Action Comics Weekly #624 (September 13, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Faith!”
Shazam!: “My Week in Valhalla, Chapter 2”
Secret Six: “The Sound of a Silent Heart”
Superman: “Pin the Tail…”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 1”
Writers – James Owsley, Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, Martin Pasko, Roger Stern, Mike Baron, & Sharon Wright
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Rick Stasi, Frank Springer, Curt Swan, Vince Giarrano, & Randy DuBurke
Inks – Jose Marzan, Rick Magyar, Frank McLaughlin, Murphy Anderson, Tony DeZuniga, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Jean Simek, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Tony Tollin, Nansi Hoolahan, Carl Gafford, Tom Ziuko, Daniel Vozzo, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Mike Gold, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50
Now, that’s one heckuva cover, innit? Action Comics Weekly has been something of a mixed bag when it comes to the cover art… but this is a goodie. Almost… too good, considering that the (returning) Black Canary feature inside doesn’t manage to live up to it. Then again, not just any artist is going to have any hopes of living up to Alan Davis.
Let’s look at last week’s… sorta-soul-crushing poll!
As mentioned the other day, I actually pulled the trigger and voted for the Man of Steel! It was a perfect storm of being an overall weak issue… and a sorta strong Superman strip! Sometimes the weeks are a real drag… and, unfortunately, I don’t think this is the last time I’ll be saying that!
Speaking of which… here’s this week’s poll!
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/NUQ8WCIX
We open with Hal and Priest flying through Space Sector somethin’ or other. Ya see, in this previously-unexplored area, Hal hasn’t quite been able to make full use of his Power Ring. Priest is running him through some “training sessions” so he can re-learn how to use it. He’s still a bit unsure as to why Priest destroyed his original Power Battery in order to summon him… but, we’ll get to that soon enough.
Hal also learns that this Sector’s Green Lantern had been stripped of his Powers and Ring after the Central Power Battery on Oa went kaput… which makes him wonder just how long he himself has been away from his own Battery. He thinks that it must’ve been at least 24 hours by this point… so, it would stand to reason that he’d have needed a recharge by now. Priest tells him he doesn’t need a Power Battery… which for whatever reason, sends Hal into a “You’re not my real Dad” sort of tizzy. Priest then hands him a brand-new Power Battery… but, here’s the thing… it’s missing the “Power Essence”. Hal’s going to have to track that down himself.
And so, we rejoin Hal several hours later in Space Sector-82… where he was told the “Essence Core” will be. There’s a sort of satellite just floating out there… which Hal investigates. He manages to find a glowing green orb plugged into it, and figures that it might just be the “Core” he needs. Just then, however, a yellow (of course it’s yellow) spacecraft approaches!
From the craft emerge a pair of burly, nondescript aliens. Naturally, they attack without warning. Hal dispatches them without much trouble… however, it’s at this point that his Power Ring’s charge appears to expire. Suddenly, his life-support fades… he grabs at his throat, and rushes over to the Power Essence to recharge.
He arrives just in the nick of time to extract the Core, and insert it into his battery. He gets through about three-quarters of The Oath before everything fades to black?!
We jump ahead a brief time, and Hal reunites with Priest. Our man is furious that he’d been put in such a position. Priest tries to instill in him that the Ring and the Battery aren’t necessary… that the power is inside Hal. G.L. calls B.S., however… Priest proves his point by revealing that the Battery Hal’s carrying isn’t real. He then produces Hal’s original Battery… and reassembles it, before walking away.
Now this is an interesting concept… and after all we’ve learned about Hal in the interim, a forward-thinking concept as well. That said, I really don’t like what Priest (well, both Priests) is going for here.
