Action Comics Weekly #625 (September 20, 1988)
Green Lantern: “The Law”
Shazam!: “My Week in Valhalla, Chapter Three”
Secret Six: “For Whom the Toll Builds”
Superman: “Out of the Frying Pan…”
Deadman: “Tickle, Tickle”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 2”
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, Kelley Jones, & 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, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford, Daniel Vozzo, & Gene D’Angelo
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Mike Gold, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50
Not much for a pre-ramble this week. For the most part, we’re in the midst of some… I dunno, Action Comics Weekly doldrums? There’ve just been some really uninspiring stories these past few weeks, everything feels like it’s running long, and it’s making it really difficult to foment any sort of excitement about the project. Hopefully some of the “new blood” we’ll be injecting over the next several weeks will help to zhuzh things up.
This week’s cover comes to us from Eduardo Barreto, and… it’s fine. Like I’d mentioned earlier this week, it’s a might unexceptional for an issue bearing a multiple of “25” as it’s number… but, whattayagonnado? I do notice that, for whatever reason, Batman has been included despite having nothing to do with anything… but, again, whattayagonnado? That’d be like asking DC to go a week without shoehorning the Joker onto a cover of a book that has nothing to do with him nowadays!
Let’s take a look at last week’s poll:
Very evenly matched! I gotta (mostly) agree with this outcome! Nothing really stands out anymore… though, I must say I’m a bit surprised that Black Canary received zero votes! I guess I assumed the novelty of having a returning feature might have helped her out! I voted for Secret Six… I thought “Tony’s Story” was not only the best story of the week, but also perhaps the strongest chapter of Secret Six to date! That may or may not be saying too much, but it’s a thing!
Onto this week’s Poll!
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/6UQ8WFLX
Come on back tomorrow/next week, where we’ll be saying goodbye to a pair of our features… forever!
We open with a hooded figure sitting in an arena full of larger blue-skinned, and smaller yellow-skinned aliens. The leaders of these two groups (Hedron and Janel, respectively) are making an attempt at ironing out some differences they have over some long-standing disputes. This doesn’t appear to be going all that well.
As the tension continues to mount, our hooded figure recites a familiar refrain… and leaps into action as the Green Lantern. He is immediately sighted and attacked by just about every security robot… alien… critter present. He finds himself encased in a sort of mesh net. This distraction has also managed to raise the hankles of the alien leadership… causing a full-blown riot to break out. I gotta assume that’s not what Hal intended here. Least I hope not.
Hal busts out of the net, and figures it’s now time to stop screwing around. And so, he (literally) blows the roof off the arena, and threatens the alien leaders that they’d better coexist amicably from this point on… or else!
They agree… and so, Hal leaves with his chest puffed out like he just made a real difference in the world. Naturally, all he’s really done is give Hedron and Janel an enemy in common. Together, they vow to kill Green Lantern.
Not a whole heckuva lot to talk about here… this is one of those days where I feel as though I’m “shortchanging” you all.
Hal trying to keep the peace for Priest is… well, it’s kind of dull. There just isn’t much to it. We’ve seen several (probably too many) Green Lantern stories over the years (involving a few different GLs), where the hero is sent into a war zone to bring about order. There’s usually an attempt at political intrigue… or at least some twisty-turny moral ambiguity wherein the hero isn’t entirely sure which faction to align with.
Here, though? It’s a pair of groups meeting to reignite some long-standing disputes… and Hal tells ’em to knock it off. That’s it! He also destroys the roof of an arena, which could’ve ended in an ugly way. He doesn’t come across as a “voice of reason” here, just a jerk. What’s worse… he’s a stupid jerk, as he happily leaves assuming that these two entire alien races would “make nice” because a man in the green outfit told them to. C’mon Hal, you’re smarter than that.
The “twist” ending, with Hedron and Janel playing the ol’ “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” routine is leading to a story that, if I’m remembering right, we’re not even going to see in the pages of Action Comics Weekly. I’m almost 100% sure this leads into Green Lantern Special #2, several months down the line!
Oh well, at least this leg of the journey is coming to a close… I think, at this point, we’re just one overlong Green Lantern/Captain Atom story away from finally setting eyes on… Malvolio!
Picking up where we left off last week, Billy has fallen through a rooftop window right into the arms of the newly-minted Captain Nazi. After asserting that he has no “Jewish blood” in him, the big bad lets him down. The Sons of Valhalla leaders are near-giddy that their experiment was a success, they don’t even really mind the interloper. In fact, Leader Davis appears to appreciate the boy’s moxie. He allows Billy-as-Duane to sit in and watch as they run Captain Nazi through his paces.
