares with Superman’s “S” shield on them.  To Galt’s mind this is sacrilege… because, duh, the Fellowship worships Superman.  The more I type, the dumber this whole thing sounds… also, the more I type, the more I realize that recapping is like the only thing I can do here… since not much happens in the actual strip!

Here goes: Galt’s being a jerk, a Policeman enters the t-shirt shop… Galt learns that Superman’s a-okay with the shirts being sold (all of the proceeds go to charity), he apologizes… and leaves!

But… but… on his way out, he is nyoinked into an alley by… hmm, just where might we have seen that arm before?

Well, well, well… Bob Galt gets himself a gear t-shirt, and gets yanked into an alley by… what struck me as a very familiar arm?  Despite the fact that he never wore brown wristbands… just from that arm alone, I felt pangs of Vartox.  I momentarily lost myself, and thought we might be in store for a Vartox Week Miracle to save us from this dreadful strip… if only for a week or two.

Just think of the possibilities:  Bob Galt, devout Supermanist… faced with all of the offerings of Vartoxism.  Having to weigh which Super-Hyper Hero he’d rather follow with his faith.  I tell ya, that’s some deep storytelling there… deeper than anything we’ve gotten from this strip so far, that’s for dang sure.

Of course, that would be predicated on Roger Stern travelling thirty years into the future, checking out our Vartox Week coverage, returning to 1988 and canonizing the whole thing.  Welp, stranger things have happened, right?

So yeah, this story is so dull that I’m left concocting ways in which literal time-travel might make it better.  I’m sorry, I have no other ways to amuse myself with this strip anymore!  Maybe I need to start writing my own “B-Plot” to this… it’ll almost certainly be terrible, but things would actually happen!

Oh well… I’ve already said more than I should have for this one.  We’ll check back on this one next week, and we can all be disappointed to learn that arm doesn’t belong to Vartox.

We open with a bit of a recap some of the finer points of the initial arc(s).  The VTOL carrying the original Sixers went down, presumably killing everyone on board… a fella named Gus, who was an associate of the abducted Rafael DiRienzi, broke into Six HQ to offer his services in unmasking Mockingbird… and, oh yeah… Mockingbird is very likely one of the original Six.  I think that catches us up… sorta.  After the quick and dirty recap, we shift scenes to the “now”, where Mitch and Luke release a “Trojan Hog” into Sunnydale Farms livestock enclosure.

This is only to distract the guards, who become so preoccupied with this weird pig running around that they become easy pickins for one-third of the Six’s stun-guns.  Seems like much ado about nothing, really… Mitch and Luke could’ve shot them at any time.  Anyhoo, the (mechanical) hog rushes toward the pig pens as Maria back at HQ looks on.

And then… pig parts all over the place!  If you recall (and I don’t blame you if you don’t… it’s been like two months now), Sunnydale Farms bought in on some tiny pigs, from which they’d make lean bacon.  These pigs were only to be used for experiments at Jefferson University, and are all virus-riddled.  Thing of it is, the virus does not die when the meat is cooked… and so, anyone who eats the poison pork becomes very ill… and/or dies!

We get another refresher back at HQ… Jefferson University, where the pigs were bred (which also has ties to original Sixer, August Durant), were endowed with grant monies from TechnoDyne… who were those acid rainmakers from the first few chapters.  So, there appears to be a link between all of the Six’s cases to this point.  We learn that LaDonna is currently undercover at Jeff-U, which is something that Mockingbird (somehow) doesn’t realize.

Next we switch scenes to Al’s Diner, where Secret Sixer, Tony is listening in on a conversation between an F.B.I. Agent and a News Writer (who kinda looks like Hunter S. Thompson).  Now, it took searching my brain for awhile to remember who “Tony” was… and that’s not good!  He overhears discussion about the fallen VTOL and a possible “cover-up”… and when the chat wraps up, he sneaks off into the restroom to remove his disguise.  Since I didn’t initially recognize this dude at all, this “disguise” is rather a moot point!

After some chatter at HQ about how Mockingbird might still be orchestrating the Six’s every move… even when they think they’re working opposed to him, we wrap up with Tony sneaking out the back window of the Diner… only to be beaten up and abducted by a pair of dudes… who I’m not sure if I’m supposed to recognize.

Okay, we have a little bit to unpack here.

As mentioned in the preramble, and if you’ve been following along… when we closed out with the Secret Six feature back in Action Comics Weekly #612, we received zero resolution.  It was a very unnatural breaking point, which didn’t so much leave “story threads”, but rather just felt “undone”.

We rejoin the feature some seven-weeks later… and, we’re in the same exact place.  This forced Pasko to fill so many panels with expositional recap… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially with these serials… we need a “catch-up” every now and again.  Tell ya what, it’s better than when Superman spends his two-pages a week recapping the past few weeks’ worth of strips!

