Action Comics Weekly #626 (September 27, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Bethel”
Shazam!: “My Week in Valhalla, Chapter 4”
Secret Six: “Capitol Offenses”
Superman: “… Into the Fire!”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 3”
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 – Romeo Tanghal, Rick Magyar, Frank McLaughlin, Murphy Anderson, Tony DeZuniga, & Pablo Marcos
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Jean Simek, Bill Oakley, & Steve Haynie
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Nansi Hoolihan, 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
Wow, what a week!
Okay, not really… this was mostly “just another” week for us at Action Comics Daily. Though, there was a little bit of excitement in that, after this week, we’re losing two of our features… forever! That’s right, we’ll never be looking at another Deadman or Shazam! feature as part of this little project. Hell, I don’t think this version of Captain Marvel will ever be seen again… period!
This leaves us with a pretty gaping hole in the line-up that’ll have to be filled… I mean, it is one-third of the book, after all! Next week we will see the entirety of that space filled by… Nightwing and Speedy! That’s not a Nightwing feature and a Speedy feature, mind you… it’s actually going to be the first two chapters of the Nightwing & Speedy feature! Talk about a wonky-looking ACD-Style “Trade Dress”! Ay yai yai…
We’ll worry about all’a that next week… for now though, we’re looking at a wonderful cover by Paul Chadwick. That’s the same fella who wrote and drew that great Superman story from Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (1989), which we discussed not all that long ago! I really dig this cover, though, as a buddy on social media pointed out, the “Green Lantern Flies Free” tagline sounds like something an airline might promote! “Book in advance, with a Saturday stay-over and kids and Green Lantern flies free!”
Let’s check in on last week’s Poll:
Not a great showing… though, I really can’t blame folks for not taking part. I get it… this little stretch of ACW has been rather dull, and your tour guide is… well, me… and I’ve been dull since the jump! Deadman won out in his penultimate chapter… and, I can’t remember if I even voted or not! If I did vote, I’m guessing it would’ve been for ol’ Boston as well!
Here’s this week’s:
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/K0X5FQLT
We open with Hal heading home. His work as a peace-summit-facilitator is done, and as far as he knows, was a success. As he passes into his home Sector, he notices a weird vessel blasting out of a black hole and toward the Earth’s Moon. Upon getting a closer look, our man realizes that this vessel is made of… *looks left* *looks right* wood?!
Hal pops on inside, and discovers that this ship is actually a shrine of sorts… and it’s filled with a thick amniotic-type fluid. He discovers a passenger, but cannot get a good look at them. He overhears that the shrine is called “Bethel”, and it is in dire need of repair.
Well, this bugger’s made of *looks left* *looks right*… wood, and so, Hal knows exactly where to set it down so it might get on with repairing itself. Before we know it, we’re in Big Trees, California. Our hero pats himself on the back for being one heckuva guy, and leaves “Bethel” to its business.
Once Green Lantern’s out of the picture, however, Bethel’s passenger emerges from the wooden womb… and it looks as though he’s… Hal Jordan?! The being hears something… eight miles away, and so it heads in that direction.
This brings us to a diner where it looks like a lot of loggers hang out. On the television is a Randy Violence flick. Uh, “Randy Violence” is the name of the movie’s star… think Sylvester Stallone. The film is called Much Blood Part II… which is a little on the nose, but whattayagonnado? The Bethal-Being enters and is awestruck by the televised mayhem.
The Bethel-Being doesn’t quite understand the difference between the movie and real-life on this planet, and so, when he is caught off-guard by a logging rig driver, he spins around and blasts him to atoms with his heat-vision!
Then… he blows up the diner!
We wrap up with the Bethel-Being physically dragging an entire flatbed loaded down with lumber back with him. In the scariest bit yet… our “next” caption warns that: Captain Atom is on his way…
This is one of them “good news/bad news” situations. While I’m glad that the Priest and the intergalactic war storyline is behind us… this arc will prove to be just as “ehh”… and will drag on even longer!
