Action Comics Weekly #633 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #633 (January 3, 1989)
Green Lantern: “Apocalypse”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 10”
Nightwing & Speedy: “Rocks and Hard Places, Chapter Eight: Behind Closed Doors”
Superman: “Blood and Sand”
Phantom Stranger: “Cat and Mouse, Chapter III”
Blackhawk: “Gremlins at Twelve O’Clock”
Writers – James Owsley, Sharon Wright, Cherie Wilkerson, Roger Stern, Paul Kupperberg, & Martin Pasko
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Randy DuBurke, Tom Mandrake, Curt Swan, Fred Carrillo, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Romeo Tanghal, Pablo Marcos, & Murphy Anderson, 
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Steve Haynie, John Costanza, Bill Oakley, & Dan McKinnon
Colors – Anthony Tollin, Gene D’Angelo, Adrienne Roy, Tom Ziuko, & Petra Scotese 
Editors – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Robert Greenberger, Barbara Kesel, Mike Carlin, Renee Witterstaetter, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

If you’ve been following along daily… first, thank you… second, are you tired of the word “penultimate” yet?

This is/was the week of the penultimates!  Most of our features will be taking their final bows this coming week as we sorta-kinda “clear the deck” for the big The Crash of ’88! crossover event (ACW #635, which we’ll be discussing Saturday, October 5)!  We’ll be saying goodbye to Black Canary, Nightwing/Speedy, and… saddest of all, Blackhawk.

Phantom Stranger will be wrapping up his current story arc, but will return to haunt us on the other side of The Crash with a new story.  On the subject of “housekeeping”, next week sees the… say it with me… penultimate chapter of, get this, Green Lantern!  That’s right, our “feature-feature” is going to be retired in ACW #635.  Man, it’s going to be a weird few weeks after that!

Get a load of our post-Crash roster, a pretty eclectic assortment:

With all’a that out of the way… let’s quickly mention the cover before hopping into the poll.  This is a pretty cool Blackhawk cover by Curt Swan.  Feels like it might belong in a different era, but I like it all the same!  Also sorta-kinda-but-not-really noteworthy, this is the first issue of Action Comics Weekly to have a 1989 cover-date!  Howzaboutdat?

Another unsurprising win for Blackhawk… ya know, the cream really does rise to the top!  Despite the introduction of Malvolio (which gave Green Lantern his first few votes in a lonnng time), Blackhawk continues to deliver the goods week after week.  I struggling to remember if there’s been a single chapter of Janos and the Gang that I didn’t like!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #633?

Green Lantern

Black Canary

Phantom Stranger




Shareable Poll: https://linkto.run/p/0041DBKG

We open with Lord Malvolio insisting upon Hal Jordan that he will never leave the wherever-the-hell he currently is.  Hal’s more shocked that this big galoot didn’t think twice before killing that poor blue-skinned scientist.  And so, Hal attempts to trap Mal in an energy bubble so they might exchange words before fists… this, unfortunately for him, proves wildly ineffective!

Malvolio even goes as far as suggesting that Hal’s power levels are so piddly, that he’s actually disappointed in him.  Ya see, Hal’s got a Power Ring… he really ought to be so much better than this.  Hal’s all “Oh yeah?” and delivers a wallop of a blast… which, uh, Malvolio basically just strolls right through.

Proving to Hal that his power is akin to bringing the proverbial knife to a gunfight, his Lordship leaps into the air, and blasts Hal with such force that it literally sends him completely through the planet and out the other end!

Lucky for Hal, his Power Ring managed to protect him from… well, whatever might happen to a person who passes through the core of a planet… and so, he decides to blow this pop-stand, and look for somewhere he might be able to catch his breath.  What he finds is a satellite/space station, made entirely of… gold?!

Inside, he ponders that the people inside might’ve crafted this place to be safe from Lord Malvolio… ya know, since gold and yellow are so similar.  Then, he finds something rather curious… in the middle of the station sits a giant Green Lantern Battery.  What’s more, all of the inhabitants of the station appear to be… worshiping it!  Upon sight, the aliens all call to Hal… believing him to be “one of the chosen”.  I guess Superman’s not the only guy in Action Comics Weekly to get a little weird worship!