The idea that Hal’s Ring and Battery are simply “crutches”, and that some sort of power resides inside him… I mean, it’s intriguing… but, it takes away some of what makes Green Lantern special. At least it does for me. To suggest that Hal Jordan is just intrinsically “powerful” makes him feel no different than the multitude of other heroes in DC’s pantheon. Granted, he’d have to live to be a thousand before he would be able to realize how powerful he is, but all the same… I just don’t like it. Don’t like it here… and didn’t like it when Hal became sort of the living embodiment of the Emerald Energy during the cusp of The New-52!/Rebirth era.
That all having been said… taking my own misgivings off the table, playing the ball where it lay, and judging this story in that context… it’s quite well done. Priest sought to test Hal’s mettle in initially destroying the Power Battery. At that point, Hal would have to make a decision… whether to follow the yellow light into the great unknown, or resign to the fact that his days as Green Lantern were over.
When Hal chose to follow, Priest knew he’d be the right person for the job of stopping the war. It was a bit of an extreme test, but it got the job done. Be warned, though… from here on in, we’re going to be getting some fairly dry stories of interplanetary diplomacy. We’ll, as always, do our best!
We open with Billy Batson arriving at… sigh… Aryan Acres. I probably don’t need to explain the “gimmick” of this campground, but the jist of the story is: Billy has taken the place of Duane McCullers, the brother of that girl who chucked the lamp through the television set last week… and the son of the fella who Captain Marvel accidentally “killed”. Anyhoo, our boy is greeted by a motley crew of Neo-Nazis and some Neo-Nazi-hopefuls. I mean, this one kid is wearing an “Adolf Hitler European Tour” t-shirt. Ay yai yai.
The Neos immediately slip into their archetypal roles… we’ve got an overbearing “camp counselor”, a just-following-orders “youth leader”, a bully, and a kid who we can immediately tell has a good heart… and is only there because he has to be. The good-hearted kid, who we’ll call Sam… because that’s his name, escorts Billy to their cabin. Along the way, they pass the “Main Building”… and find out that it’s completely off-limits to campers.
Arriving at their cabin, Billy takes in the sights of some pretty over-the-top propaganda posters they’ve got hanging up. Sam goes on and on talking about all the fun they’ll have… but our boy is lost in thought, reflecting on the actual purpose of his “vacation”.
We get a page of training montage, where Billy learns to fire a gun (at pictures of prominent Jewish and Black leaders, naturally), he sits in on sermons about the coming “White Revolt”. He also wrestles, and learns how to stab a dummy? Okay. Anyhoo, we jump all the way to the final night of camp, and Billy-as-Duane checks in with his bunk-mate, Sam… who is really struggling with some second-thoughts. Sam tells him he’s not buying all of the racist ideology being spouted… and he’s got a sneaking suspicion that “Duane” feels the same way. Billy stammers for a moment, nearly blowing his cover, before affirming that… he’s all-in on the teachings of Aryan Acres.
We learn that something big is gonna be going down in San Francisco in the next few days… to which “Duane” wonders aloud how they’re going to get around the “Captain Marvel Problem”. Sam reveals that he’d heard through the grapevine that the Sons of Valhalla have thought of that… and are currently working on something to that effect in the main building. That night, Billy sneaks out of his cabin and climbs atop the main building… which, conveniently has a pretty big skylight. Boy, I hope he doesn’t accidentally fall through!
He (and we) looks on as Steve Rogers is injected with a Super-Soldier Ser… err, well… some blonde dude is injected with something. Suddenly, this 98 lb. weakling explodes into a mass of muscle! An aura around him reads “Hero of the Reich”… okay, okay… no it doesn’t.
Just then… Billy, sigh, falls through the skylight… and right into the arms of the brand-new… sigh… “Captain Nazi”.
Here’s the thing about this story. It’s over-the-top to the point where I can’t take it seriously… but it’s not so over-the-top that I can start to find it funny. Know what I mean?
I feel like this is all supposed to be taken “straight”… as though there’d actually be a campground called “Aryan Acres” with anti-Semitic and anti-Black sentiment on their banner. Maybe I’m just naive… but this seems a little too outrageous. You’d think that maybe this place might be raided by the authorities, no? Especially considering one of the “Sons of Valhalla” had a widely-publicized (and fatal) run-in with Captain Marvel.
