Action Comics Weekly #634 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #634 (January 10, 1989)
Green Lantern: “Total War”
Phantom Stranger: “Cat and Mouse, Chapter Four”
Black Canary: “knock ’em Dead, Part 11”
Superman: “Breathless!”
Nightwing & Speedy: “Rocks and Hard Places, Chapter Nine: The Circle Closes”
Blackhawk: “Coming Down”
Writers – James Owsley, Paul Kupperberg, Sharon Wright, Roger Stern, Cherie Wilkerson, & Martin Pasko
Pencils – M.D. Bright, Fred Carrillo, Randy DuBurke, Curt Swan, Tom Mandrake, & Rick Burchett
Inks – Romeo Tanghal, Pablo Marcos, & Murphy Anderson, 
Letters – Albert DeGuzman, Dan McKinnon, Steve Haynie, Bill Oakley, & John Costanza
Colors – Tony Tollin, Petra Scotese, Gene D’Angelo, Tom Ziuko, & Adrienne Roy 
Editors – Denny O’Neil, Dan Raspler, Renee Witterstaetter, