Action Comics Weekly #620 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #620 (August 16, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Last Gasp!”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter Six: Tailed!”
Secret Six: “just a little bug that’s going around”
Superman: “Too Late, the Hero?”
Deadman: “Part 3”
Blackhawk: “Most Guys Just Leave Her Hanging There”
Writers – Peter David, Max Collins, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, & Mike Baron
Pencils – Richard Howell, Terry Beatty, Dick Rockwell, Frank Springer, Curt Swan, Kelley Jones, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Arne Starr, John Nyberg, Frank McLaughlin, Murphy Anderson, & Tony DeZuniga
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko & Daniel Vozzo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Brian Augustyn, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, Barbara Kesel, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

Hey Gang… pardon the short pre-ramble this time out, today is the wife and my anniversary… and we’re on vacation.  As you know, this place doesn’t “do” days off… so, we’re still gonna “clock-in”, if only for a moment.

This week’s cover comes to us from Mary Wilshire, who I know better as a Marvel artist.  I wanna say she was paired with Louise Simonson a bunch… Firestar miniseries, some Power Pack perhaps?  Whatever the case, it’s a nice cover… that unfortunately has absolutely nothing to do with the actual Secret Six chapter we took a look at this week.

Let’s jump into our Great ACW/ACD Poll Results.  Even though DC labeled this one as being for ACW #608, it’s actually for #609.  We can tell because Black Canary is part of it.

Speaking of results… let’s see what folks thought about last week’s stories:

Wow, I’m really starting to “feel the heat” for my distaste of the Superman feature, ain’t I?  I really hope the people voting for it actually like the story, and aren’t just trying to mess with the poll.  Blackhawk won the week… and, wouldn’tcha know it… once again, I forgot to vote!  Green Lantern gets the goose-egg… which, hopefully won’t be the case in for much longer.

My Rankings for last week’s (#619) stories would be:
1 – Wild Dog
2 – Blackhawk
3 – Deadman
4 – Secret Six
5 – Green Lantern
6 – Superman

Here’s this week:

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #620?

Green Lantern

Wild Dog

Secret Six




Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/4X2XGKQC

We open with the members of the Freak Show rushing toward a Hal Jordan-shaped slab of flaming candied ham.  Castle is overjoyed that they managed to kill Green Lantern… I tell ya what, if I were any other GL villain right now, I’d be hanging my head in shame… because these goofs are pah-thetic.  It’s a moot point, however… because ham-Hal was just a Hal-made projection… which, I didn’t realize was a power he even had?

Whatever the case, he manages to knock the Freaks down and even get a bit of intel from Siphon.  Turns out… he believes that Castle is the mastermind of the whole magilla.  Dem Hawkes sisters are nothing more than pawns in his diabolical plan.  Castle denies any such thing, however, before long… the rest of the Freak Show are pointing fingers and ratting him out as well!

Castle pulls himself up to his feet and rushes into the office of the shadowy sister.  You remember “Plan Omega” from last week?  Well, ya see… Plan Omega wasn’t really a plan at all.  It was just a set-up, wherein if things went toes-up… Castle would take 100% of the blame.  He ain’t cool with any of that… but gets shot in the chest before he can really protest all that much.

And, folks… I hope you’re all sitting down, because it’s here where we learn that… sweet, demure, innocent Lillian was the Shadowy Sister all along!  *Gasp*  Just then, Hal flies by and sees Castle lying dead before Lil.  She claims she shot him in self-defense and, since she’s cute, Hal doesn’t need much convincing.

We head down to the lobby where Veronica is talking to some police officers.  She takes a time out to flirt with Hal a little bit, which hopefully doesn’t make it into the Police Report.  Ultimately, Lillian gets away with it… so, I guess, “Plan Omega” was a rousing success!