But then… there’s “Tony”.  I’m sorry, you guys… it took me several rereads to remember that Tony was even a member of this team!  I tell ya, that’s not great!  Glad to see him doing something though… same with LaDonna!

Speaking of LaDonna… let’s take a step back all the way to the beginning of the run.  If you remember, Vic simply says that he’s going to quit the team… and his vision-visor shuts off.  That is to say, the “gift” that Mockingbird gave him was deactivated… presumably by Mockingbird himself.  So… he was able to tell that Vic simply said he was going to turn down the offer, and yet… he can’t tell that LaDonna is attending college undercover?

I mean, it’s clear to me that Mr. Byrd is giving the Sixers enough rope to hang themselves with… at least that’s my assumption.  I definitely appreciate Maria and Vic suggesting that Mockingbird is aware of their motives… but, this seems to be the team “tempting fate” to stupefying levels.

Overall though, it’s nice to have the Six back.  I miss Dan Spiegle’s art, but (original Secret Six artist and co-creator) Frank Springer is certainly no slouch.  I think I’d have liked this chapter a bit more had we read it six weeks ago… but, whattayagonnado?

We open with Ven der Houten’s men carrying the corpse of one of the recently-deceased pilots up to the volcano.  We learn that they must dispose of the bodies lest anyone realize they crashed there in the first place.  They conclude that they’ll be having to take another walk up the hill just as soon as “the woman finally dies”.  As they reach the top, they spy the wreckage of a Japanese aircraft (that we’ll assume is of some importance)… however, before they can act, the volcano… well, it doesn’t quite “erupt”, so much as it spits in their direction.

Back closer to sea-level, Janos and the Gang have been taken captive by Van der Houten and his men.  VdH lets it slip that Leslie Richardson is, in fact, an “American Agent”… and orders that he and Blackhawk be separated from the rest of the team.  We also learn that our baddie has a first name, Johannes… and he’s a spice merchant.  Also, he tawks kinda funny, ja?

Leslie starts running his mouth, and since he is a somewhat expressive fellow, it allows Chuck to notice a rather sizable scar on the back of his hand… a scar which he finds familiar.  Something about an O.S.S. Guy… Ya got me!  Anyhoo, eventually Blackhawk and Richardson are escorted to some nearby ruins… the same place as the missing woman.

As they’re are marched up the steps of the ruins, Jan kicks some rocks back toward their escorts.  This triggers a fight scene, during which we see that Les still has a gun!  That seems like some of the laziest hostage-taking ever, dunnit?

The fight causes even more rocks to fall, and before long it’s a full-blown avalanche of Earth!  Jan tackles Les into an opening in the ruins just in the nick of time… for them to become trapped inside.  Janos tries to rouse Leslie, but it’s no use… he’s out cold.

Jan takes a look around the place… and comes across the missing woman!  Heyyy, how ’bout that!  We wrap up with him… uh, removing his belt?!  Hey, waitaminute…

So… as far as cliffhangers go, this sure was one…

Not that I’m assuming next week’s installment will open with a full-blown sexual assault… though, I suppose I’ve been wrong once or twice before… but, I mean… this is a little bit weird.  Like, I think the first thing that’s supposed to come to mind is… well, some “action”.  It’s either that, or I’ve just got a far dirtier mind than I like to portray.

For the chapter itself… it was the kind I’d call “blink and you miss it”.  A few things happened, but it just felt quick and “beat-y”.  Not poorly paced, mind you… just “beat-y”.  Volcano-to-capture-to-ruins, beat-to-beat-to-beat.  I dunno, maybe I’m not making any sense.

Let’s look at the first-beat.  A pair of VdH associates head up Chekhov’s Volcano to dispose of a body… while there, they find the wreckage of a Japanese plane that they had evidently been searching for the whole time.  Can’t say for certain that this was ever addressed before, though I also can’t flat-out say it wasn’t!

Beat Two: Chuck recognizes Leslie Richardson’s scar.  The O.S.S. is the Office of Strategic Services which was formed in 1942 (five years before this story takes place).  VdH already “outed” him as an American Agent, so I suppose it isn’t much of a surprise that he’s an actual “Official”.

Beat, the Final: The scene at the ruins was a bit difficult to follow the first time through.  I just don’t think it was as clear as it could be that Janos kicked a bunch of rocks back at their escorts.  Heck, I still wouldn’t bet my lucky dime on that being what actually went down!  Also… why in the world did they not take Leslie’s gun away from him?  That just seems sloppy as all get out.

Overall though, I did still enjoy this.  I feel like we got enough new information, while at the same time we physically moved the story to where it needed to be.  Art is still very strong, if not a little difficult (for me) to follow during the scene at the ruins.

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