Action Comics Weekly #622 (1988)



Action Comics Weekly #622 (August 30, 1988)
Green Lantern: “The Edge of Forever”
Wild Dog: “Fatal Distraction, Chapter Eight: To Help a Child”
Starman: “Starman”
Superman: Seeds of Doubt”
Secret Six: “Big Dead Man on Campus”
Blackhawk: “The Big Blowoff”
Writer – James Owsley, Max Collins, Roger Stern, & Martin Pasko
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Terry Beatty, Tom Lyle, Curt Swan, Frank Springer, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Jose Marzan Jr., John Nyberg, Robert Campanella, Murphy Anderson, & Frank McLaughlin
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Tim Harkins, Augustin Mas, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Tony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Daniel Vozzo, & Tom Ziuko
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Brian Augustyn, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

Hey everybody… welcome to the first-stop in the second-half of our Action Comics Weekly endeavor.  This week’s cover… which, if you ask me, kinda looks like Kyle Rayner wearing Hal Jordan’s duds (hair’s too dark for me, ya see)… comes to us from the great Ron Frenz.  An artist I can’t help but to associate with Marvel Comics (though he would have a decent-length run on Superman vol.2 in the late-90’s).


Let’s take a look at last week’s Poll Results:



As you can see… aw, forget it.  Y’all have beaten me down.  Worth noting that I… forgot to vote this time out.  In case you’re wondering. I would’ve voted for Blackhawk.


Here’s this week’s Poll… which will be the one and only time Starman appears!


Best Story in Action Comics Weekly 622?

Green Lantern

Wild Dog

Starman

Superman

Secret Six

Blackhawk

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/T3S0P7K5


Before we hop into the spoilery-synopsis section, I want to prepare you all… tomorrow (and for the six-days that follow), we’re going to be stepping away from Action Comics Weekly.  Ya see, we’ve got a little tradition here at the Infinite Earths… something that has happened every July since we started.  Ya better watch out… and more importantly, ya better not cry!









We pick up right where we left off last week… Hal is knelt before his ‘sploded power battery.  I mean, it could be worse, right?  Oh well.  I suppose we need to keep in mind for now that, Hal’s the last Lantern left… so, this battery malfunction might just signify the end of the Green Lantern Corps and concept altogether!  Before he can dwell all that long, however, the Gremlins pop their heads in to find out just what went “boom”.  Hal comes up with a very smooth line about all of the green shards being pieces of a clock.  Thankfully, they buy the lie… they just assume it was a very special clock, considering the amount of damage that had been done in the locker room.





Hal takes his leave… and takes to the skies.  Ya see, he’s trying to find that yellow beam that shot out of the Lantern at the end of the last chapter.  Unfortunately, it looks like it went past the borders of his Space Sector.  Without the Central Power Battery to “interface” with his ring, he might be completely lost and powerless once he crosses into another Sector.  He thinks on it a bit, and realizes that this might just be a job for… Superman!





Only… the last time he and Superman got together, it was a less than pleasant experience.  Ya see, Superman isn’t pleased that John Stewart’s recent antics have lead to a handful of casualties.  This is in reference to the events of Green Lantern Special #1 (which we will be getting to when I have a bit more time).  Anyhoo, Superman basically tells him to keep his house clean.




Or, as Hal’s mind continues to wander, was it a bit more stern a warning than that?  His next recounting of the exchange more or less has Superman calling him a loser.





But, was that really as bad as it got?  Hmm… Hal continues mulling over the event, and concludes that Superman was rather a jerk to him.  If only we had some cute internetty word to describe the times Superman acts like a jerk… wouldn’t that be so funnyfor like, 5 seconds?  Anyhoo, this time out Superman demands Hal “know his role”, and from this point on, only use his Power Ring as a means to contact him.





Clearly, Hal is kinda getting lost in his own head here.  Either way, he shakes it off, and decides to venture into the great unknown himself.  With one last recital of the Oath, he enters into the next Sector, certain that this is either a new beginning… or a very final end.







This is one of those chapters from the Green Lantern feature that I’ve always remembered somewhat fondly… and it’s all due to Hal’s angsty memory of his last conversation with Superman.  First: It’s just a great peek into Hal’s psyche, with all of his insecurities on display, and Second: It’s refreshing for Superman to actually be part of something interesting during an issue of Action Comics Weekly!


I wish I had the time to cover the Green Lantern Special right now, as it gives that scene the context it needs.  We’ll get to it… but, if you want the details, Reggie and I did cover it during Part Two of our Hal Jordan’s Action Comics series of Cosmic Treadmill episodes… available in the archives!  … and, uh… right here!

I really enjoyed this chapter… so much stuff “in the air” here.  So many bits of Lantern Lore that don’t get much play… like the concept that the abilities of the Ring were completely beholden to the Central Power Battery.  At this point, Hal’s not sure his Ring will even work one Sector over!  This isn’t something post-Green Lantern: Rebirth Hal would worry about one bit… and, that’s kind of a shame.


Overall, a great little chapter… and M.D. Bright continues to knock it out of the park with his art!









We pick up immediately after we left off… Wild Pup’s been stabbed, and both the Night Slasher and Wild Dog are left agog.  She takes off into the night, leaving our man with the duty of bringing the boy to hospital.  He drops him off before returning to ROVER to pray.





Time passes, and the news of the encounter spreads.  Before long, Ms. Susan King is on the scene trying to get the skinny from Lt. Andy Flint.  He more or less tells her to “pound salt”.





As the boy convalesces alone in his darkened room, Wild Dog scales the side of the building and climbs inside.  At that very moment, the Night Slasher arrives at the boy’s room… and after portraying herself as his mother, is allowed entry.





She heads inside just as Wild Dog is finishing up his lecture on why the boy shouldn’t want to be anything like him.  He tells him there are ways to help, without putting his life in danger. 





The Dog notices the Slasher… and they have themselves a chat.  She tells him that they hurt this boy… together.  Ya see, they’re both on a “mission of justice”.  The Night Slasher used to be rather promiscuous… which left her with a Sexually-Transmitted Disease.  When she finally settled down, and became pregnant… the STD caused her son, Robert, to be stillborn.  Ever since then, she’s been “reconnecting” with folks from her… uh… “easier” days, and exacting revenge.  By, uh… killing them.





She convinces Wild Dog to leave her and the boy alone for a bit… because, even though the Police will soon find out who she really is… she wants to be there for him on this night.  Wild Dog thinks on it for a moment, and decides that she won’t be any further threat to the Pup.  We close out with an entry from Wild Pup’s diary… where he confirms that he knows Wild Dog and Jack Wheeler are one-and-the-same.








Well, that’s a wrap!


As much as I enjoyed this arc (and I really did!), I can’t help but to feel as though this ending might have been a bit truncated.  Everything kinda falls too neatly into place.  I mean, many “realities” of comics publishing usually set the tone and pacing of a story… and, again, I feel like that might’ve happened here.  Though, please keep in mind I know nothing about the inner-workings of DC Comics.


We find out here what makes the Night Slasher tick… and, while it’s sorta “rational”, it’s also sorta cliche.  I feel like anytime we see a woman lashing out in fiction, it’s usually going to wrap back around to some sort of sexual trauma.  I do appreciate that hurting a child is her “rubicon” of sorts, and she’s now prepared (as far as we know) to “face the music”.


I also appreciated that this was left open-ended.  We don’t know if the Night Slasher will allow herself to be arrested.  She very well might say a little prayer for the boy, and immediately sneak out right after.  We also don’t know what Wild Pup might do with the knowledge of Jack Wheeler’s alter-ego.  Will it (or he) ever come up again?  Well, probably not… but, it’s fun to wonder!


Overall, I found this to be a really fun arc… and I feel like the Wild Dog feature will be sorely missed over these next few months.










We open with a shot of a television screen.  On it is the program Phoenix Today, hosted by… uh, some dude.  His guest is Vincent Garvey, the author of a new book called We Don’t Need the Super-Hero.  You might be able to guess what he’s there to talk about.  This program is being played on a display television set at a Radio Shack-alike, and is being watched by Jayne Payton at a mall… and she ain’t at all happy.





She is soon joined by her brother Will, who is happily licking an ice cream cone.  This tells me that the mall is indoors, because an ice cream cone isn’t long for the world when eaten outdoors in Phoenix.  Anyhoo, she points to the screen where Garvey is running down superheroes as being deviants and what-not… and he kinda lets it roll off his shoulder.  Just then, one of the Radio Shack’s police scanners kicks on, alerting him to a hub-bub down at the old Van Buren Center.  Will rushes off to investigate (and if you’re familiar with much of Phoenix’s “Van Buren” area, probably to get some booster shots).





Over the next few pages, Will is fighting a geek wearing some S.T.A.R. Labs armor.  These panels run alongside more of Garvey’s thoughts on the “fascistic” nature of superheroes.  This tells me that Garvey’s understanding of the word “fascist” is right up there with most of the internet’s!