We wrap up this chapter, this arc, and this creative-run with Hal returning to his hotel room.  There, he finds Arisia decked out in her grown-up clothes preparing to leave.  She offers to stay, just to see how Hal might respond… but he agrees that it’s probably for the best… after all, she is kinda looking like a Durlan right now… also, she’s a child.  He kisses her on the forehead… and she out.

So, that was the Peter David run!  From an appearance on Oprah, to the revelation of a sorta-kinda lobotomy, to the returning of Hal Jordan’s “fear sector”, to… well, the Freak Show, there was a precipitous decline in quality and fun almost by the week!

All of that to get us to a… pretty anticlimactic end, no?  I mean, Lillian just gets away with it, and hints (with her glance) that she’s going to keep up the nefariousness in order to usurp control of the company from Veronica?  Ooh, sign me up for this sequel!  I can’t wait to see how it plays out… 

Okay, so where are we now?  Well, the Freak Show is done… never to darken a comic book panel again… the Hawkes Sisters are back to business as usual, also never to darken a panel again… and the illegal Hal and Arisia relationship is over.  I suppose we might look at that, at least, as a net-positive?  After all, it’s the only thing we get to keep!  Everything else has been swept under the rug.

Art here isn’t as off-putting as it has been, though Howell’s Arisia does come across as rather grotesque.  That’s one character he never really came around on.  I guess it’s too bad they’re both making their exit here.  Next week, Mark Bright will slip into the artist’s chair… and we’ll all be better off for it.

Overall… the PAD run… well, I’m repeating myself here (which should tell ya how much I really have to say in the first place), but it started off pretty strong… and had a lot of fun possibilities.  The “Oprah” arc was mostly satisfying, and had Hal have to deal with a lot of things he hadn’t really thought about before.  The revelation of the “non-lobotomy” was brave, even if they didn’t necessarily stick the landing… or, ya know… even mention it again.

If David left after the first arc, I’d like to think his run would be better remembered.  The Freak Show arc, though?  It’s just not very good.  Add to that, the left-of-center art and some forgettable characters, and it’s a recipe for disinterest.  It was a slog when I went through this arc for the Cosmic Treadmill, and it was a slog going through it now.

We pick up right where we left off last week.  Wild Pup has mounted the ugly, grotesque, horrid vegetarian terrorist so that Wild Dog might get in a few free shots.  Well, Jack ain’t quite feelin’ it… in fact, he’s a bit beside himself that the kid hasn’t yet hung up his hockey mask!  What’s more, the kid kinda puts himself directly in the line of fire when the homely, brutal, gross vegeterrorist snap-mares him over and uses him as a human shield!

Wild Dog tries to talk the disgusting, foul veggie-terrorist down, but it ain’t workin’.  Lucky for him, Wild Pup doesn’t think that “meat is murder” and takes a big ol’ bite outta the uggo’s arm!

At which point, Jack pumps him full’a lead!

After threatening to put the Pup “over his knee”, Wild Dog tells the lad to stick around for the cops… because the officers will be easier on him than he ever will be.  Wild Pup, however, doesn’t pay this any heed.  As the Dog goes to take off in ROVER, the Pupper stows away in the cargo bed.

Cut to our lady, Ms. Susan King… and she’s cuttin’ a promo on the ineptness of the Quad Cities Police.  She corners Andy Flint and starts calling him out for being a goofball who just stood by while Wild Dog “did his job”.  He tells her that once the Dog was on the scene, all they could do is let it “play out”… which, between you and me… is kind of a cop-out (no pun intended).

We wrap up with Andy visiting Jack at Wheeler’s Garage to sorta-kinda read him the riot act.  He tells him to cool his jets, otherwise he’s going to make him quit Wild Doggin’.  He also asks for a description of the Night Slasher (oh yeah, her!).  We close out by seeing that there’s another very interested party also listening in.

Sometimes I forget just how brutal Wild Dog can be.  I mean, he’s certainly an itchy-fingered fella, but sometimes when I see it this “matter-of-fact” I still feel a twinge of shock at the brutality.

