Action Comics Weekly #632 (December 27, 1988)
Green Lantern: “Beyond Phobus”
Phantom Stranger: “Cat and Mouse, Chapter II”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 9”
Superman: “Holy War”
Nightwing & Speedy: “Rocks and Hard Places, Chapter Seven: A Time of Changes”
Blackhawk: “Doing the Horizontal Goosestep”
Writers – James Owsley, Paul Kupperberg, Sharon Wright, Roger Stern, Cherie Wilkerson, & Martin Pasko
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Fred Carrillo, Randy DuBurke, Curt Swan, Vince Giarrano, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Romeo Tanghal, Pablo Marcos, Murphy Anderson, & Tom Mandrake
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Steve Haynie, Bill Oakley, & John Costanza
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Petra Scotese, Gene D’Angelo, Tom Ziuko, & Adrienne Roy
Edits – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Renee Witterstaetter, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, Barbara Kesel, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50
Going to open this one up with a bit of Chris Trivia… you can see above that this issue has a cover date of December 27, 1988… which would’ve been my eighth birthday. Sure, the book probably hit shelves in October, but the fact that the cover-date is what it is sorta-kinda makes it so I have the same birthday as… Lord Malvolio! I just knew there had to be some sort of “connection” there!
Now, some Action Comics Weekly Trivia… that cover-date? December 27? That’s actually falls in the only week of the year that ACW does not ship an issue! In fairness, DC didn’t ship any books the week between Christmas and New Years Day… so, it’s not as though our Weekly missed shipment. This is a practice that we (sorta) saw the return of this past Christmas (2018). Diamond took that week off, and so… no books!
Want more Action Comics Weekly Trivia? Check out the letters page I included way down below. It features a missive from a reader lamenting the fact that ACW would be winding down and returning to a monthly Superman-led title. I don’t wanna say this letter is suspicious or anything… so, I won’t. Maybe we’ll just call it “convenient” as it facilitates the perfect amount of explanation from Editor, Mike Gold.
Oh! I almost neglected to mention the cover… it’s by primary Nightwing & Speedy artist, Tom Mandrake, and… uh, it’s not my favorite. I’ll just leave it at that.
Let’s hit the polls!
I’d say that looks just about right. It will be interesting in just a few weeks when we’re going to be looking at mostly all-new features! Hopefully it doesn’t turn out to be a “race to the bottom”!
Here’s this week:
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/KN35F8BT
We open with Hal Jordan in hot pursuit of the Bethel Traveler’s wooden shrine… so, there’s a little bit of continuity between this and the prior arc. While Hal soliloquizes about concepts like hatred, the Traveler opens up a space warp… and flies on through. Hal gives chase, and once he finds himself on the other side, he is positively surrounded by darkness!
After calibrating his Power Ring, Hal is able to guide himself to the most Earth-like planet in this Space Sector… and lands on a cliffside covered in weird satellite dishes. There, he meets a blue-skinned alien, not unlike the ones he met at that intergalactic peace summit some time ago. This alien refers to Hal as one of “The Chosen”, and seems to want to serve him. Hal ain’t got time for that, he just wants to get home. Looks like he’s given up the chase for the Bethel Traveler… and, ya know, that sits just fine with me!
The alien suggests Hal consult with his master for directions. Our man hasn’t the foggiest idea what this fella’s talking about, however, can’t help but to notice that there’s a very familiar emblem carved into a nearby mountainside.
Atop that mountain, sits a palace.
… and inside that palace, sits a man. A man wearing a Green Lantern Power Ring?!
This, my friends… looking not unlike a jacked-up Alan Scott, is Lord Malvolio. Mal doesn’t appear to recognize Hal, but that doesn’t stop him from pontificating in his direction for a number of minutes. Once the blibbuh-blabbah is done, and Hal can get a word in edgewise, he asks how he might get back to Earth. Malvolio suggests that his answers lie… beyond Phobus!
That don’t mean nothin’ to our Lantern, but he decides to leave the palace all the same. He thinks to himself (actually, says aloud) that Malvolio must’ve survived the “Great Disaster” on Oa by being designated to such a far-out Space Sector at the time. Yeah, that’s as good a theory as any, innit? We’ll learn more about how Malvolio still wears a ring as we continue. Remember, there weren’t supposed to be many of this rings left in circulation around this time.