The assortment of characters we meet here are your standard fare. Slipping immediately into archetypes, we’ll never have to question their motivations… they just are “what they are”… with nil in the way of subtlety. I mean, from the moment we meet Sam, we can tell he’s going to wind up being one of two things… an ally, or a victim.
The Captain Nazi reveal… well, it works… the original Captain Nazi was a Captain Marvel villain, so why not? If we look at the DC Wikia for this fella, it looks like this take on him was a one-and-done for this Showcase story… which is (for some reason) relegated as having taken place on Earth-85. Ya see, Earth-85 is numbered as such because that’s the year Crisis on Infinite Earths happened… and it’s kind of a repository for all of those “problematic” post-Crisis debuts that DC eventually decided didn’t really fit. So, like a lot of Hawkman stuff… also, the Milligan/Bachalo Shade the Changing Man… that Catwoman story we covered a few months back, and, the Roy/Dann Thomas Shazam!. Here’s a snip of their list:
So, yeah… this was “something”. Still not digging it all that much. I feel it’s walking the line between “straight” and “satire” just a bit too well, if that makes any sense. As it won’t commit to being either, it sorta fails at both. Ya follow?
I’ll close this segment out with that Billy Batson Training Montage:
We pick up where we left off at the Tidewater Motel, where it looks as though Tony and Shelley are about to… get it on. Before things get too hot ‘n heavy, Tony backs off… citing that, among other things, he basically kidnapped her. There’s also the it about her being half his age, the uncomfortable situation, and… well… something else, but we’ll get there. He goes to leave the room, but Shelley pleads with him to at least be there with her. He complies.
As they’re both about to drift off, Tony is stirred when he thought Shelley was saying something. Ya see, she moves her lips when she prays… and if you recall, pre-Mockingbird, Tony was deaf. Reading lips became second-nature to him. He asks if Shelley’d be up for a late-night walk.
We join the pair down at the beach, where Tony begins to share his Secret Origin. Ya see, he was a reporter for Peephole Magazine… a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot! Ya know, I always thought Peephole was kind of like the Enquirer… and I can’t see any of those writers winning one of the biggest prizes in the field. Then again, now that I say it out loud, maybe “Peephole” is a take on People Magazine? Still though, are People Magazine contributors stacking Pulitzers on their shelves? Anyhoo… he was a hard-hitting, “tough as nails” sort (who we learn Shelley had somehow heard of), and he was looking into a crooked Coal Mining Union leader. Wait… a crooked Union leader? Say it ain’t so!
So, Tony made an appointment to head into the Mine to take a look. He took his photographer, Tom Pearson in with him. Once inside, they stumbled upon a stack of dynamite! Before he knew it, Tony was tackled out of the way of the blast by Tom!
Tom perished in the explosion… Tony was dug out a day later, but when he came to, he did so in “a world gone mute” (his words). This really hampered his reporting career, as he could no longer count on things like inflection to deduce whether or not someone might be lying to him.
He wraps up his story, and suggests that he and Shelley get some sleep… tomorrow they drive to Los Angeles so he can tie off some loose ends. Then, even though Shelley isn’t exactly clawing at him, he tells her more reasons why they can’t be together. He compares what she’s currently feeling to fear… not love. Well, “fear” might arouse some people, but evidently not Tony.
We close out the following morning in the Forest Glades Cemetery in L.A. Tony is there visiting the grave of his… lover. Ya see, it’s here that we learn that he and Tom were more than just coworkers.
Now, this is more like it. This is exactly the kind of story the Secret Six feature has been needing for… well, a very long time. Early on during the run, the story kind of “settled” on Vic for a bit. We learned about where he’d come from… and how he became the way that he was. Up until now, that was some of the strongest stuff this feature had delivered.