This is probably the best chapter of the arc… because, as our “next” blurb kindly tells us, next week Captain Atom shows up. Now, I like Captain Atom… especially this early-ish post-Crisis take, but in this arc? He’s pretty annoying. He and Hal will argue and try and “one up” one another for (what feels like) the next seventeen chapters.
Let’s talk about this chapter though… the Wooden “Bethel” vessel in particular. During my second read through of this run, I immediately took the wooden makeup of the shrine to be a sort of reference to… Malvolio! For folks who don’t know, Malvolio will be a “big bad” we’re going to meet after this arc. He is a Green Lantern… well, sorta… I don’t wanna tip my hand too much yet. His Lantern costume, however, doesn’t look much like the Corps… it looks more like Alan Scott’s Golden Age costume.
If you know your Lantern lore, you know that Alan Scott never had a weakness to yellow… but a weakness to *looks left* *looks right*… wood. In reading subsequent interviews with Christopher Priest, I’ve come to realize that this was probably nothing more than a coincidence… or, it was something that was changed at the eleventh hour and conveniently forgotten about. Whatever the case, during my second read-through, I was pretty psyched to “connect-the-dots”… even though, there were no actual dots to connect. Oh well, can’t win ’em all! As we get to know Malvolio, you can be the judge!
The “Randy Violence” thing is pretty fun… and we’ll see more of the Bethel-Being-as-Rambo in the coming weeks. He might actually be the best part of this arc!
Overall, while I’m not really looking forward to Captain Atom showing up… this story, in as far as action is concerned, really doesn’t linger. The banter between the heroes will be dull-bordering-on-annoying… but, everything else should be okay!
We open with the new Captain Nazi pitching a fit that he’s going to be left out of the big San Francisco Cyanide Spill! Ya see, he’s quite keen to… uh, “lock kiesters” with Captain Marvel. I’m… I’m not quite sure what it means to “lock kiesters”, and don’t think I want to. Anyhoo, he’s handed a belt that is equipped with a sort of Captain Marvel Locating Device… but that ain’t good enough. He informs the rest of the geeks that he’s the one giving orders now. I guess not even the bad guys can trust a guy called “Captain Nazi”.
We jump ahead to the flaming gas station where Billy Batson… and an innocent pump attendant have been left to die. Captain Nazi emerges from the smoke, recognizes Billy as a Valhalla Camper, and heads over to save him. No sooner is Billy un-gagged than he shouts that magic word!
Captains Marvel and Nazi spend the next page and a half fighting… wrapping up with Marv’ dropping a mountaintop onto Naz’.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Billy’s bunkmate Sam is having second thoughts about… ya know, poisoning an entire city. The other campers start to dogpile him, and go to pour the cyanide into the drink anyway…
… when Captain Marvel arrives! He catches the goop before it splashes down… then lunges toward the campers to ensure no more can be poured.
He then… well, I’m not quite sure to be honest. I think he might chase the boys down… but, after he catches them he doesn’t actually do anything with them? He literally tells them that he’s “gotta fly”, and he just leaves them. We close out with the revelation that Captain Nazi survived having a mountain dropped on him… and the promise of a monthly Shazam! series, which… if based on this outing, thankfully didn’t follow.
This… never really came around, did it?
I’m pretty sure I expressed a bit of surprise after reading the first chapter of this… I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the decision to open with such a sub-par outing… especially considering this has Roy Thomas’ name on it! Turns out the reason for the sub-par first chapter was because… well, this is just a sub-par story all around. A friend on social media mentioned that this doesn’t read much like a Roy Thomas story, and I definitely gotta agree!
Let’s look at this as a chapter… we’ve had this threat of Captain Nazi built up over the past two weeks… and, the subsequent “kiester locking” lasts all of… four panels? Kind of a letdown… though, if they were really considering launching this into an ongoing, I suppose the had to save something for that.