I really wasn’t expecting him to positively perforate the uggo veggie-terrorist.  I thought he’d maybe “shoot to injure” rather than kill.  That was not the case.  Last time we saw the Dog in action (not counting the run-in with the Night Slasher) was in the convenience store where we first met the kid who would become Wild Pup.  There, Jack did pull the trigger quite a few times, but only shot up the bad guy’s legs so they wouldn’t get away.

Though, I suppose we could wonder how bad their subsequent injuries were… and what the quality of life post-arrest was for the would-be thieves… buuuut, that could be a slippery-slope directly into a sticky-wicket, so it’s probably best we don’t.

I suppose we can look at the overall situation here, and call it a “win” for the good guys.  I mean, the ugly, brutal bad-guy wasn’t about to listen to reason… and while Wild Pup’s presence may have escalated the hostility, the Uggo had already caused plenty of damage at that point.

Wild Dog’s win makes the Quad Cities P.D. look pretty inept, which is a story thread I’m happy they’re exploring here… and not just because it gets Ms. Susan King into the story!  This is a thread that sometimes comes up when folks discuss the inability of the Gotham City P.D., and when we look at it, their situations aren’t altogether different.  Both vigilantes have something of an “inside man”… who may, at certain times, turn a blind eye to their activity.

The difference here is, Commissioner Gordon is a lot cooler about the “deal” than Lt. Andy Flint appears to be.  We can tell that this is not only getting under his skin from a Public Relations standpoint, but the morally-gray nature of Wild Dog’s antics (which he is facilitating) is likely keeping him up at night too.  Good stuff.

Overall, yet another fine chapter for Wild Dog.  Still not totally on board with our fill-in artist, Dick Rockwell… who, really made it hard to look at the veggie-terrorist’s face.  Yuck.

We open with Tony kayoed in the back of a van.  Drake (that Hunter Thompson-looking guy) and his associate are in the front talking about a person named “Fenady” who might have something to do with the V75 Project.  Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m going to assume this has something to do with the VTOL.  Anyhoo, Tony is roused, and, since they didn’t bother to tie him up, causes quite the distraction!

A gun goes off, and the van careens right off the edge of a bridge.  Luckily, Tony is able to grab on to a piece of the safety railing to save himself from the fatal plummet.

We jump back to Frisco, where Vic is giving Gus a tour of the books.  We learn all about the Secret Six’s finances… which, is actually just a clever way of recounting some of the events from before the hiatus.  This includes confirmation that the Six were behind “Farmer” Ralph Dorn’s poisoning… a detail I’m pretty sure I missed the first time around.

Maria and Luke enter the scene and wonder aloud how LaDonna is doing undercover at Jefferson University… which takes us to LaDonna undercover at Jefferson University.  A Professor is discussing the virus, giving it the classification “V74″… which, I’m going to assume, is either yet another line-item on Mockingbird’s docket.  I could be completely wrong here, gang.  Anyhoo, it’s confirmed here that the virus can only be absorbed through the digestive tract.  After the lecture, a student (?) exits into the hallway and contacts “Fenady”.

We rejoin Tony, who has pulled himself back up to the highway where he flags down a passing motorist.  After noticing a helicopter hovering overhead… he hops in her passenger seat, pulls a gun, and orders her to drive.

We close out in at the Pentagon… more precisely, the office of Walter Fenady, the Director (of Meat and VTOLs?).  I’m going to assume he’s on the phone with then-President Ronald Reagan (it’s someone in the White House, and if I recall, DC staffers weren’t a fan of our 40th Prez), and they’re talking about “V75”.  We learn here that Mockingbird is most definitely still alive (I feel like this is the third or fourth time we’ve “learned” this), just as a bald man with a mustache bursts in with a report from (the now dead) Drake.

