Action Comics Weekly #627 (November 22, 1988)
Green Lantern: “And Now… Captain Atom”
Secret Six: “A Bird in the Hand…”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 4”
Superman: “Panic in the Sands!”
Nightwing & Speedy: “Rocks and Hard Places, Chapter One: Travels”
Nightwing & Speedy: “Rocks and Hard Places, Chapter Two: Distractions”
Writers – James Owsley, Martin Pasko, Sharon Wright, Roger Stern, Marv Wolfman, & Cherie Wilkerson
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Frank Springer, Randy DuBurke, Curt Swan, & Tom Mandrake
Inks – Romeo Tanghal, Frank McLaughlin, Pablo Marcos, Murphy Anderson,
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Steve Haynie, Bill Oakley, & John Costanza
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Gene D’Angelo, Tom Ziuko, & Adrienne Roy
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, & Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.50
Another Friday, and another opportunity to reflect on the mundanity that has become Action Comics Weekly… and by extension, our very own Action Comics Daily. Feels like around this time, this little endeavor has fallen from DC Comics’ 8th or 9th priority it started as, all the way down to around 20th priority or so. Hey, least next week we get Blackhawk back! And… we’re inching ever closer to the arrival of: Mal-friggin-volio!
This week’s cover comes to us from Gil Kane, and it’s pretty damn nice, innit? I mean, it’s well drawn… not that it makes all that great a cover. Looks more like something better suited for Nightwing’s entry from Who’s Who?, but what do I know? Perhaps this is just another indictment on how far this project has slipped off of people’s radars? Maybe I’m just projecting… yeah, that’s very likely the case!
Enough vamping, let’s get to the Polls!
It’s kind of like “old home week”… Green Lantern actually wins a poll! Hal got my vote as well… with as “blah” as last week’s offerings were, overall… it was actually between he and Black Canary! There’s something I never thought I’d say! Shazam! goes out with a single vote… which is one more vote than I expected, and Deadman shuffles off this Daily Coil holdin’ a (dare I say, deserved?) goose egg.
My Rankings for Last Week’s Stories (ACW #626) would’ve been:
1 – Green Lantern
2 – Black Canary
3 – Secret Six
4 – Shazam!
5 – Deadman
6 – Superman
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/BGTYDJ5H
We open with Captain Atom arriving at Big Trees. Turns out the sensors at the Justice League International Embassy picked up some strange hoo-doo, and so, he’s come to look into it. This was during the time where Nate was leading the Justice League Europe, in case you was unawares. Cap happens across… why, that’s Randy Violence! He’s the star of Much Blood Part II! What’s he doing in the middle of the woods chopping lumber?! Our man tries to get the actor’s attention… and winds up getting eye-beamed for his troubles.
We shift scenes to an unspecified Los Angeles highway, where Hal Jordan is riding shotgun in his “best friend” Chip’s car. Now, that’s “Chip” not “Ch’p”… just so we’re clear. Though, the latter would almost certainly be more interesting. Anyhoo, Hal’s lost in his thoughts, patting himself on the back for helping out that strange alien visitor last issue… and decides to check in on him/her/it before he/she/it leaves.
Upon arrival in Big Trees, Green Lantern is whizzed past by Captain Atom… who, by this point, has been repeatedly eye-beamed across the forest by Randy Violence. What was that “definition of insanity” again? Gonna have to pop onto social media for a refresher on that!
Atom notices the arrival of his fellow “good guy” and asks Hal what their next “move” is. Hal informs him that there ain’t gonna be a next “move”, and instead heads over to Randy Violence and shakes his hand. Must be a big Much Blood fan… you can always tell the Much Blood fans. Nate ain’t digging the looks of any of this… though, he also hasn’t the foggiest idea what’s going on.
He then comes to the conclusion that Green Lantern was swervin’ him (bro) when he said he didn’t have a “move”. Ya see, Atom is now certain that Hal’s only playing nice as a distractionary tactic… and so, he does what any superhero would do in this same situation: Waits for Hal and Randy to step away from the spacecraft/shrine (that’s Bethel if’n ya recall), and then dramatically blows the thing to pieces! And remember… this guy runs a branch of the JLI!