The battle rages, and Starman flies right into the baddie… causing a raucous “TOOM”.  This outburst causes a nearby old man to have a heart attack.  Lucky for him, Jayne arrives on the scene just in the nick of time to administer CPR.





The story ends with Will turning the armored guy over to the police, and Jayne saving the life of the old man.  See… not all heroes wear capes… which, uh… might not be all that relevant here, since Starman doesn’t wear one anyway.







So, not a bad little introduction to the Will Payton Starman.  I nice little adventure, where we meet him and his sister… and kind of get a feel for the tone of the series.  It’s really not much more than that… though, I don’t think it was meant to be.


As for the underlying… I dunno, “antagonistic” presence?  The “superhero critic” is a trope that… kinda feels “played out”.  Even in ye old 1988, this is pretty tired.  I mean, we’re just two years removed from Legends where G. Gordon Godfrey was doing the talk show circuit.  I guess if it worked once, it’ll work every time.  That’s comic book law, right?  Find something that works… then milk that sucker dry!


Not all that much more to say about this one.  The story was neat, and the parallels between Will and Jayne’s heroic acts were well taken.  The art was solid.  Tom Lyle isn’t a fella we get to discuss here all that often, but I really enjoy what he brings to the table.


Overall, if you’re a Will Payton Starman completionist, you’re going to want this.  Not sure if they’ve ever started collecting that volume… but, I would imagine if they do, this little snippet would probably be a part of it!











We pick up where we left off last week, and it looks as though Clark Kent just saved Bob Galt’s bacon in that back alley.  This is to illustrate that, although Bob worships the Man of Steel, that doesn’t mean he can be everywhere at all times.  After all, if that were the case, the Fellowship wouldn’t have been wiped out by those Laser-Taggers.  It would seem that Bob finally trusts Kent enough… and he will introduce him to the “Elders” of the Fellowship of Superman.


We shift scenes three-thousand miles west, where the Consortium (held up in the Sequoia Techtronics Building) lament the fact that Superman stopped that assassin from snuffing out Charles Culpepper.  Due to this, they must now kill Superman.  Yeah, good luck, boys.




Alright, it’s like we’re finally (about to be) getting somewhere with this one.  Seems all well and good, until we stop to realize that there are still many parts of this serial left to tell.  We’ll leave that to complain about another day though… today, we’ll just celebrate the fact that this plodding and meandering story seems to have found the plot.


I appreciate Superman jumping back into the Clark Kent duds as a way to show Galt that he can be trusted… with an eye toward being invited to meet the Elders.  I’m sure they’re going to be quite the characters.


Still not sure what to think of the Consortium.  Seems like just some more dudes in suits for Superman to be paired up against.  They’ve got a laser cannon that can destroy statues though… so there’s that to consider… I guess.  Oh well, hopefully we’ll find out their motivations before long.


Overall, not a bad installment.










We open with Tony having taken the wheel of the getaway car, and the helicopter that had been in pursuit crashing into an overpass.  So, uh… I guess what I’m trying to say (without actually saying it) is, “Picking up where we left off…”  Anyhoo, as we continue, I get this odd feeling like we’re supposed to have known the lady who owns the car?  I mean, they way she and Tony are conversing… they seem kinda “familiar”, don’t they?  I dunno… I suppose if we were to find out she has a “MEGABUX” licence plate, we could suggest this was Mel… though, I might just be blonde-profiling.





After a stop at HQ, where Gus is being given the reins, we check back in with LaDonna.  She’s a bit skeeved out by Steve Whatshisface having burst into her dorm in nothing more than a bathrobe… and really isn’t much of a fan of him changing his clothes right in front of her.  Looks like her “role-play” skills need a bit of help.





Time passes, and Vic, Maria, and Luke land their VTOL on nearby Theodore Roosevelt Island.  Steve is still telling his story to LaDonna, including how “Billy” pulled a gun on him.  Elsewhere, “Billy” (Abrahams) is making a call to Fenedy.  I feel like there’s just wayyy too much going on here.





Fenedy, it’s worth noting, is in the lab with a bunch of white-shirts trying to figure out what makes Mockingbird’s communication watches tick.





Back in LaDonna’s dorm, Steve keeps droning on… up to and including, admitting that he sold those two V74 minipigs.  He does this with his back turned to LaDonna, who takes the opportunity to change faces, and cock her pistol.



She leads Steve, at gunpoint, across campus.  During which time, he shares the story of August Durant.  While at a Communist Bloc Party (wonder if that’s anything like a Capitalist Block Party?), he unwittingly drank the virus culture, and before he knew it… his body was covered with lesions.  He only survived due to some sort of medication that put him in remission.