His fists are like hammers, and he has the ability to fly. Davis takes it a step further when he brandishes a pistol and fires a shot right at the Captain. C.N. manages to catch the bullet without even thinking… he then uses his “Eyes of Surtur” heat-vision to melt the piece.
Davis then turns his attention to Billy. He feels he owes him an explanation of sorts. If you remember the armored car standoff from Chapter One, well it turns out Leader Davis kinda knew how that would all play out. He sorta sent Duane’s (the kid who Billy is impersonating) father out as a sacrificial lamb. He knew Captain Marvel was living in San Francisco, and also knew this standoff would cause him to show up. When he did, the Sons of Valhalla recorded his “Alpha Wave Pattern” (whatever the hell that is), so now they’ll always know anytime the Big Red Cheese is within 100 miles of them. Convoluted? Nahhh…
We ain’t done yet, though! It’s also here that we learn what Leader Davis has planned for Camp Valhalla’s “Graduation Exercise”. The boys will bus into San Francisco, and… get this… dump cyanide into the water supply.
We jump to the next day, where all of the boys are getting loaded on the bus. All of the campers are pretty gung-ho about the exercise… except for Billy/Duane and his bunkmate, Sam. Once on the open road, however, the driver commands that “Duane McCullers” be bound and (naturally) gagged. Ya see, Billy Batson’s a pretty famous TV reporter… so, it stands to reason he might just be recognized. Whoops. Well, actually… no, nobody actually recognized him. I mean, if a local station had a “kid reporter”, I think most people in and around that city might be able to point him out of a line-up. Turns out, the real Duane shows up and spills the beans.
The bus driver pulls into a gas station, smacks the attendant with the butt-end of his rifle, then sets the place on fire… leaving poor bound and (most importantly) gagged Billy among the flames!
Now, this just ain’t very good, is it?
Before getting into the story proper, I feel like the bit on the bus drew a bit too much attention to Billy Batson-as-celebrity. It’s one of those things that, really, should be obvious. I mean, how many major market television news outlets have a well-known “kid reporter”? Stands to reason if one did, people might be able to recognize him… even if it’s only to locals… which this whole gaggle of geeks happens to be!
I’m all for “suspending disbelief”… I mean, this is comic books. But, if we’re going to accept that Billy Batson can work “undercover”, we need not draw attention to the fact that he’s a pretty famous kid! This is like pointing out that Superman hangs around with Lois Lane a bit much… or Batman endangers the lives of children… it’s stuff we (the readers) can know and point out, but when the folks inside the story do, it kinda opens a novelty can of spring-loaded worms. Least it does to me!
With that out of the way… the story. Now, I’m on record as being mostly ignorant regarding all things Captain Marvel. He’s a character I really want to dig… but, I’ve never actually “put in the work”. I can own that… I’m not going to pretend I have this deep fandom when I actually don’t (that’s a rarity on the internet, ain’t it?!). That being said… I have this nagging feeling that this just isn’t “right”. Ya know? This doesn’t feel like “Captain Marvel” to me.
I couldn’t tell ya what Captain Marvel should actually feel like… for one, I’m not digging the current Geoff Johns “Burger King Kid’s Club” Shazam! stuff… but, this feels even a step behind that. Really not sure how an ongoing of this sort of Cap would have worked.
Overall… it looked pretty okay, but at the end of the day, this was a three-chapter build-up to a likely underwhelming Captain on Captain fight scene.
Well, Hell… we open with that Hunter S. Thompson-looking guy, and Director Whatshisface. They’re strolling through a top-secret facility in Washington, D.C. discussing recent events. They conclude (for like the eleventieth-time) that the Secret Six must be back in operation. I mean, do these guys have short-term memory-loss?! It feels like every time we see them, they make the same “discovery”! C’mon, already! Anyhoo, as these goofs have the same conversation they’ve had for the past several weeks, we shift scenes to Tony. He’s calling in to H.Q. looking for Mitch… which tells us, he’s looking for a Hollywood-level disguise. Ol’ man Gus informs him that Mitch is in Los Angeles… which is pretty convenient, seeing as though Tony is too!
We pop back to D.C., to see that the baddies are disassembling both Tony and LaDonna’s Signal-Watches to see what makes them tick (har!)… then, back to the Sixers, who are in the middle of interrogating Steve from Jefferson University. As this is happening, Gus is able to get a bead on those stolen Signal-Watches… which, while initially exciting… also means that it’s pretty likely that the “Agency” has the ability to track their’s as well!