The cyanide threat… was more much ado about nothing. I mean, Captain Marvel didn’t even drag the kids off to the police or anything. For all he (and we) knows, they shook off the shock of being confronted by Captain Marvel… and remembered that they had a few more canisters of the stuff in the back of the bus… and went right back to poisoning the Frisco-ites.
I guess my main complaint is that this just feels “undone” and certainly lacks every bit of the polish we’ve come to expect from a story bearing Roy Thomas’ name in its credits. Part of me wonders how the promised ongoing series would have went… but, I’m mostly just glad it didn’t. This story (and version of Cap) has been retroactively relegated to Earth-85, and I think we’re all better off for it.
We open with Sixers, Vic, LaDonna, and Maria attempting to evade a helicopter in the skies above Arlington, Virginia. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Tony and Mitch play dress-up with some Imagik prosthetics. They kinda playfully bicker back and forth, which feels like it comes out of nowhere. Back in VA, Vic leans out of the VTOL and blasts the chopper to bits… it falls, and crashes into what’s gotta be an Olympic-sized swimming pool in some random backyard.
While those Sixers set down and try and figure out their next move, we shift scenes to that Hunter S. Thompson-looking guy. He’s chatting up another Agency member about how Fenedy has called a morning meeting. Then… he deduces that there might just be a new Secret Six! What’s this… nine chapters in a row where he has this revelation? Dude, get over it… you were right the first time! Take the win and move on!
Next, we check in with Luke… who had been taken captive at the end of last chapter. Some Agency goons approach his prone body, with a sizable hypodermic in tow. Luke manages to get the upper hand and fight off the pair of geeks.
Back at the VTOL, Tony (disguised apparently as the wizard Shazam) arrives to fill in his teammates on everything he’d learned during his West Coast excursion. He believes it was this “Agency” that downed the original Six, and not Mockingbird. We get some awkward (which is to say, wrong) word-balloon placement here, which kinda muddies things, but I feel like we’re smart enough to know who really said what.
More than that, Mockingbird also knows who said what… ya see, he’s got the entire operation “bugged”. He’s tickled pink that his new Sixers are blaming Fenedy and the gang for all of their troubles.
But not everything is going quite as well for ol’ Mista Byrd. Ya see, his current captive is taking his sweet time “coming around”. That captive is, of course… wait for it… Rafael! Wow, we haven’t seen that guy in ages! He’s looking far less Bert Convy-like here… and more like Namor the Sub-Mariner when the Fantastic Four first found him. We join him as he’s sitting on a floor playing with a train set. Seems as though he thinks he’s a little boy… or something.
Well, no, not really. As one of Mockingbird’s goons enter with his evening meal, Rafe overpowers him… with a toy train, then makes a run for it. He is found, almost immediately, by Mockingbird who mocks him for being unable to escape… after all, his father was an escape artist!
It feels like we might finally be getting somewhere with this one! Though, we gotta keep in mind that there are still four chapters left to go…
Let’s break this one down. Four of the Six have been reunited… and have shared intel. That intel may not be the most accurate, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. We finally get to see Mockingbird “in the flesh”, as in, not just as a talking head on a monitor. While it’s pretty hilarious that he wears his full cloak even when cloistered away in his headquarters, it was still cool to “see” him.
I remember way back in the long ago, when I was reading ElfQuest. There had been ongoing in-story rumblings about the half-Elf/half-Troll character, “Two-Edge”. I never thought we’d get to see him… then, we did! The Mockingbird appearance was… well, a lot less cool than that… but, still… forward momentum!
Rafe being “brainwashed” into being a child? Okay, it’s interesting… but, doesn’t get enough “build”. It also… kinda tips the creator’s hand a bit, doesn’t it? We got Mockingbird talking about “genetics”… he’s got Rafe acting like a little boy… we know Mockingbird is one of the original Six… and Rafe is the son of one of the original Six. Ya see where I’m goin’ with this?