Before getting his bearings, Hal is nyoinked into an adjacent room by, of all things, another human!  He introduces himself as Wallace, a Squire to Lord Malvolio.  We learn here that Mal was never a chosen Green Lantern… ya know, where the ring seeks you out and all that jazz?  It was Lord Malvolio’s father who actually wielded the ring.  That is, until Mal killed him in his sleep, and stole the ring (and it’s power) for himself.  He would then travel to the far corners of the universe (finally winding up in Priest’s Sector, no less!), in search of… competition… sport… adventure… friendship?  Hmm…

Hal assures Wallace that they’re both safe from Malvolio aboard the station… at least Malvolio’s Ring-Slinging, anyway.  Wallace scoffs at the notion, and assures our man that the Golden Space Station isn’t a refuge from Malvolio… it’s a shrine to him.  Ya see, color ain’t no thang to the Big M.  And then, right on cue, Malvolio’s giant mitt bursts through a window and grabs Hal by the mush.

We wrap up with Lord Malvolio seemingly destroying the Space Station Shrine… and, likely everyone on board!

Oh, this is just so good!  This is what I’ve been looking forward to talking about for over a half year… and, as disappointed as it makes me that it never went anywhere, it’s still one heckuva read.

I don’t want to go too deep into what Malvolio was intended to be, or where his story was likely supposed to go… yet.  We’ll discuss that at length in a couple of weeks.  I did way too much research on that topic during our “Hal Jordan’s Action Comics” series of episodes on the Cosmic Treadmill.  Dug up old USENET and random forum posts written by Christopher Priest, there’s a lot of great (and maddeningly disappointing, because none of it ever panned out) information that I’ll share here when we wrap up this arc.  There’s also that Green Lantern: Sleepers series of novels that we’ll be talking about.

While on that subject, here’s a snap of the inside front fold from Sleepers, Vol. 2:

And then, Malvolio arrives.

Here though, we learn that… Big Mal is able to shake off just about anything Hal can throw at him.  Not only that, it doesn’t look like he has the same aversion to yellow that the rest of the Corps did!  Also… damn, dude’s powerful, ain’t he?  Literally punching Hal through an entire planet?  This is how you make a bad guy look strong!

It’s also revealed that Malvolio was never a “chosen” member of the Green Lantern Corps.  Indeed, it was his father who served as a Green Lantern… Malvolio just wound up killing him and swiping the ring for himself.  I didn’t know Power Rings worked that way… but, I also thought they all had that Yellow Impurity as well, so what do I know?  It’ll all make sense soon… sorta.

Overall… this is some great stuff.  Some seeds (that would sadly never sprout) get planted here… but, still… I’d say this is “must reading” for fans of Green Lantern lore.

We open with Ken Glazier… having something bad happen to him… I think.  Looks like he’s either just had his brains blown out, or he was slapped in the face.  It’s somewhere on that spectrum.  Meanwhile, Dinah is having her wounds tended to by an EMT.  She claims that Cat’s stab (with a prop-dagger, no less) didn’t sever any tendons, just gave her a big ol’ bone bruise.  The check-up is interrupted, however, by an officer who reports they just found a body bobbin’ in the sound… a body whose description matches that of The Deb.

We hop over to the pier where our worst fears are confirmed… well, they’re bound to be somebody’s worst fears… The Deb is Ded.  The question about how or why anyone would dump her body into such a heavy-trafficked waterway lingers.

This gives Dinah a sneaking suspicion, and so she disappears around a bend.  There, she finds an opening to the sewer system, and decides to have a look around.

She is almost immediately greeted by the word “Whore” being scrawled on a wall… not sure if this was written in paint, lipstick, blood, or ketchup… but, it’s red.