Back on the VTOL, Steve tells more of his story… including the involvement of original Sixer, August Durant on the creation of the V74 virus. Ya see, he was infected with a strain of whatever disease V74 causes, and so, the students at the University were collecting tissue samples from him with the understanding that their work would go toward the creation of a vaccine. Turns out… they were all unwittingly creating a sort of weaponizable (that’s not a word) super-virus!
Just then, the landed VTOL is surrounded by Agency Choppers… and a firefight is about to begin. First, however, Luke boards Steve into a van and drives off into the woods. The Sixers take to the skies… and ready for battle.
Then… well, you all wanted to know why Mitch was in L.A., right? No? Well, we’re going there anyway. Turns out he just sold off his share of a special effects company. He’s at his farewell party.
He excuses himself to an office, where he is joined by… Tony! He needs a disguise (duh), and so, he’s swept into the lab for make-up.
We close out back in those woods, where Luke has crashed the van. Steve lay motionless on the ground, and isn’t lookin’ great. They are soon surrounded by Agency goons… and Luke surrenders to the butt-end of a rifle. Wow, that’s two days in a row we’re ending with a butt-shot!
While certainly a step back from last week’s shockingly strong chapter, this wasn’t quite “back to business as usual” for the Secret Six. I gotta say, I’m really enjoying the characters here… that is, the Sixers. I really dig the way they’re being handled… and all of their interactions feel natural.
I still couldn’t care less about the “Agency” though. Maybe I’m just burnt out on this sort of thing… I mean, this is a well comics go to quite often… then and now. It’s tiring. Look at it this way… tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the Superman strip… which also features an “agency”. It’s just too much.
I despise starting sentences with any variation of “Is it just me…”, but, is it just me… or have the Agency come to the conclusion that Mockingbird and the Secret Six are back in like six out of the last seven chapters?! This isn’t new information, fellas… just get on with it already!!! Yer killin’ me ova hea’!
As for the reveal that the students at Jefferson University were unwitting pawns in the attempted creation of a bio-weapon? That’s some good stuff. I wasn’t sure how they were going to exonerate Steve, but I was sure they were going to! This is as good a way as any… and might lead somewhere interesting.
Interesting enough to fill another five chapters? Well, that remains to be seen… but, if I were to make a guess? No. It’s probably not. We’re getting those five chapters regardless… so, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed! I can only hope that Fenedy and Hunter Thompson don’t “discover” that the Secret Six are back… five more times.
If this book was actually called Action Comics Daily, I feel like they could get away with such a nothin’ happenin’ sort of installment. The fact that this is something folks had to wait a week to get… kinda stinks.
Now, I know that this is in the spirit of the “Sunday Strip”… and any comparisons I make to the other features in the anthology is akin to comparing apples to elephants. I get that. I really do. I might be mistaken, probably am, but wasn’t the Superman newspaper strip a “daily”? Like, were the Sunday strips “anchoring” an ongoing daily strip? I dunno. I could be completely wrong.
What I’m trying to say is… we’ve got some great creators here, and great characters… but, I feel like we need “more”. Like, there had to be a better way to tell this story.
Well, the good news (for me, at least) is… Clark is where he needs to be in order to move the story forward. Fingers crossed that next week gets this story back to flowin’!
We open with the army of undead Confederates approaching Peckshaw Estate… at the behest of the Zombie Queens of New Orleans! Inside, Deadman and Madame Waxahachie stand by… and appear to be rather unimpressed with the entire proceeding. One of the horde is Delia and Stella’s father… the specter of whom we met last week. He is put in charge of the “army”, and demands to swap hats with the current zombie General… mayyyybe, it’s Robert E. Lee? I dunno… I think “Confederate General”, and he’s the only name that comes to mind. Couldn’t pick him out of a lineup if I had to!
Whatever the case, this exchange does not go well for Papa Peckshaw.
Deadman then decides it’s time to stop lollygagging… and so, he vacates Groundskeeper Luke’s body, and… get this… scares the spirit of Stella Peckshaw out of the body of whatever Brogden Twin she’s currently occupying.
He then grabs her by her ethereal wrist, and holds tight. He threatens to take her to “a place in Tibet” where she won’t ever be able to escape, unless her sister vacates the other twin. And so, she does! The Brogden twins rush over to Mabel, and everything seems to be alright. Hey, maybe the cover wasn’t lying at all… maybe this week Deadman really does “wrap it all up”!