We wrap up with the heroes getting in each other’s faces… ya might wanna get used to that, because we’re going to be in for a lot more over the next few weeks!
I might have led with the pessimism too soon… because this installment isn’t all that bad. It sets up our conflict… and, for once, it kind of depicts Hal as a sort of tactician! Ya see, he was “playing nice” because he saw his alien pal as getting ready to leave Earth forever. It’s only because of Captain Atom’s hotheadedness (and inability to “read” a situation) that “Randy Violence” has a reason (no choice really) to stick around!
Now, that scene we closed with? The one with Hal and Nate up in each other’s faces debating their methodologies? That’s going to get old… real fast. This is coming from a guy who likes both characters too. I just don’t think Atom is used as best as he could have been here.
I’m not sure what Priest’s politics are, and I don’t want to know… though, I suppose I could hazard a guess. With Captain Atom going full “nuclear option” on Bethel, part of me wonders if this is an attempt at commentary on where the world was back in ye old 1988? I dunno… just seems weird for Captain Atom to act just so foolishly and thoughtlessly here. I’m not a fan of strawmen from either side… and can’t shake the feeling that Nate is being built up as one here.
Overall though, not a bad chapter… one I’d recommend checking out, if not for the rest of the story that’s gonna follow! Worth saying, M.D. Bright’s art is especially nice here.
We open with tail end of Luke wrestling his way free of the Agency goons. Once they’re kayoed, he swaps clothes with one of ’em so’s he can tour the facilities without being spotted. I guess he supposes the rest of the Agency won’t realize that the bald fella has been replaced by Matt Murdock… er, a tall blonde dude. At that moment, over at the Secret Six Bunker, the rest of the team has begun putting all of the pieces of this mystery together. “The Agency” is run by Walter Fenady, who they believe was responsible for sabotaging the original Six’s VTOL… which might seem to let Mockingbird off the hook, at least for this.
Also, TechnoDyne, that corporation from alllll the way back in ACW #601, was contracted by The Agency to transmutate the V74 virus that original Sixer, August Durant had into the less treatable, and thereby more fatal V75. So, I guess that wasn’t a misprint all them weeks ago!
As the Six readies to head into the belly of the beast to find their pal Luke, we shift scenes back to our Geno and Mockingbird cliffhanger from last week. Turns out Rafe knew he was being drugged… and so, he “flushed” the parts of his meal that contained the sedative. How he was able to figure out which portions of his meals contained the drug… I couldn’t tell ya. I am very tired of this storyline, however, so I don’t think I’m going to press for things to make sense. Anyhoo, Mockingbird then…….. unmasks! Er, with his back to the camera, naturally. Geno is, however, quite shocked. Something tells me we’re not going to be quite as shocked or impressed when we finally see his face.
Back to Agency H.Q. (the “Workshop”), Luke-in-a-suit relieves an Agency goon from their shift in front of the monitors, and proceeds to get to work procuring as much information as he can, in order to wrist-radio it all back to his team… which he does, with the quickness!
The Six arrive on the roof of the Agency Building just as an “Intruder Alert” alarm begins to sound. Luke finds himself surrounded by, and caught in a firefight with the Agency Army. Meanwhile, Mitch uses his robo-mitts to punch through a door.
We wrap up with the Six busting into the Agency’s H.Q. with reckless abandon… just opening fire on anyone in their way. Bout time, right? Mitch notices a Records Room and decides to once again lets his robo-fingers do the walking.
Welcome to the “home stretch”, my friends!
Things are finally moving forward, and despite there being a bit of confusion over who’s the real big-bad here, and who “knows” what… I’m hopeful that we’re in for at least a semi-satisfying endgame.
There was a bit at the beginning of this chapter that I kinda glossed over… mostly because I wasn’t sure what was supposed to have been said. I will never deny that I have the potential to be rather dense, and miss things that are completely apparent to the next reader… but, the way the Sixers were talking… I couldn’t tell whether or not they knew Mockingbird had been listening in… and so, they said exactly the thing he wanted to overhear… or, if I’m just reading too much into Maria’s semi-vague monologue? I dunno… and, I suppose for this chapter, it doesn’t really matter all that much.