I’d be remiss not to mention how Hunter Thompson deduced that there might just be a new Secret Six… again! Would somebody please just pat this guy on his bald head and tell him he’s right?! This reminds me of making the mistake of laughing at a joke a little kid tells… they try and “recreate” that moment for the rest of the day, and that just ain’t fun. So, Hunter-looking guy… from me to you: You’re right, buddy! Good job!
Overall, I’m pleased that this feature is moving forward. Lord knows it’s been mostly stagnant since its return! I will admit though, I am kinda looking forward to referring to this one in the past tense. The art, which I don’t mention nearly enough, is still strong as ever!
The Consortium comes to the realization that “Fellowship Messenger” Bob Galt is traveling with Clark Kent… who they immediately recognize as a “media stooge” and propagandist/advocate for Superman.
We join our hero(es) as they’re off-roading in their rented Jeep. In the vast desert landscape, they find themselves pursued by just about the cutest little jets you ever done seen! The jets open fire… and we’re out!
Another week, another beat. At least the good guys and bad guys are finally within the borders of the same state!
Also, another week… and another chapter that I just don’t have a whole heckuva lot to say about!
Picking up right where we left off, having just been tickled silly… Deadman finds himself faced down by the Peckshaw Twins, who have occupied the bodies of Madame Waxahachie and Groundskeeper Whatshisface! “Mabel” offers up a deal for Deadman… she’ll fetch the Brogden Twins, Deadman will shift into Waxahachie’s body and just leave. So long as Deadman “never looks back”, this Peckshaw promises not to repossess the tots. Complicated enough? Dagwood-sandwichy enough?
Rather than comply completely, Boston waits for Delia to de-possess Madame Mabel… after which, he takes up residence and proceeds to kick poor possessed Luke in the crotch.
He continues to pummel on Luke, until Delia Pechshawk nyoinks Stella out of the body. Okay then…
“Mabel” and Luke head outside to their waiting car so Deadman can once again swap bodies and fill the Madame in on everything that’s gone on. Waxahachie lights up a cigarette, and doesn’t seem to express all that much concern. If the Peckshaws don’t find new hosts… they might just fade away. Yeah, that worked out so well last time, right? She decides it’s best to just call it a “win”, and bring the Brogdens back to their folks.
We wrap up back at Peckshaw Estate where Stella has decided to occupy the body of… a rat. Delia claims she’d rather fade away than to take up residence in some vermin. Though, maybe if that rat had wings? I dunno…
This was, uh, underwhelming…
Not that I needed some hyooge twist or revelation or anything… but, I definitely wanted something more than what we get. I mean, if it was always just this easy… why did it take us 64 or so pages to get here? I had figured there’d be a trick up Deadman’s sleeve that would facilitate the fall of the Zombie Queens… but, all it came down to was: a kick in the crotch?
Last week, it was a tickle-fest… this week, a kick to the crotch? C’mahhhhn. Then… if that wasn’t pedestrian enough, Waxahachie decides not to even pursue eradicating the Peckshaws? I mean, they were able to pull this all together once, what’s to stop them from doing it again? I dunno… maybe they were being set up as the big-bads for a proposed Deadman series to spin out from this? Either way, that doesn’t do a whole heckuva lot for the story we just read.
The “let’s make a deal” segment from early in the chapter… I mean, talk about overly complicated, right? You take this body, I’ll take this body… the twins stay here, you go there. You almost need a flowchart for that conversation… because, I couldn’t swear to who’d be coming out on top of that arrangement!
Okay, enough of all’a that… the story, to this point was pretty good. The ending was unfortunately sub-par. Which brings us to our last bit…
This is it for Deadman! Twenty chapters, 160 pages (give or take), and two adventures. I went into this with some preconceptions… never having been a really big fan of the character. The only time I ever really cared about ol’ Boston Brand was when he was no-longer dead during Brightest Day! When he’s “dead”, I find him mostly dull. A neat scene here and again, but for the most part… I can’t really call myself a fan.