Dinah continues… and comes across a closed door.  Upon entering, she finds quite the scene.  It’s a shrine of sorts… to a little girl.  There are empty boxes of Kentucky Fried Somethin’r’nother strewn around the joint, which makes me figure that “Whore” we just saw must’ve been writ in ketchup… maybe barbecue sauce.  Amid the ramshackle altar, Canary finds an urn… which she peeks into.  Suddenly all the pieces fall into place.

In a nearby chair, where it appears as though some torture had been taking place, Dinah can see some fresh blood.  At the foot of the chair, she spots a wallet… belonging to Ken Glazier!  Now that’s awfully convenient.  Looks like we’re finally headed into the end-game!

I’ve said it before, but as many of you know, I often take any opportunity to repeat myself here… this really feels like they’re doing their damnedest to add pages to this arc.  While at the same time, it feels like we’re not getting enough information!  The past several chapters could have easily been condensed into like half the pages… and included some clear, concise storytelling in regards to the final fate of The Deb.  Not that we necessarily need to see her get whacked, but none of this really needed to be so nebulous.

I think many of us figured out where this story was going about 4-5 weeks ago… so, a lot of these “revelations” are falling pretty flat.  I, personally, don’t think every reveal needs to be an “A-ha!” moment, but this arc seems to think that’s the way a story is told.  There would be nothing wrong with playing this straight.

Despite the clear-as-mud art, this is a mostly linear story… the twists and turns are manufactured to be twisty and turny… the story never gets the opportunity to grow and evolve “organically”… which only makes the reveals feel all the more forced, hackneyed, and cliche.

Not sure how much of this we can lay at the feet of the storytelling team… or if the editorial team did the ol’ Uri Geller spoon trick on this story to make it fit better into the publication schedule… but, it’s getting weaker by the week.  Still, it’s leagues better than Wright and DuBurke’s first try with the character!

We open with Dick and Roy returning to the States.  They are immediately greeted by a fella from the C.B.I. and ferried into a waiting car.  Inside. Roy is met by Mr. Sepulveda… in case you don’t remember, and I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you didn’t… Sepulveda is the C.B.I. big-wig who canned Roy all those many weeks ago.  Meanwhile, our friend from the Train Turlet (Hunter), has also arrived in the U.S. of A.  He hops into a cab… only to find that Lord Danvers is waiting for him.  After a bit of “prompting” (by a pair of over-sized goons), Hunter agrees to the ride-share.

In the first car, Sepulveda assures Roy he only fired him out of concern that he was about to blow a two-year undercover operation… so, nothin’ shady goin’ on ova hea’.  Well, except for, ya know, all the shadiness.  While they chat, a red sports car sidles up alongside the ride, and attempts to run them off the road.

Next thing we know, Dick and Roy are in their “work clothes”… so… hmm, does that mean they changed into costume in the car, while Sepulveda and his driver watched?  That doesn’t seem smart, now does it?  It’s really the only realistic way these scenes can flow together, right?  Annnnnyway, Nightwing and Speedy are met by some very, very, very inexperienced (and nervous) “freedom fighters”, who they handily wipe the floor with.

We learn that these geeks are members of The Sanas… or, at least, they claim to be.  They’re fighting for Ireland’s freedom, and I must say, they’re doing one heck of a job.  A-hem.  By now, Sepulveda and his driver have split the scene… probably attempting to get Bruce Wayne on the phone this very moment with an “offer he can’t refuse”.  After having The Sanas arrested, our heroes decide to use their own damn two legs to carry them the rest of the way into D.C.

Meanwhile, in the other car, Hunter makes his move.  This fella is somehow able to out-muscle Lord Danvers’… well, muscle, and commandeer the ride.  Ya know, this little bit right here might be the toughest for me to suspend my disbelief and “buy into”.

As luck would have it, Hunter is driving right by Nightwing and Speedy, and so he pulls over and offers to drive them the rest of the way.  Upon arrival at C.B.I. Headquarters, Speedy meets with Sepulveda and manages to convince him to hand over a manila envelope.  As the heroes go to leave, Sepulveda is informed that Lord Danvers is there to see him.  Oh, and this “Lord Danvers”?  He’s got ties to the F.O.E.’s.  I’m not sure if that’s been made clear to this point, but… that’s his story.