Ya know, I didn’t dislike this… but, man… there’s a lot of stuff going on here.  The main problem I’ve had with this feature (from the get-go) was it’s erratic pacing.  There have been chapters wherein next-to-nothing happens, and no new information is provided… and then, there are chapters like this that are both so exposition-heavy, and dropping in all-new information and characters, that it’s a bit overwhelming.  I mean, it’s not as bad as say… the Black Canary feature, it’s just a bit “much”.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time we’re hearing about the “V” line-items.  V74 having something to do with the meat-virus, and V75 perhaps having something to do with the VTOL?  Maybe?  Possibly?  I dunno… whatever the case, it just feels weird to have both of these things dropped on us in the same bit.  For all I know, it was a lettering error, and there’s only one “V” thing.

I suppose we could talk about Drake and his Pal’s lackluster hostage-keeping skill.  I mean, they didn’t even bother to tie Tony up?  I don’t wanna say they deserve what happened to them, but, c’mon fellas… that was 100% avoidable.  Oh well, at least Drake was able to send a memo before his fiery demise… the contents of which, I’m going to assume (there’s a whole lotta “assuming” today, ain’t there?) will be at least discussed next issue.

Overall, if I were reading this in collected format, I doubt I’d notice the odd pacing issues… but, I’m unfortunately reading it the way it was intended to be read… in weekly bites, and it’s not quite working for me.  The story is good, I just can’t get “comfortable” with it due to its somewhat erratic nature.

So, Bob Galt gets nyoinked into an alley… not by Vartox… but by just some random punks.  Well, that sorta sucks, doesn’t it?  Anyhoo, since he’s wearing the “S”, they call him both “Super-Waste” and “Superboy”… considering the year this came out, the latter of which makes me wonder if these geeks know about the pocket universe.  They absolutely must, right?

Okay, probably not.  One of the punks spits on Galt… which almost makes this “chapter” worth reading.  Bob counters with an emotionless uppercut, which might have cost the baddie a tooth.  Just as the rest of the gang-bangers proceed to pound the super-loving hell out of Galt, the Man of Steel arrives on the scene.

Welp… I’ve tip-toed around it for, sheesh, twenty-weeks now, but… I think I gotta just come out and say it.  This feature sucks.  It’s dull, there are no stakes, and Superman has only appeared in two panels over the past two weeks.  I thought covering this would give me a bit of a “breather” every week… just a quick two-page romp, where Superman does something… ya know, super.

Instead, this has become the day every week that I dread the most!  I mean, since Black Canary ended, anyway.  There just feels like no reason to even bother covering this anymore.  Hopefully it turns around… but, it’s like I say that every week.

Oh well, at least we got this panel (and your next screen-saver) out of it:

We resume our conversation between Deadman-as-Clara and Madame Waxahachie.  If you recall as we closed out last week, the Brogden Twins have been nabbed by Wellman Legros’ zombie horde… for reasons we’re about to learn a bit more about.  The zombie Police Officer that Deadman “rode in” still lays motionless on the ground, with that blade embedded in his gut.  Waxahachie calls in a fella named Uncle Estes to watch over the children while she and “Clara” try and track down the Twins.

Deadman and the Madame head out into town… and, get this, there are like a whole lotta zombies just shambling through the streets!  Deadman finds this odd, but Waxahachie quite matter-of-factly explains that most passersby just assume the zombies are derelicts or junkies, and don’t pay them much mind.  She further explains that many years ago, a pair of twins were able to rouse the undead… so, that might just be what Legros has in mind for the Brodgens.  Oh!  We also learn that it’s actually daytime in New Orleans… so, disregard the dark skies.

They follow the zombie parade into the Garden District where they assemble near a tall wooden gate.  Deadman body-hops into a random zombie so he can “attend” whatever meeting they’re about to have.  He finds the new undead bod to be a bit stiff, but controllable.