Over this past half-year… wait, half-year? Yikes, where does the time go? Anyhoo, over this past half-year, I found myself in the position where I had to cover Deadman… if I wanted to do this Action Comics Daily thing right, that is. And, I did… so, I did.
Didn’t hate it, either! It was very seldom in my “top 2-3” stories of the week, but I was seriously expecting to find myself dreading “Deadman Day” each and every time out. I didn’t. There were some duds, to be sure… but, that’s gonna happen. It’s just the comic book law of averages. I will say that I dug the second story more than the first… it felt better structured (until this final chapter), and didn’t overstay its welcome (like the first one sorta-kinda did).
So… there’s one of the “originals” being put out to pasture… I’ll kinda miss him.
We open in that hotel where everything went down last week. A room service attendant arrives at Room 5E, and goes ahead and ignores the “Do Not Disturb” placard on the knob. Ya see, it’s never a good idea to do that… you might walk in on some consummation, a weird ritual… or maybe, ya know… a corpse! We quickly shift scenes to outside, where Dinah has arrived for her scheduled meeting with the dead guy… only to find the place swarmed with Officers. Before she can get the skinny from Lieutenant Cameron (it had to be a Lieutenant, didn’t it? It had to be the one I couldn’t spell with an eight-letter head-start…), he finds himself with a microphone jammed in his face. The reporter, who sadly isn’t Ms. Susan King, asks if this might be the work of a “Barfly Robber”.
It’s here that Dinah realizes that the “dead guy” in the hotel is the same dude she was supposed to be meeting with about setting up a floral arrangement in a Macy’s window. An officer rushes over to inform the Liue… Luei… Liei… Lt. Cameron that the Bartender recalls Walt “Dead” Sarno leaving the bar with a woman the night before! The bartender appears to “vogue” for a minute to illustrate what this woman might’ve looked like.
We jump ahead to the evening, where we join the severe-looking woman (at least I think it’s her… might be the “Barfly”) jogging in an unspecified Seattle area park. She’s tuned in to the AM dial on her Walkman, listening to a report regarding Dead Walt Sarno. While initially thought to have suffered a heart attack, it’s now believed that he overdosed on Chloral Hydrate (a sedative). They don’t go so far as to rule it a homicide, however, they are keeping their options open that it might be due to the “Barfly Robbers”. That really doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it? I mean, “Barfly Bandits” is right there. Whatever the case, the woman laughs.
We jump over to Sherwood Florist, where Dinah checks out the latest edition of the Daily Press. She (and we) learns here that Vincent Scales has succumbed to his illness. If you recall, he was eventually revealed to be the sorta-kinda “big bad” of the previous arc. It’s nice to have “connective tissue”, but I gotta say… I couldn’t care less!
We wrap up with Dinah psyching herself up in front of her and Ollie’s framed Robin Hood painting. We close as she suits up, wigs up… and hits the streets!
Wait… I’m confused.
Was this a chapter of Black Canary that… I actually kinda liked??? Oh man, don’t tell nobody… it’ll ruin my reputation!
What we have here is a, dare I say it, solid installment of this feature! Granted, we don’t get much in the way of Canary… but, everything makes sense! The only drawback to this chapter, which is kind of an inverse to my usual complaints… is the art! Not that it’s all that bad either! It’s just kind of “unclear”.
I couldn’t tell if that woman jogging in the park was supposed to be the killer or the severe-woman. There was a dude with a mustache with Dinah for her meeting with Sarno… who she might’ve given the “side-eye” to… but again, it wasn’t clear.
The Vincent Scales reference… was okay. I’m not sure if it’s going to actually go anywhere, or if it was just meant as a coda for the prior arc… either way, I suppose it doesn’t much matter. Any connective-tissue that instills that there is a continuity is fine with me.
Overall… some clarity complaints aside, this was probably the best installment of Black Canary overall. Let’s hope they can keep this up for the next seventy or so weeks that this story is going to run!