I feel like, and I might be wrong, but… when you drop a half-dozen brand-new characters into an already obscure property, it might behoove you to at least attempt to flesh them all out. Instead, what we’ve gotten is a few scattered adventures where I had to keep a “cheat sheet” to tell who was who. It reminded me of sketching out maps on graph paper while trying to traverse a dungeon in Phantasy Star.
Here though, Tony… a character I wasn’t even sure was a member of the team a few weeks back, gets a very thoughtful and thorough-ish backstory. The big reveal… Tony’s gay. Not so big a deal in “current year”, but you gotta imagine this fact probably made or (unfortunately) broke the characters for some readers. A fairly brave move… and one I wonder how the readership received. The letters pages that follow might be worth diving into.
My only problem with this chapter… and it’s no fault of the story, is all of this work and effort to develop the new Sixers isn’t really going anywhere. With thirty-plus years of hindsight, this entire endeavor feels like kind of a waste. Again, no fault of the story… maybe just now I’m starting to see the kind of potential that will go to waste.
Overall… as a chapter, it’s really good! A nice change of pace for the Seriously Stagnant Secret Six.
The Consortium is hot on the trail of our Bob Galt… and at the very same time, Clark cashes in on his favor. Bob promised to take Clark to the Fellowship’s… uh, Retreat? Cult Digs?
The pair head to the airport… and Clark is quick to realize that the Consortium has “eyes” just about everywhere. He and Bob slip through an area for authorized folks only, narrowly evading… some dude… before hopping a flight on a private delivery plane.
We wrap up with another dude calling in what he’d just seen to the Consortium.
Okay, this might not have been as great as last week… but, if we look at it as a “connective tissue” chapter, it’s not a bad one. We’ve got to get from Metropolis to California somehow… and, at least this way, we were able to see just how omnipresent the Consortium members are. They’re just everywhere… really amping-up the danger they represent.
So, this wasn’t half-bad… there’s just not much to talk about.
Picking up where we left off last week, Deadman-as-whatshisface and Madame Waxahachie have arrived at the Peckshaw Ancestral Estate for to look for the final resting place of those zombie-queen twins. Their grave-site is evidently a very closely-kept secret. They decide to enter and look around… while pretending to be zombies themselves in order to avoid detection. I wonder how that’s going to work out? Before long, they find themselves in a grand ballroom… where ghostly pairs are cutting a rug. Ya see, it’s the annual Peckshaw Harvest Ball!
They are soon confronted by the ghost of Tyson Peckshaw… the father of those dastardly twins! She introduces herself as Mabel Waxahachie, but Ty knows that mustn’t be true… far as he knows, Mabel’s only a “little girl of twelve”. He orders the interlopers be removed forcibly from the proceedings… which Deadman and the Madame kind of laugh off. After all, what can a ghost ever do to them? Well, it looks like he somehow can toss ’em on out on their ears!
Deadman decides he ain’t gonna take this laying down, and so, he abandons his groundskeeper-bod and rushes back through the ballroom door… only to find: nothing! It’s as though there wasn’t a soiree going on like two-seconds ago! The Twins look on, and laugh at his dumbfoundedness.
The Madame ain’t much keen on waiting, and so she bursts into the room not a moment later. The twins mock her for being both old and uppity. She fires back by calling their father a drunk and a whoremonger. Man, schoolyard taunts in the south were pretty weird!
Just then, Papa Tyson shows up to see what’s going on. Mabel clues him in on all of the girls’ misdeeds over the past little while. Oh yeah, she also informs him that he is, in fact, dead. He doesn’t take the news all that well… shouting at the twins, and demanding they cut the crap.
And so, they send Pops back to the afterlife… or wherever. Thing is, it’s too late to truly stop everything they’d put into motion. Ya see, the army of the dead… they’re still heading this-a-way!
A rather fun chapter! I wasn’t expecting this one to veer into comedy… but, I’m pretty glad it did! I feel like up to this point, it was a little too “straight”.