Well… no, that’s not the case at all. The Peckshaw Twins begin to… and I can’t believe this is a real thing, but… the twins… tickle Deadman. Yeah, like “coochie-coochie-coo”. After Boston loses his grip, the twins decide to take up residence inside the bodies of… Madame Waxahachie and Luke Whatshisface!
Now this? This was one weird chapter, wasn’t it? I almost can’t believe it’s a thing we just read.
Feels like we’ve been building up to this “Army of the Undead” for a few weeks now… and, their arrival doesn’t actually do a whole heckuva lot. It allows for a little back-n-forth between Papa Peckshaw and (perhaps) Robert E. Lee… but, other than that… it kinda fell flat.
Much of this chapter has to do with Deadman attempting to bargain with the ghosts of the Peckshaw twins. This was pretty weird… but I liked it. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best to go with… so, if you’re Deadman… you perform a scare-orcism, then threaten the excised spirit with eternal imprisonment. Works for me!
Where this kind of made me raise an eyebrow was… the tickling. I mean… that’s something that happened? For real? Don’t get me wrong, I kinda laughed… but, that’s just so weird, right? Really wasn’t expecting that… though, when a story is called “Tickle, Tickle”, I probably should have!
Overall, I really dug this… weirdness and all. Next week this one actually gets wrapped up (it will be our final ACW Deadman chapter… ever), so we’ll see where all the pieces fall then!
We open with Dinah crashing through that farmhouse roof… she, though the art is not at all clear, she grabs onto a beam… or tries to grab onto a beam, and somehow lands in water? Is this a farmhouse or a decorative covered-bridge? Whatever the case, we shift scenes too quickly to find out. We find a mustached man sitting in a chair, reading a ransom note. It reads (just in case the picture I’m about to include is unclear): “YOu DESTRoyed My LifE SoOn I’ll EnD Yours”. I like that the note-writer actually included an apostrophe for “I’ll”… it’s little details like that, that put him/her miles ahead of other ransom note writers.
Another panel… another scene-shift. Now we’re in a hotel bar with a Mr. Sarno. He jots down a note regarding a lunch meeting with Dinah Lance and Ken Glazier. Is that now? Is that later? Is that in the past? Is it even his note? I dunno. Anyhoo, a friendly woman sidles up next to him at the bar and starts chatting him up. The “camera” pans out, and we see that they’re being watched by a kinda severe-looking lady.
We jump ahead to… later that night. I suppose we can assume that lunch meeting with Dinah is for tomorrow then? I dunno. Whatever the case, we rejoin Mr. Sarno and the friendly lady head back to his hotel room for a nightcap. Of note, they draw particular attention to the fact that Walt Sarno is 6′ 5″ and 250 lbs. Not sure if that’ll be important later, but… “the more we know”, right?
Dinah is… still at the farmhouse, waxing poetic while… I dunno, napping in the grass? “Praise be to warm Autumn Nights.”? Really now?
We wrap up with the friendly-woman leaving Walt’s hotel room and affixing the “Do Not Disturb” sign to the door. You’ll never guess what happened to him inside…
This isn’t the greatest… but, I gotta say, we’re worlds ahead of Dinah’s last outing in the pages of Action Comics Weekly!
Let’s have ourselves a little bit of recap, since the story does not supply any such thing. Ken Glazier, whose name is on Walt’s notepad, was the fella Dinah met with (or at least heard about?) last week in New York. Walt (Sarno) was another dude whose name was dropped. There was also a “Bart”, who I wanna say we actually saw… but, he doesn’t show up this week.
We saw the “friendly-woman” last week in front of the Seattle Post Office… and, I wanna say (though I wouldn’t swear to it) that the person she gave directions to was the severe-looking woman who I called “Johnny Oregon” last week… because I thought she was a dude. Whoops! When art starts veering into the abstract, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference! Then again, for all I know… these are two different people entirely!
So, whatta we got here? The friendly-woman, who might be the same one we saw shooting up last week chats up Walt Sarno… gets invited back to his room… where she kills him. Fair enough… and, despite some of the un-clarity of the scene, it was well-told enough. We’re building a mystery here, folks… and thankfully, this time around, we’re not waiting until the penultimate chapter to come to that realization. Dinah didn’t really get much panel-time here… and that’s fine. The strip is probably much stronger for it.
Let’s touch on the art before calling it a day. It’s… it’s weird. Ya know, it’s not great… but, there is something special about it. I mean, if we’re looking at it from a storytelling perspective… it kind of fails. However, it’s still pretty nice to look at. I enjoyed the more stylized Canary here… miles of blonde hair, contoured face… DuBurke does a good job on her. If these were just pin-ups, they’d be very nice!