The Agency and Mockingbird are clearly “bad” guys… so, they’re both going to have to be dealt with before we put this one to bed. Speaking of Mockingbird… boy, are we being led down the “primrose path” with this one. I’ve kind of avoided talking about this… it was kind of the “elephant in the room” all along… but, I mean, no matter which “Original Sixer” is under the hood (though, it’s pretty obvious which one it’s going to turn out being), who’s gonna care? Is anyone on the edge of their seat for this reveal? Like I said during our discussion of the very first chapter of Secret Six:
This is a very obscure property… and one that had been dormant (after only seven appearance) almost two full decades at this point. What are the stakes here? We’re going to find out that one of six people most of us couldn’t point out in a lineup on our best day is the one responsible for the whole magilla? Just seems like this was destined to be underwhelming… and if that’s the case, what’s the point? Ya know? Oh well.
Overall, I’m happy to see this one edging ever-closer to its conclusion… fingers crossed we get a measure of satisfaction when all the dust settles!
We open with everybody wondering “why?”. Why kill Walt Sarno… and why now? Frankly, I’m not sure I could’ve picked Walt Sarno out of a lineup if I had to… and all I know about the dude is that he had the inside-track to getting floral arrangements into the window at Macy’s. Among those asking “why?” is a man named Ken Glazier… who, though the art isn’t terribly clear, is someone we’ve already met a couple of times. Another interested party is… Black Canary, who at this very moment is pretending to be a prostitute in order to chat up various ladies of the night.
It isn’t long before she gets some answers. Turns out the Barfly Murderess is a woman who they all call “The Deb”. Name’s Deborah, but she acts all proper like a debutante. Ya see, she had a different sort of philosophy regarding the sex-worker industry… why “do the deed”, when you could just kill the “John” and take the cash?
Just then a very rough looking woman enters… and for once, that’s not an indictment on the art. This woman’s clearly seen some stuff. Anyhoo, she brandishes a blade and threatens one of the women… to which, Canary beats the hell out of her with a loaded purse.
The rough woman recovers and comes at Dinah again. This doesn’t end well for her… though during the scuffle, she is able to relieve our hero of her chunky necklace. When the dust settles, Dinah gets more of the skinny regarding “The Deb”. She’s a heroin addict, who has a dealer named Rich. Aside from dealing dope, Rich runs a “funny-named” music store.
Before our gal can follow this lead, however, Seattle’s finest arrive on the scene to haul her in for questioning. Whoops.
We close out at “Rich’s It’s Instrumental” (yeah, that kind of is a funny name). Sure enough, The Deb is staying there. Rich (whose face we don’t get to see) hands her some heroin, and tells her to lay low until the pressure is off. The Deb looks at a photo of a little girl, and says goodnight before hitting the lights.
Wow… is that two “not so bad” chapters of Black Canary in a row?! They said it couldn’t be done… and by “they”, I mean “me”. Me said it couldn’t be done!
This isn’t the greatest thing in the world… but, compared to what I was expecting it to be? This is pretty darn good. Not sure about Dinah posing as a prostitute… I mean, shouldn’t people know her as a superhero? She was on the Justice League, right? Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis. Hell, not long before this she was retroactively made a founding member (replacing Wonder Woman)!
If we brush that aside though, this was a good outing. The ongoing Green Arrow book (written by Sharon Wright’s then husband) was very “street level” take on the character… and this feels like more of the same. Dealing with ladies of the evening, hard drugs, and even the AIDS epidemic… there’s an attempt at gritty relevance here… and for the most part, it succeeds in evoking the issues of the day.
Where this suffers… and I hate to harp, is the art. Ya know, when Black Canary returned, what I was most excited for was Randy DuBurke’s new “Kelley Jones-esque” art style. I felt like it would add a fun element to this feature… but so far, it’s only made the story difficult to follow at best, and damned unpleasant at worst. I still like the way Dinah herself is rendered… but, the world around her is pretty rough.
Overall, this chapter has bought another week of my cautious optimism.
Clark and Bob are still driving through the desert, with those adorable jet-bikes hot on their tail. Clark imagines how easy it would be to just change into Superman and save the day… but, ultimately decides against it, considering the can of worms that would open. Then… one of the jets fires a shot into the side of the Jeep! Thaaaaaaaat’s it.