Before long, Wellman Legros addresses the horde… welcoming them to his “Army of the Undead”.  Behind him hangs a wooden cage, inside that cage… Lisa and Letritia, the Brogden Twins.  “Perfect Twins”, much the same as the Ioa, through which “Bon Dieu” will speak.  “Bon Dieu” is French for “Good Lord”, so I guess Legros is trying to communicate with a God?  Fair enough!

By now, Deadman has heard enough… he vacates the zom-bod, and hops into Legros himself!  No sooner does he get control, than the Brogden Twins order the horde to “tear Wellman Legros to pieces”!  Uh-oh!

This one’s turning out pretty cool!

I’m a bit dubious that everyone in New Orleans mistakes zombies for junkies, but I suppose we can allow it.  It might be sort of a “conscious” thing for the Louisianans.  Maybe it’s like… if you don’t wanna see any zombies, then you just don’t see any zombies?  Whatever the case, I think we can work with it.

I appreciate Deadman being able to occupy that random zombie.  This illustrates how powerful Wellman Legros’ power of suggestion is.  Since Boston wasn’t able to maintain any real measure of control over the Officer last chapter, I wasn’t sure if zombies were just “off-limits” overall.  Looks like that’s not exactly the case.

We get a pretty good cliffhanger here.  Perhaps a bit too similar to the one we got in the opening chapter for this arc, but still exciting… and makes me wanna check back next week to see how it all plays out.

Overall, still really digging this and I’m looking forward to more.  The art still rules, and I’m enjoying all of the characters.

We open with Janos, having removed his belt, approaching the prone and bound body of the missing Aviatrix.  She doesn’t appear to be all that comfortable with the look in his eyes… and I can’t say that I blame her!  He tells her not to move and to keep her mouth shut… before using his belt to whip a cobra!  Whew.

As Jan sets the snake on fire, Alice is rather thankful… for killing the snake, for coming to her rescue, for not sexually assaulting her… take your pick!  Our man informs her that he’s there on behalf of her husband, Leslie Richardson… which kinda makes her furrow her brow a bit.

As he unties her, Alice informs Blackhawk that he smells purty.  He doesn’t exactly return that sentiment.  Though, in fairness, the poor lady has been bound and tortured for a number of weeks at this point.

The twosome head back to Leslie, who Alice (in a word balloon mistakenly coming from Janos) refers to as “Steve”.  Hmm.  Anyhoo, she also goes into a little bit of detail about how she came to be in her present predicament.  There was a Japanese L2D jet transporting a Microwave Generator back in 1944.  It never arrived at it’s destination, and was assumed to have gone down somewhere in Sumatra.  We already know that it’s just on the other side of the crater.

So, Alice and Company staged a crash to search for the goods.  One thing they didn’t plan for, however, was the “Provisional Governor” of the district, one Van der Houten.  Her crew was picked up by VdH’s personal army.

Alice leads Janos to the top of the ruins, where there’s a pool.  Remember how I mentioned that she really stinks?  Well, she’s up there to take a bit of a bath.  She undresses in front of our man…

… and, well… it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to guess where this scene is headed.

Another solid chapter for Blackhawk.  I was happy to finally meet the missing Aviatrix, and to receive a little bit of clarification on the Japanese jet.

It’s made pretty clear here that there’s something iffy about “Leslie”.  Alice is a bit dumbfounded when he’s referred to as her husband… heck, she’s also a bit surprised when she finds out he’s not going by the name “Steve”.

The conversation between Jan and Alice worked for me insofar as a conduit for exposition.  As we were learning all of the details at the same time Janos was, it felt more natural than just a regular ol’ “info-dump”.

It’s been a minute since our man’s gotten any “action”, so I dug the scene at the end.  While it might not be much of a “current year” take, these more “mature” themes are a lot of fun… and don’t veer too far into the gratuitous for my tastes.

Overall, still really enjoying this… perhaps even more than the earlier Grell arc!

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