Action Comics Weekly #621 (1988)

Action Comics Weekly #621 (August 23, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Gremlins!”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter Seven: Stab in the Dark”
Secret Six: “Guess What We Learned in School Today?”
Superman: “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”
Deadman: “Part 4”
Blackhawk: “It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Futility”
Writer – James Owsley, Max Collins, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, & Mike Baron
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Terry Beatty, Dick Rockwell, Frank Springer, Curt Swan, Kelley Jones, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Jose Marzan Jr., John Nyberg, Frank McLaughlin, Murphy Anderson, Tony DeZuniga, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Tim Harkins, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Tony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko, & Daniel Vozzo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Bryan Augustyn, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50

Hey folks,

Was planning an even shorter Week-Ending pre-ramble this week.  I’d initially decided to curb the Poll for a bit.  I still might, as I don’t think it’s doing the site (or the project) any good.  The votes, few as they are, are starting to feel… I dunno, mayyybe a little insincere?

I know I have zero right to ask this, but… if you’re voting for the Superman two-pager… please drop me a line and tell me why.  Otherwise, it just kinda feels like you’re screwing with me.  Hell… just drop me a line to tell me you’re screwing with me!  That’ll work too!

While on that subject, here are last week’s results:

Ya know, I’m not going to bother comparing the 2019 Results with the 1988 ones anymore.  That started off pretty fun, but it’s clear to me that… well, that’s over.  It doesn’t serve any purpose anymore.

Here’s this week’s poll:

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #622?

Green Lantern

Wild Dog

Secret Six




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

This week’s cover comes to us from the legendary Joe Orlando.  It’s a striking cover, which, unfortunately doesn’t have much of anything to do with the story inside.  It works though!

Hope you’re still enjoying this project.  Next week (which is to say, tomorrow) we officially enter the second half!

We open with Hal Jordan answering a call in Sol, wherein a spacecraft transporting a crew of 600 had been damaged… and is currently being drawn toward the Sun.  Hal struggles for a bit, reminding us all that his ring has that weakness against anything yellow, but is eventually able to get the job done.  With this all behind him, he high-tails it back to Los Angeles, as he is about to be late for his new job… as a freelance pilot for Elite Design Consultants (aka. the Gremlins… heyyy, that’s the title of this story!).

Upon arrival in the Gremlin locker room, Hal decides to up the ante and do something really dumb.  He removes his power ring, and leaves it in his locker.  Ya see, he’s in it for the challenge, maaaan… and, after all… what’s the worst thing that could happen while test-flying a jet?  It’s almost as if we can stop reading right here, innit?

Ehh, we’ll press on.  Hal’s in the air, when… whattayaknow… one of the engines conks out.  While the rest of the Gremlins look on in horror, Hal calls himself out as an idjit for leaving his ring behind.  Then… interestingly, he questions if he even has any right risking his life in non-Lantern situations.  As we know, he’s been appointed as a guardian of Earth… and with that great power comes… well, you know.

Either way, Hal actually manages to land the bird without much incident.  Hopefully, he’s learned a lesson or two, though.  The Gremlins rush over to congratulate him, and to get a better look at the jet.

We close out this chapter with Hal, back in the locker room, “Lanterning up”.  Unfortunately, just as he finishes reciting the oath, his power battery explodes!  From it, a yellow beam shoots into space!

Well, this is certainly tonally different than what we’ve had over the past few weeks, ain’t it?  This actually feels more like a Green Lantern story than any of that silly Freak Show mess.

I’m glad that we’re kind of just “dropped” into this new arc… no wasted panels of Hal lamenting the end of his relationship with a teen-ager… no pining over which Hawkes sister he’d rather make time with… just a routine Green Lantern outing, wherein he gets the opportunity to give a quick-and-dirty on his mission and powers.  It’s a nice clean break… which, I kind of feel like we needed.  Though, as I mentioned in the pre-ramble, GL Special #1 fits in right around here.

Hal working for the “Gremlins” is a nice touch, as he certainly wouldn’t be able to go back to work for Ferris at this time.  It’s a familiar trapping for him… but just “new” enough.

Not sure what buddy was thinking taking his ring off.  That never works out, does it?  Oh well, as a way of pressing the plot forward, I suppose there are worse things.  Then again, what would have happened if he was wearing his ring?  Would the Gremlins find out that he’s Green Lantern?  Who knows?

Something I really appreciated was Hal’s internal monologue as he was just about to crash.  He wondered about his responsibilities… and whether or not he had any right risking his life, when he’s supposed to be watching over the Earth.  That’s pretty deep stuff… I really dug it.