Hal heads back to the satellite station to check in with his blue-skinned friend. He asks what a “Phobus” is… however, before he gets an answer, Lord Malvolio arrives to strike the friendly alien dead! We close out with the revelation that Malvolio brought Hal here… and he’s going to see to it that he never leave.
Well, there he is! The man
we’ve all I’ve been waiting for this entire project! Thing of it is… there’s so much I wanna say about the character… buuuuuut, it’s just not the time yet. So much of what makes this character special (to me) is the vast amounts of unrealized potential in him. Not to put the cart before the horse… but, outside of a series of Green Lantern prose novels from around the turn of the century (which I don’t “count” as canon anyway), this arc is the only time Lord Malvolio will show up! Ever!
I mean, until Tom King discovers the character and decides he wants to engage in some Malvolio-flavored PSY101 in
repetitive and dull super-deep nine-panel grids. Is that pithy? Yeah, probably. Sorry about that.
What we get here though? It’s unspectacular (relative to my build up), but it’s still some really good superhero storytelling. We’re introduced to a familiar-but-not baddie… who is somehow able to wield a Green Lantern Power Ring… despite the drought of them in the greater DC Universe at the time. Hal is in an alien (in every conceivable way) world, without a single clue how he’ll ever get home. It’s good stuff! The first time in a long while where I’m actively looking forward to our next Green Lantern chapter!
Now, to go back to my first time experiencing this story… I couldn’t tell ya when it was… probably late 90’s-early 00’s… I completely bought into the idea that Malvolio had something to do with Alan Scott. Take into account that what brought Hal to this Sector was following a shrine made out of (looks left, looks right, looks at the camera) wooooood… the weakness of the Golden Age Green Lantern… it all made too much sense to me. We’ll put a pin in that for the moment… and revisit over the next few weeks.
Overall… this is the start of the Green Lantern arc you’ll wanna check out from this run.
We pick up right where we left off… Tannarak has crashed the party, and is not ominously pointing at our hero. We learn that, last time these two met (whenever that was), the Stranger was able to destroy ol’ ‘Rak… however, the Lords of Chaos were able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Doctor Thirteen stands by, being all incredulous… like, annoyingly so. Thankfully, Cassandra suggests he kindly shut uppa his face.
The Stranger chases Tannarak out of the apartment, and advises Terry and Cassie against following them. Yeah, like that’s gonna work! Our hero tries to get Tannarak to fight him fairly, however, the baddie reminds him that he is indeed… a baddie, and proclaims that he’d rather fight dirty. Oh boy. As this chase continues, Cassandra dupes a cabbie into “following those glowing men in the sky”.
Turns out the chase made it all the way from the East Side of Manhattan to the Bronx Zoo. Now, Tannarak is surrounded by the entirety of their large cats exhibit. After some cliche pleasantries are exchanged, he begins casting a spell.
Doctor Thirteen and Cassandra Craft hop the fence, and arrive just in time to see… well, Tannarak transform all of the Zoo Critters into a fairly generic-looking feline demon beast thing.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but… I think I found a story that might be best told in the two-page “Sunday Strip” format! This is… just painfully dull. A throwback, without any of the charm.
A shame, really… considering our last few ACW “visits” with the Phantom Stranger have been quite strong! This feels like something that had been lining an editor’s drawer for… probably over a decade? I’m not saying that’s what happened… but, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it had! It makes Action Comics Weekly look and feel like a sort of “clearing house”… which, heck, for all I know, is exactly what they were using it for this late in the game!
Whatta we got here? Tannarak acts like the most generic of villains… and summons his “son” the Cat Beast to destroy the Phantom Stranger? All the while, Dr. Thirteen won’t shut his gob about the impossibility of everything going on? Dude… you live in the DC Universe, get over it.
Anyhoo… story could’ve probably been told (better) in eight-panels rather than eight-pages… but, whattayagonnado?
We open… in that sewer, where we found out The Deb was being held a couple weeks back. She is being held captive by Cat… and, now has bleach blonde hair? She pleads with her captor that she didn’t kill anybody… to which Cat is all, “Yeah, I know… I did.” Meanwhile, Dinah and Company are at the Contempo-Theatre devising a plan if Cat were to show her face. Remember, she’s supposed to be playing the lead role of Peter Pan in… uh, Peter Pan. Shock of shocks, she shows up!