I like that the twins are being depicted more as “mischievous” than evil. I mean, they are kids, after all… stands to reason that they wouldn’t be able to grasp the seriousness of the situation they’ve put into motion.
Madame Waxahachie is really growing on me… she’s a lot of fun. I dig that there (apparently) was a little history between she and the Peckshaws. Really looking forward to seeing how this plays out!
Our story opens with a bunch of letters cut out ransom-style and an envelope simply addressed to “Seattle”. Fair enough. There is a framed-photograph of someone holding a child… I can’t tell who they might be, or why they might be important. The adult in the photo has the same hairstyle as Rita Librado… but, I wouldn’t swear that it’s her. Speaking of Ms. Librado, we shift scenes to Sherwood Florist where she’s just arrived to try and get on payroll. She is greeted by a man named Bob, to whom she presents her Employment Authorization card. He informs her that Dinah’s “out”, and also… if she wants to work here, she’ll have to deep-six her Kid N Play haircut. Tell ya what, I’m suspicious of this guy already!
We next jump to New York City, where Dinah is trying to tie down a large account for the Florist. She tries to sell whoever this guy is on what a great floral designer “Bob” is. Then, as we’ve come to expect from a Black Canary strip… we get some name-salad dropped in our laps. This guy’s named Bart… there’s a guy named Ken Glazier who might be important later, and there’s also a Walt? Though, I’m not sure if the Walt-scene is in anyway attached to the Bart-scene? What I’m trying to say is, the story-telling still ain’t there yet. Somehow this scene starts in New York with one guy, and ends… maybe… back in Seattle, with another? I dunno… I wouldn’t bet a dime on either.
The next stop for us is most definitely Seattle. In fact, we’re right in front of the Seattle Post Office… must get real busy around the holidays. Anyhoo, there’s a woman stood out front, who is approached by a fella driving a car with Oregon plates. He asks for directions to the University… and she’s more than happy to help him out. Dude seems pleased that she didn’t recognize him.
Another scene change, and we’re back with Dinah… now in her Black Canary gear. She’s at an old farm-house, where she trains to keep “Fighting Trim”.
Believe it or not, we’re shifting scenes again. This time to an apartment building, where a woman… who may or may not be the same one who gave Johnny Oregon directions to Uni, is about to shoot up some heroin?
We close out with Black Canary training at the farm… when, suddenly, she falls through the roof of the place!
If you’ve been following along for our Action Comics Daily endeavor, it’ll come as no surprise that I was not looking forward to the return of this feature. Last time out, it truly felt like the half-hearted work of an inexperienced writer, who was more interested in promoting agendas than telling a decent (and coherent) story.
This time out…? Well, I’m not gonna lie and tell ya this is worlds better… nor that I’m optimistic about where this is heading, but… it’s… it’s okay. During our synopsis, I might’ve had some fun drawing attention to “name salads”, and abrupt scene changes… but, I will give the creative team this: At least we’re being introduced to a lot of names and locales in the opening chapter, rather than during the second half of the arc! Last time, we were learning new names up to, and I believe including, the penultimate chapter. That was sloppy.
This… while not much more coherent, we get the idea that the writer is “setting the table” or “world building” or whatever writery turn of phrase you wanna use to describe it. These names and locales are being dropped very early, which gives us all time to learn how and why they might be important. I’ll save some of my own commentary on the cast for subsequent chapters, as right now… all I can think is that, much like Twin Peaks, it’s all Bob’s fault!
The art… is weird. Not bad weird, either. Get definite Kelley Jones-lite vibes here… it’s very stylized… which doesn’t make it much more “readable” (though that might not be the artist’s fault entirely), but it is much more fun to “look at”, if that makes any sense at all?
Overall… a… dare I say, pleasant surprise? Still not something I’d recommend you rush out and nab, but it’s quite a step up from what came before.