LaDonna continues to guide Steve, and they approach the William Crandall Memorial Stadium.  At this point, however, a car speeds up on them.  Our girl pushes Steve out of the way, and pulls out some gymnast moves to avoid becoming street pizza.



She lands, and… somehow, blows the car up!  That’s one bad-ass pistol she’s packin’… ol’ Steve wouldn’t have had a chance!



The pair rush inside the Stadium, and onto the football field… only to find themselves surrounded!





I feel like a broken record here… well, more so than usual.  This was good, but boy-howdy was it crammed!  It feels like there’s wayyy too much going on here to comfortably fit into eight pages.


We get a number of “asides”, none of which get adequate (or any) time to breathe.  I guess if we just look at this as “LaDonna’s chapter”, it could work.  LaDonna hasn’t gotten much time to shine during this ACW-incarnation of the Secret Six, so it is kinda nice seeing her get some panel time.  Though, if her whole purpose here is to steal the identity of a co-ed, she probably shouldn’t be so skittish about seeing a little, uh, “student body”.  Luckily, Steve didn’t appear to notice LaDonna’s trepidation, and proceeded to spill every last bean about his part in the V74 mishegoss.


As for the asides… I can’t help but to think that we’re supposed to know the woman Tony is “carpooling” with.  It might be nothing, but, their banter feels a bit familiar.  Fenedy is still trying to figure out the Mockingbird Watch.  “Billy” is still lurking.  Lotta stuff going on… perhaps too much stuff.










Picking up where we left off, Janos and Company are exiting the ruins, just as the Van der Houten goon is calling in the fact that he’d found the Japanese Jet… inside of Chekhov’s Volcano!  Jan beans the fella in the dome with a stone before he finishes his report.  Meanwhile, VdH orders the execution of his Blackhawk captives.  Unfortunately for him, they’ve already freed themselves from their bonds… and have stolen a nearby Jeep to make their escape.





Meanwhile, Andre is… uh, banging his nurse, because that’s kinda what he does.  Coitus is interrupted, however, by a VdH goon opening fire in his room.  Andre manages to wriggle his way out, and as luck would have it, it’s the very moment when the rest of the gang just happened to be driving by.





The Blackhawks peel out and head for open road… and very nearly t-bone Janos’s Jeep!  It’s a cute little scene.  Van der Houten, who had dove out of the way of one of the Jeeps is helped to his feet by a goon.



The combined Blackhawks (and Company) board the Janos Jet and take off.  It’s not long before Van der Houten (and Company) are in the air right behind them.  VdH even opens fire, riddling the Blackhawk jet with holes.  Remember that.



Janos steers right over Chekhov’s Volcano, with Van der Houten giving chase.  The Volcano is just about to blow her top… and has the good sense to wait for the bad guy to be in the air above it before doing so!  Sooo, that’s the end of Van der Houten.



We wrap up with Leslie… Steve… whatever his name is, offering Janos another gig… something concerning the C.I.A.  Before agreeing, Janos heads toward the back of the jet.  There, he discovers that when VdH opened fire on the plane, it wasn’t without casualty.





A tragic ending to what turned out to be a pretty tragic tale.  The entire endeavor, from both sides, appeared to have been all for naught.


In reading the end, it’s hard not to sense the utter futility of everything that’s occurred up to this point.  Let’s look at Van der Houten for a sec.  He, I assume, wanted to find that Japanese Jet… little did he know that it was actually inside the Volcano… somewhere nobody would be able to get to it.  He took hostages, killed people… was an all-around bad dude… ultimately, for nothing!  Janos and Company arrived in Sumatra to rescue the Aviatrix… and they very nearly did it!  They managed to get her into the air… but, she didn’t make it much further.  So, at the end of the day… nobody gets what they wanted!


Overall, this was a really fun arc… and I’ll miss having a Blackhawk feature to read, enjoy, and discuss over the next several weeks.  It’s recently been brought to my attention by longtime reader of this here blog, Matt O’Hara that these Blackhawk stories are going to be collected!  The Blackhawks: Blood & Iron Hardcover will hit shelves on November 26, 2019.  Not only will it include the three-part “Blood & Iron” story by Howard Chaykin, but also all three Action Comics Weekly arcs!  It’s listed at $49.99, which might be a bit steep… but I’m sure there’ll be some deep discounts as the date approaches.


Before we go, I wanna mention the volcano… I’m really glad that sucker burst, otherwise all of my references to it being “Chekhov’s Volcano” would been even lamer than they were to begin with!


Tomorrow: Something completely different!





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