Her fight scene with Captain Hook… who, actually kinda looks like V from V For Vendetta, goes a bit off-script. The action gets a bit too close to the crowd, which prompts Dinah to spring into action… and the art… oh boy, it gets weird… er. A woman in the audience might’ve been stabbed in the neck by an errant blade? It isn’t clear… I mean, it really isn’t clear. It’s like Sienkiewicz on mushrooms. Whatever the case, Cat manages to swipe at Canary before giving her the slip. Oh boy, am I just now noticing the “Cat and Canary” aspect of this story?
Dinah realizes that Cat likely escaped through the men’s room… because, well, the door is still swinging. While she confers with the officers… rather than, ya know, giving chase… we wrap up with the revelation that Cat is actually hiding in the back seat of Ken Glazier’s car! She holds him up, and instructs him to drive…
Now, this is more like it… and by “more like it”, I mean… more like that first Black Canary arc. This ain’t great, folks.
It’s a shame… up to this point, I’ve genuinely enjoyed this! Here though? Everything kinda falls apart. The art has been my primary complaint for this arc, and again, it’s not as though it’s bad… it’s just not very good at telling a story. Up until this point, the written story has been what has holding this one together… this week, however, the seams are beginning to show. Add to the fatigue that we’re now nine weeks into this story… and, it’s just a recipe for disinterest.
Here’s hoping this one’s able to pull it all together in its final weeks!
The Fellowship realizes that their guest has gone missing… and so, they decide to head up to the surface and have a look around.
Their guest, now in his “work clothes”, is laid out before one of those Consortium tanks. It doesn’t take him too long to shake it off, however… and proceeds to engage with his can-opener impression.
Then… the Fellowship arrives, and Superman realizes he’s not only gotta fight off the tanks, but now he’s also gotta protect these geeks too!
Alrighty… you know I don’t care for this, and I know I don’t care for this… so, I’ll spare ya my usual complaints. At least Superman gets to do something adjacent to “super” this week!
We pick up right at the bomb-blast… and despite it looking as though our Moira was running away from the planted suitcase last time out, here it looks more as though she was running towards it! Roy runs over to her and calls for an ambulance… and by “calls for an ambulance”, I mean he screams “we need an ambulance”. At this point the entire Orange Day parade has gone a bit ca-ca, and Nightwing is already busting heads. Just then, an officer begins emptying his piece in Nightwing’s direction… which tells him that maybe they’re not on the same side.
Then, a Kesel Meats truck (featuring a rather well-endowed, or perhaps five-legged, bull on the side) bee-lines it directly at the cop. Turns out the driver is… well, hell, it’s Speedy. Dude can change clothes and steal a truck in less time than it takes for me to complete a thought!
They drive until they reach a roadblock surrounded by armed men. They are the Sanas! We learn that the F.O.E.s are their foes (yeah, they really say that), but here’s the thing… they invite the heroes behind the barricade for safety! Before they can get too comfortable, however, a helicopter swoops in… guns ablazing!
The Sanas are shot dead! Speedy manages to fire off an arrow-line into the rear rotor of the chopper, and sends it smashing into the side of a nearby building. We can see that this is one of those helicopters we used to joke about as kids… because the pilot appears to have escaped via ejector seat! A F.O.E. in the foreground takes aim on the distracted heroes, however, finds himself feeling the cold steel of the Man from the Train Turlet’s pistol!
Jumping ahead to Moira’s hospital bed, she’s recovering just fine. Just a broken arm and a few bruises… which, certainly beats the alternative. We learn that a woman (who we may or may not have already met… Roy meets a lot of middle-aged women… I mean, who else is he going to hand Lian to?) is going to take Moira and Button in… and that Roy is going to be heading back to the States.
Outside, Dick n’ Roy meet a woman named Sinnead who tries to set them straight on the Sanas. She suggests that they are a reactionary effort… not fighting to kill, but instead fighting to survive. She claims that she’ll be laying down her weapons now, however, since children are getting hurt. Just then, an old dude runs up… with a frickin’ grenade! I reckon he’s lookin’ to lob it at the hospital… but Sinnead meets him head-on. Unfortunately for her, it looks like the codger already pulled the pin!
We wrap up with some, if I’m being honest, boring “intrigue”. Dude sells weapons and information… gets himself poisoned with something that mimics a heart attack (must have been extra Chloro-floro-whatever left over from the Black Canary feature!). Meanwhile Train Turlet has booked himself a trip to the States.