Now, I don’t wanna continue to harp on this “Sunday strip” format. I don’t think it works. I’m missing the point. I’m judging it unfairly… all that stuff. What’s more, DC Comics probably never foresaw that some idiot would be dedicating a day to looking at and half-ass reviewing each individual installment over a quarter-century later.
With all that said… this one is what it is, and it continues to trudge along.
We open with Dick and Roy catching up on a ferry boat of some sort. We learn that Roy has taken the past six months “off” from the rigors of life, both super and mundane to try and figure things out as a new dad to li’l Lian. Speaking of whom, Roy pops off to go feed the tot, leaving Dick alone. Upon noticing a mysterious blonde slinking behind a pair of dudes who look to be up to no good, Dick’s nosiness gets the best of him.
He follows the woman… who’s following the men, all the way down to the ship’s car hold. We’re going to assume he was getting all Nightwing’d up along the way, because next we see him, he’s in costume. The fellas break into the back of a red van containing a casket. The gal unchains the tires, and closes the goons inside.
She then rushes over to the Door Release console and… opens the bay? I know what you all must be thinking: it couldn’t possibly be that easy… but, you’d be wrong! She hops into the driver’s seat, pops that sucker into gear… and off she goes!
Meanwhile, Roy hears the ruckus, and decides he probably ought to look into it. He leaves Lian with the kindly Mrs. Sebastian from the next cabin over.
Back to the action, Nightwing is following the van, which is careening into the drink. One of the nogoodniks inside doesn’t appear to have survived the trip. The van proceeds to sink, but the casket it was carrying floats to the surface.
The cruise ship shines its lights onto the buoyant brouhaha, and Speedy hops into action helping out his Titans partner and pal, who is currently exchanging punches with the surviving goon.
Nightwing gets knocked off the casket, and the baddie pops the locks. Inside is… unsurprisingly, a corpse. Also, nondescript packages… maybe drugs? Maybe documents? The art isn’t quite clear.
Another speedboat enters the scene, and the police open fire. Speedy worries a random shot might take out Dick, and so he fires an arrowline in his direction. I guess getting hit by an arrow is moderately less dangerous than getting hit by a bullet? Maybe? Well, I suppose it’s all relative. It’s a moot point regardless, because the bad guy manages to grab the line, and proceeds to choke Dick out with the thing.
Remember when you were a kid, and you ordered something via mail or over the phone? Or maybe you started a magazine subscription. You’d wait for whatever it was to arrive… and toward the end, it would become a situation where that afternoon visit from the mailman would define your entire day? The anticipation builds… you see the mailman heading up to your box… once they’re out of sight, you rush out to check out the loot… annnnnnnd, whatever it was… it didn’t come.
That’s how I’m feeling with the start of this feature. I was looking forward to it as something new and different… and, heaven help me, exciting. I’ve sat through mundane and dull stories and features that have long overstayed their welcome, in hopes that this arc would knock my socks off right out the gate. What I get instead is… well, something not all that great. The mailman didn’t drop off the latest Nintendo Power, just a Penny Saver.
Maybe I’m being too harsh? Maybe my expectations were too high going in? Hell, guys, maybe I’m just burnt out on this series becoming Action Comics Weakly? Maybe I’m just bracing for a story that I’m fearing will veer a bit too far into Irish political unrest. I dunno… I just wanted something better to start. Something like the first time Nightwing joined the lineup. In fairness, this is just the opening chapter… it just isn’t inspiring much confidence. Maybe tomorrow’s Part Two will put this thing on track.
I’ll give it this much, the story we get is actually action-heavy… which has been one of the top complaints I’ve heard from readers during this endeavor. For a book called “Action”, there’s precious little of it more often than not. Nightwing gets some punching in… we get a van submerged in the drink. Speedy gets to fire an arrow. Shots are fired from all over the place. It’s a pretty frenetic deal… and for that much, I’ll give this chapter its props. Also, the art’s pretty nice. Fingers crossed that I’ll enjoy tomorrow’s chapter more!