Nightwing and Speedy walk right past Lord Danvers on their way out… and find themselves getting stopped at security.  The guards ask about the manila envelope… which Speedy assures them they didn’t steal.  Well, get this, Sepulveda set them up!  Whaaaaaa?  This chapter ends with our heroes being arrested!

Okay, two things.

First… and my memory may be just plain cloudy, but… have we ever met this Lord Danvers before today?  I mean, he’s pretty forgettable, but… I really feel like we (or I) should’ve known who this guy was?  Especially if he’s going to be one of the “big bads” of the arc!  Again, maybe I’m just forgetting… I suppose I could just re-read the discussion pieces, but, ehh… 

Second, and this is a biggie… Did Roy and Dick really change into their crime-fighting costumes in the back seat of Sepulveda’s car?  I mean, general discomfort with some old fella watching you change clothes aside, this is just an all-around bad idea!  I don’t think Sepulveda’s the sharpest bulb in the shed, but even he might be able to put two and two together, and seeing Dick change into Nightwing, play “two degrees of separation” to deduce that maybe, perhaps, Batman is really Bruce Wayne.  Just weird.  You’d think some thought would go into that.

There was a fair amount of convenience strewn through this… even moreso than usual.  Really reinforcing my (likely misguided) belief that things went a little editorially-sideways during these mid-late weeks of Action Comics Weekly.  I mean, if we were to go back to the opening chapters of this arc… they were aimless, meandering, and even a little bit dull.  We spent way too many weeks dealing with Moira and Button… and, now… it’s like we’re just blowing through the story at breakneck speed.  Very uneven… however, since there was so much (editorial) change in the air, I’ll give the creative team the benefit of the doubt, and assume they were just rolling with the punches.

The cliffhanger ending?  Well, it was cliffhangery, I guess… though, why Speedy and Nightwing took Sepulveda (a dude who has screwed them over a number of times… including earlier the same day) at his word.  Seeing them get arrested prompted a… 

… instead of any actual, genuine surprise.  I guess we might be able to blame that on the “behind the scenes” machinations that I’ve already projected into this as well!  Here’s hoping it all comes together in next weeks final chapter!

The Fellowship and the Consortium finally square off… and, ya know… considering the fact that only one side of this battle appears to have superpowers, I gotta wonder why it was the Fellowship that went into hiding?

Anyhoo, all Superman can do is watch… and, in so doing, he notices that the Fellowship’s powers are growing exponentially.  He decides it’s time to get to the bottom of the source of these powers… and so, he follows the tube-esque trail of the cosmic beam into space where he’s suddenly struck by a boom!  Hmm… can’t be any significance to any’a that, right?

Superman strip?  It’s… it’s not you, it’s me.

I want to love you… I really do.  I want to accept you for what you are… but I can’t.  I feel like you’re holding out on me, and so… I can’t trust you to tell a satisfying story.  And, where there is no trust… there cannot be a healthy relationship.

I… don’t wanna split up or anything.  I think we should stay together… for the reader’s sake.  We’ll just be staying in separate rooms from here on out.  I’ll compliment you when it’s appropriate, and I’ll try not too be too harsh in my criticisms… it’s not your fault you can’t be what I’m looking for.  I’m sorry.

We pick up where we left off, for better or worse.  The Phantom Stranger is tangling with Tannarak’s Cat-Beast at the Bronx Zoo.  Cassandra Craft and Terry Thirteen are outside the gates.  After a bit of posturing… there’s a lot of posturing in this arc… ‘Rak and the Stranger look like they’re about to trade blows.  At this point, however, Cassie Craft has hopped the fence.  At this point, the Stranger looks a bit catatonic… not sure why, maybe he’s been exposed to this horrendously dull story too!

Next, we’re at the top of the Empire State Building (or thereabouts), where Tannarak looks to summon forth the Power of *yawn* Chaos.

Suddenly, the Stranger realizes the artist and writer took the time to create this story focused around him, and so… he actually does something!  He punches the Cat-Beast, and wrestles around the roof with him… until they both fall off.  The Cat comes crashing down onto the streets below.  Cassie and Tannarak exchange an oddly “knowing” glance.

Tannarak heads down to get between the Beast and the Stranger, while pointing toward the skies.  It looks like Cassandra has been caught between Chaos and New York City… crazy, but true.

Now, instead of helping his lady-love… err, lady-like… I dunno.  I’ve never seen this woman before.  Anyhoo, instead of helping her, the Stranger has a think on it… then proceeds to blast her with his Phantomy energies.

Ya see, the Phantom Stranger’s “sanity” has returned… and he now realizes that this woman is not in fact Cassandra Craft, but instead Tala Whatsherface!

Hoo boy, but this is boring.

This almost had to be some sort of long-lost inventory story, right?  Like, it was probably supposed to run as an Action-Plus backup feature back in 1978, but got lost in a drawer or something?  Because this is just not up to the standards Kupperberg set with the Stranger in his earlier ACW appearances… those were interesting, this… is not.

Thankfully, this… like most of ACW’s offerings… is a, say it with me, penultimate chapter.  The Stranger will join us on the other side of The Crash of ’88!, but it won’t be this story… and that, my friends, is a good thing.

Picking up right where we left off, Olaf has caught “Ms. Darabont” spiking the Blackhawk’s brew with the L.S.D.  He inquires as to what might be going on, and gets shot in the shoulder for his troubles.  At the same time, Andre up in the cockpit starts feeling something very… ominous begin to overtake him.  They try radioing back to Olaf, and when they don’t get an answer… Weng heads toward to rear to find out what’s up.  He just barely misses seeing “Darabont” parachuting away.

Back up front, Andre’s sinister feeling manifests itself in… the colors, maaaaaan… our poor Frenchman be trippin’!

In the back, Weng tends to Olaf.  He also admits to having drank some of the tainted java.  At the same time, Janos learns that Chuck’s having a similar reaction to his cuppa.  It’s becoming a pretty wild scene… and with every moment, the Blackhawk aircraft is losing altitude!

Andre lunges at Olaf… not sure what he’s seeing, but he’s in a rage!  Olaf punches him square in the nose, knocking him out.  Finally, we’re down to two.  It’s just Olaf and Janos… and they gotta land this bird.  One problem though, turns out that Jan took a few swigs himself!  Suddenly his fingers transform into snakes (why’d it have to be snakes?), and he’s all outta sorts!

We shift scenes to Frau Whatsherface.  She’s meeting with some Neos on the Islet of Herm in the Channel Islands between France and England.  She hands over the “mind-control serum”, and tout the soon-to-be rise of Global Fascism.

We wrap up back in the Blackhawk cockpit, where Janos’ trip continues.  He suddenly sees naked Nat spooning with a naked Olaf… and, with foam dripping from his mouth, Janos is bound and determined to do something about it!

Well, here’s the scene I’ve been waiting for ever since the realization that L.S.D. would be playing a part in this arc… and it did not disappoint.  I’m left wondering just how they’re going to wrap this all up in the next eight pages… but, I very much enjoyed this chapter for what it was.

Never having used L.S.D. (shocker, I’m sure), I wasn’t sure how the trippin’ Blackhawks were going to be depicted.  I didn’t know if it was going to be straight “the colors, maaaan” or more creative hallucinations.  Turns out, we get both!  I appreciate the fact that Janos lets his paranoia get the better of him here… he’s still clearly worried about (and sorta-kinda “hooked on”) Ms. Nat, and it was cool to see that here.

If you recall, early in the previous Blackhawk arc, Jan and Olaf scrapped a time or two over the fair and beautiful Ms. Commie Nineteen-Fifty-Whatever… and it was alluded to (if not said outright) that Olaf might’ve been responsible for the loss of her eye.  I haven’t peeked ahead into our final chapter… but, I’m wondering how much of a knock-down, drag-out this might be.  Though, I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be defused within the first page.

Overall, another fun chapter… and another reminder of how much this book will suffer once Blackhawk vacates its pages!

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