Let’s briefly touch on the art.  Doc Bright is just fantastic… and is probably in my Top-5 of Green Lantern artists.  This just feels “right” to me.  A true return to form… especially after the… uh, less traditional stylings of Richard Howell.

Overall… a good start to a new arc, with a whopper of a cliffhanger.

We open with Jack Wheeler handing over a “suspect sketch” he’d put together on the Night Slasher.  Lt. Flint is quite surprised to see the kind of artistic talent his pal has… and we learn that art was something that Jack’s former lover, Claire had always encouraged.  Andy suddenly flips the script completely… and tells Jack to back off.  To stay out of the QCPD’s hair for the remainder of this case.  Jack joshes him that the PD’s currently got a half-dozen bodies they’re stepping over… but “agrees”.  As their contentious chat wraps up, we’re reminded that Wild Pup has been listening in the whole time.

We jump to the next day where Jack has taken Lou Godder out to lunch.  Godder is a bit tweaked that Jack didn’t tip him off to the fast-food veggie-terrorist story before it all went down, as he would have really appreciated the “scoop”.  Jack suggests that there might be an even juicier story in the offing… the Night Slasher!

Lou jots down three nearby hot spots for singles, all of which have had Night Slasher activity since the killings began.  This seems like really basic information that Jack should have been able to deduce himself, but we’ll allow it.  That night, Jack goes undercover.

After checking the first two spots without any luck, our man heads to the third… where he finds out Night Slasher, complete with fly-fishing lure earring!  She’s chatting up a member of the Metal Minds band… and suggests they “have a little fun” in his van.  He’s got another song to play, so she agrees to head into the van and wait.

She unlocks the back door, and is shocked to find… Wild Dog!  She goes to kick him low, but he (mostly) side-steps it.

He then clamps down on her right shoulder with his shock-mitt, which puts her on the floor.  She attempts to scramble for her blade when… Wild Pup leaps onto the scene!  He tries holding the Slasher down, and winds up getting stabbed in the chest for his troubles!  Uh-oh!

Well, it finally happened… Wild Pup got shanked!  I’m honestly surprised it’s taken this long!

But, let’s start by talking about Jack’s chats with his pals.  Jack and Andy have a pretty complicated relationship, right?  Jack does what he can to help Andy (and the QCPD) out, but it’s often to the detriment of the police themselves.  It makes them look foolish in a couple of ways.  First: Wild Dog is able to accomplish things the Police can not… and Second: The Police don’t appear to be able to apprehend (or even control) Wild Dog.  These are things that Flint’s gotta constantly be reconciling in his head when weighing the pros and cons of being “in bed” with a vigilante.

That said, Andy’s characterization here, feels a bit stilted.  Like, dramatically hot and cold.  They go from talking like old buddies to “listen here, mister!” in the course of a single panel.  Felt very unnatural… but, we’ve only got seven-pages to work with here, so there probably wasn’t enough paginal real estate to bring it all around more organically.

Especially since we needed to jump right over to Jack chatting up Lou.  This was another weird interaction, and feels like it was included just so we could give Lou a few lines of dialogue.  It’s been established during the course of the past couple of Wild Dog arcs that Jack’s more than just a “shoot first, ask questions later” mad man.  That is to say, he’s not a half-bad detective in his own right.  That being said, I’m not sure why Jack would need Lou to jot down the locations of Night Slasher activity.  It should stand to reason that Jack would already know where the baddie has been striking, right?  I mean, it is a pretty big local news story, innit?  Oh well.

This brings us to the end.  Wild Dog puts the Slasher on the ground… just for the Pup to arrive and put himself into some pretty grave danger.  It looks as though the Slasher was able to rebound from her shock-mitting pretty quickly, so for all we know, the Pup just saved Wild Dog’s life.  Now… that said, just how sloppy is Wild Dog being portrayed here?  That he’d simply turn his back on a serial murderess?  It’s not like he was distracted by something off-panel, either!  He was just closing the Metal Minds’ van door!  C’maaaaaahn, Jack… that was dumb.

Overall, it feels like “guest artist” (who has pencilled like half this arc), Dick Rockwell is coming into his own.  Didn’t have any real uggos this time out.  And, while a bit stilted-feeling, this was still a worthwhile chapter.