We pick up right where we left off yesterday… well, sorta. If you recall, when we last left Nightwing, he was being choked out by one of Speedy’s arrowlines. As we open here, that’s no longer the case. Nightwing’s just lounging on the floating casket. Probably not that big a deal, but when the last page of Chapter One and the first page of Chapter Two are literally facing each other in the comic… I feel like continuity needs to be a little bit tighter. Then again, I doubt this was on purpose… I’m sure Marv and the Gang were just as surprised to get a two-in-one as anyone else. Anyhoo, after some more arrow-lining, Roy pulls him onto the police boat. Oh, in case the scary cover-copy didn’t tip y’all off… we’re in the Irish Sea right now. Also, those little “packages” with the corpse were in fact, drugs.
Nearby, the surviving baddie who tried to steal the goods is helped up onto a dock by some of his “mates”. They proceed to question him about his supplier, and when he remains mum… they beat the holy hell out of him, perhaps even kill the poor bloke. Welp, let the punishment fit the crime!
Dick and Roy check into… maybe a hotel, maybe it’s Roy’s new Irish apartment… I dunno. Whatever the case, it’s here that Roy fills us in on, not only Lian’s propensity to poop, but his recent struggles with his C.B.I. gig. Ya see, he learned that there’s an Irish drugs-for-guns racket going on… and, check this out, the C.B.I. is in on it. Corruption in the Intelligence Sector? The hell you say! Upon reporting this to his superior, Roy gets summarily fired… only after an attempt on his life, that is. The C.B.I. doesn’t screw around.
Back in the present, Dick and Roy are taking Lian for a walk. Roy claims that he’s in Ireland for reasons unrelated to the drug-scam. He’s there to give Lian some “heritage”. The Harpers originate from Northern Ireland. Just so happens that, where Roy goes… drugs follow. Hell, has there been a single writer since 1971 who’s been able to write a Roy Harper story that doesn’t pertain to drugs? Why am I mentioning this little scene? Oh yeah, kindly Mrs. Sebastian makes an appearance. Turns out she’ll be watching Lian for Roy. Something tells me that we shouldn’t be trusting this woman. I could be completely wrong here… I’ve never actually read this arc before, but my Speedy Sense is tingling. Oh! Another reason I’m mentioning it… Roy makes a really lame Saturday Night Live reference, when he asks “Could it be Satannn?” Ya figure that could’ve been written more phonetically as “Say-tinnnnn” or something.
Okay, enough of that scene… and into another, with a sorta-kinda Pop-Culture reference. Roy compares himself to a red-headed Kunta Kinte from Roots. Ay yai yai. Think it’s safe to blame this on Marv’s co-writer? Aw, that probably isn’t fair of me to suggest.
Anyhoo, at this point, Dick suggests he and Roy duck into an alley and take off their clothes. Wow, without context, that sounds a bit odd. What I’m trying to say is, Dick realizes that they’re being followed, and it’s time to suit up and fight off some baddies. And that’s exactly what they do!
We wrap up with Nightwing just about getting the driver of the tailing car to talk… but then… poor dude’s head gets perforated by a sniper bullet. Nightwing and Speedy look to the skies and see a helicopter flying away. At that moment, in (I’m assuming) London, a shadowy man promises to neutralize the heroes.
Hey, hey! Now this was a whole lot more engaging than the first chapter!
I think this one pressed a whole lot of the right buttons for me. When I read a Titans, or Titans-adjacent story, I wanna see some real character interaction. We get plenty of that here… and, hamfisted nods to Pop Culture or not, it all felt quite genuine. Last chapter, we did get some Roy and Dick chatter, but it was more of an exercise in exposition. They were just giving us the Powerpoint presentation of “where we are now”.
I like the idea of Roy Harper, an orphan, thinking it important that his daughter have some “heritage”… though, I’d probably argue that she might appreciate it more when her days don’t revolve around, as Roy himself so eloquently put it, eating, drinking, and pooping. His heart seems to be in the right place though.
I will say, I was a bit deflated to learn that we’re going into yet another “shadowy agency” story. I mean, that makes three ongoing Action Comics Weekly features tugging at that thread. Hell, four chapters (Superman, Secret Six, and both Nightwing & Speedy‘s, which is to say two-thirds of this entire issue has to do with “shadowy agencies”. It’s enough already…
Overall, my nonplussedness has evolved into a cautious optimism, and I am looking forward to the next chapter(s)!
None this week! All the same ones we’ve seen skateyeight hundred times already!