Say it with me… another strong chapter.
But, I gotta say, fatigue is beginning to set in. Now, I’m not overly familiar with Ms. Wilkerson’s writing style, so for all I know, she has a very deliberate and slow-paced method. I have a sneaking suspicion there might be a hair of dreaded decompression at play though… not so much to “fill a trade”, but more to get us to the upcoming Action Comics Weekly “crossover” and deck-clearing (coming up in ACW #635).
I appreciate how, while we’re probably supposed to sympathize with The Sanas at this point, they’re still not depicted as overly “good”. They’re still, basically urban terrorists… very means to an end, crack as many eggs as ya need, insert whatever metaphor about goal-oriented ruthlessness you can here.
That said, the F.O.E.’s are definitely the “big bads”. I didn’t mention it during the synopsis, but we learn at the end that Train Turlet used to be part of something… perhaps the police force (?), but he had to resign. Maybe we’ll learn more about that next week… then again, maybe we won’t! I dunno if it’s enough to maintain interest… it really feels like we could’ve ended the story here. Moira and Button have a caretaker, Roy’s heading home… an F.O.E. has been caught… seems like a done deal to me! Oh well, guess we’ll find out next time.
We have a fill-in artist (well, penciller… Mandrake still provides ink) in Vince Giarrano… and, this probably isn’t his best work. Perhaps more evidence that this story might’ve been puffed out a chapter or two… maybe there was a time crunch, maybe it was Mandrake’s inks not jiving with his pencils… maybe I’m talking out my ass. Now, if you’ve seen some of Vincent’s non-comics work, you’ll know what a brilliant artist he is. It’s truly wonderful stuff.
Overall… solid, but long in the tooth. Perhaps this would read better all in one “go”!
We open in occupied Berlin, where the Blackhawks have already nabbed the LSD. Our man Jan notices that Ms. Darabont appears to have a stick up her butt and offers to, well, loosen it up? She ain’t quite feelin’ it and the rest of the team is tickled by the whole scene. Elsewhere, Frau Koblenz… looking a lot like Ms. Darabont at the moment, is snuck through a checkpoint into the city.
Back in the American sector, the ‘Hawks and Connie are checking into their lodgings for the evening. Darabont hands her bags over to a porter so she might take in a bit of the evening air. Andre offers to accompany her, but she’s fine on her own… though, mentions if the Major offered, she might take him up on it. Well, he did offer back at the airport, remember? Olaf suggests that Berlin might not be the best place to sight-see… but, she’s steadfast that she go.
Outside, a “soldier” asks to see her papers… while she rattles through her purse, she gets jumped! This is actually Koblenz and her man… and they’re ready to pull the big switcheroo. They’re playin’ for keeps, though… poor Ms. Darabont winds up with “two behind the ear”!
Later, back at the hotel, Olaf visits Connie to deliver a bag that accidentally made its way to his room… and can’t help but to notice that she’s acting a bit “off”. She assures him that the night air just made her a bit “stuffy” in the head… he doesn’t seem to completely buy her story. Our man Jan passes him in the hallway, and Olaf almost makes his suspicions known… but doesn’t.
Jan gives Connie a ring-a-ling to fill her in on the sit-rep. None of that was intended as a euphemism… buuuuuut, well…
The next day, the ‘hawks are airborne. Olaf wakes up from a nap, and is handed a cup of coffee. After learning that the coffee had been prepared by “Ms. Darabont”, he gets all “ruh-roh” and beelines it to the back of the plane. There, he observes her sprinkling something into the drink! When confronted, she pulls a gun!
Still loving this one!
I’m glad that the two stories we’ve been following have intersected here… I was afraid this might result in a “slower burn”, especially considering how so many of our ACW features feel almost painfully drawn out these past few weeks.
Sometimes in reading Blackhawk, I’m almost shocked that such mature themes were actually in a book with “Action Comics” on the cover. I feel like these days we might take for granted just how different this sort of story is/was… especially as one that would appear in what many might view as DC’s “flagship” title. Having a woman get beaten and shot (presumably) to death… and a whole lotta Blackhawk-bangin’? This ain’t yer daddy’s Action Comics… well, I suppose in 2019, maybe it was!
Really not much more to crow about… really enjoying the story, and look forward to seeing where it goes!
Letters Page (featuring the BIG Announcement):
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How does that even work?