We open back at the Pentagon, where Director Walter Fenedy is meeting with that bald mustachioed fella… who kinda reminds me of a G.I. Joe, but I couldn’t tell ya which one (Outback?  Ambush?).  Anyhoo, Baldo tells Fenedy that the V74 virus found its way out of the lab because of someone named Traeger.  Fenedy is shocked to hear that the virus is “out”, which makes me wonder just how much attention he’s been paying to the news.  Either way, he orders Traeger “wasted”.  Elsewhere, Tony is still hitching a ride through some California towns of varying size… while certain they’re being followed.

Back in D.C., Fenedy is handed the wrist-communicator that Drake (the Hunter Thompson-looking guy who died last week) had taken from Tony.  We learn that it was designed by their R & D folks for Mockingbird’s use.  This concerns Fenedy, as it certainly means that the Secret Six are back in business.  Again… does this guy pay attention to anything?!

We jump back to Tony and his driver.  They realize they’re being tailed by a helicopter.  Thanks to some fancy driving, however, they cause the whirlybird to crash into a low bridge.

Back at HQ, Vic, Maria, and Gus are conducting some research about the original Six.  Remember, August Durant was involved with the V74 research that was/is going down at Jefferson University.  The very same place where current Sixer, LaDonna has gone “undercover”.

Let’s just head there.  Maria calls LaDonna to question her about an exorbitant hotel bill she’d turned in.  LaDonna explains that she had to hide out off-campus until the woman she’d be “replacing” left.  Makes perfect sense to me.  At the same time, elsewhere near campus, Steve Traeger is visited by that one fella who snuck off to make a phone call last week.  Turns out, Traeger’s getting the blame for the “livestock stunt”.  I’m not the only one confused here, right?

As Traeger fights off his would-be armed assailant, LaDonna watches her roommate shower?  Okay.  Our chapter ends with Traeger busting into LaDonna’s place to ask for help.  For what it’s worth, he refers to her as “baby”.  Hmm…

Alrighty… we’ve got a little bit to unpack here.  I beg you to pardon my potentially density, because this was quite the heaping pile of information and story to digest.  Where to even begin?

We got this Fenedy guy, right?  Director of the Pentagon… and yet, he doesn’t seem to know much of what’s going on.  By all accounts, he should be aware that there’s a tainted meat epidemic coming out of Farmer Ralph’s… and, I gotta assume that he should realize that the Secret Six are back.

Let’s look at LaDonna… who, doesn’t look like she’s in any sort of disguise, right?  I mean, outside of having her disfigured facial features covered, she just looks like LaDonna.  Not sure how this helps her infiltrate the University… and, what’s more… how does she manage to make Steve Traeger think that she’s his “baby”?  Am I reading this wrong… or is this just some ridiculously convenient storytelling?

Let’s look at Traeger.  He’s assaulted (and nearly “wasted”) by that one dude.  I’m not sure who we’re supposed to be rooting for here… if Traeger is responsible for all of the meat-related deaths, he shouldn’t be depicted as a fella whose just trying to defend himself, right?  I mean, it might just be “current year”, but if I see an unarmed black dude attacked by a gun-carrying white guy… I’m going to be rooting for the guy without the piece.  I’m guessing this will be fleshed out in the coming weeks… hopefully it’ll be easier to follow than this outing.

Overall, this was a lot of information… and it was delivered in a fairly disjointed way.  I’m hopeful this one finds its rails pretty quick, because I’m beginning to run out of interest.

Bob Galt is kayoed by the gangbangers, and Superman arrives on the scene.  He makes short work of the baddies, and manages to change back into his Clark Kent duds before Galt comes around.

That’s it!

I’m going to try and be positive about this one.

First: We actually get some action… and Superman!  That’s a good thing.

Second: Bob Galt didn’t get to see Superman… and might now believe that Clark Kent was his savior.  This calls back to Superman’s “message” to Galt to “Trust Kent”.  It’s a callback, and I like that.  So, two good things!

Really and truly, there isn’t much to dislike here… the story is advanced, and we got to see Superman flex his muscle a bit.  This is probably as close to the way I wanted these strips to go from the start.

Is this something I’d recommend?  Probably not… but, having “assigned” myself this entire run, I will admit that this chapter was far more enjoyable than most have been.

Picking up where we left off last week, Deadman-as-Wellman Legros is faced with the caged Brogden Twins… who are now commanding the zombie horde.  Ya see, they’re no longer Lisa and Letritia Brogden… they’re now Stella and Delia Peckshaw: The Zombie Queens of New Orleans!  He introduces himself as “Deadman”, which doesn’t really impress the girls… after all, everyone else there is a “dead man”.  He clarifies what he means, and the girls actually recognize him as the aerialist, Boston Brand… they saw him perform with the Blake Kellogg Circus back in 1969!

We shift scenes to join Madame Waxahachie, who has tired of waiting for Deadman to return.  She enters the grounds, and fights off a zombie or two with her “fetish” and “mojo”.  She finally comes across Wellman Legros, who is all hunched and prone in the middle of a darkened room.

Legros goes to attack the Madame, but something stops him… which is to say, his “passenger”.  Deadman and Legros struggle long enough for a knife to be plunged into Wellman’s chest.  This frees Boston from the vessel.  Moments later, Waxahachie kayos Wellman with a tremendous right hook.

Deadman flutters away to re-inhabit the body of Waxahachie’s assistant, Clara so they can catch up.  In a funny bit, Boston wonders if he might be unwittingly giving poor Clara a psychosis by invading her time and again.  The Madame assures him that Clara is strong enough to handle it.  We find out here that the Twins did some hoo-doo to muddy up the Brand/Legros union.

We wrap up by learning a thing or two about Delia and Stella.  Turns out they were part of a crazy family, and somehow ascended to become the Zom… er, Voodoo Queens of New Orleans.  In fact, back in 1971, they nearly took over the city.  They’re currently buried at St. Bart’s cemetery… or, at least they were!

Pretty interesting chapter… though, perhaps a bit slower than the previous three.

We find out that the Twins have become the vessel for the Zombie-Voodoo Queens of New Orleans… and that their plans are to raise an army of zombies.  Not sure if Wellman Legros was working on his own accord up to the point, or was being controlled by the girls… though, I suppose that probably doesn’t matter all that much.

Other than that, though… not a whole heckuva lot to talk about.  Still enjoying it… still really digging the art.  Just a (relatively) “quiet” outing this time around.

We open with a trio of Blackhawks (Carlo, Olaf, and Weng) tied up above steaming peppercorn boil pots by Mssr. Van der Houten.  He’s hopeful that the intense discomfort they’re about to be in might loosen their lips a bit.  They (attempt to) assure him that they’re just hired hands.  Leslie Richardson gave them a gig… and they’re here on his behalf.  VdH ain’t buyin’ it…

Back at the Ruins, Jan and Alice get dressed.  She informs him that Van der Houten has a seismograph that tells him that Chekhov’s Volcano is going to erupt within a matter of days… and the reason he put them in the ruins was to… loosen their lips a bit.  This baddie definitely has a gimmick, don’t he?  He’s a regular chubby Scarecrow.

Back in the hot house, Weng realizes that if he’s able to swing hard enough, he might just be able to break through a nearby window and give the gang some much-needed relief from the heat.  He does just that.

He also manages to catch a shard of glass with his teeth, with which, he cuts through his bindings.  This Weng is quite a dude!

Back to the Ruins, where “Leslie” is finally roused.  He refers to Alice as “Marcia”… the hell?  Well, it turns out that both of these folks aren’t who we thought they were.  “Alice” is Marcia Rossiter, and “Leslie” is her brother, Steve Claiborne.  They are part of the Central Intelligence Group.

Marcia whispers to Janos that her brother Steve might just beat the crap out of him… which, man… I wanna see him try!  I’d like nothing more than seeing Jan put this dude flat on his back!

We jump over to Van der Houten’s mansion, where… for some reason, Andre is resting in a bed.  Well, never let it be said that VdH isn’t a fair captor.  Andre “wows” a nurse with the size of his member… just as he’s being sentenced to death in another room.  Oh well.

We wrap up with Jan, Steve, and Marcia leaving the Ruins.  They’re spotted by one of VdH’s men, who calls it in!

Alrighty… some questions finally get answered here.

Things are still a little bit nebulous… we’re still a bit unsure about the importance of the Japanese jet… but, I’m assuming we’ll be filled in soon enough.  I’m glad we’re finally clearing up the Alice/Leslie deal though.

With that in mind, I’m hopeful that Jan eventually flattens Steve.  This dude just rubs me the wrong way… and Marcia’s teasing that her big bro might take exception to Janos really bugged me.

Let’s put a pin in that and look at the rest of the team.  These are a fun group of guys!  I love Weng being a crazy man, and managing to save their bacon while strung up in a Dozier-esque deathtrap.  That was a lot of fun.  Also, Andre taking every opportunity to… uh, physically flirt?  Very fun stuff.

If our ending blurb is to be believed, it looks like next week Chekhov’s Volcano will finally erupt… which is fitting, as next week is the final chapter of this arc.  Boy, that went fast!  Really looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out!

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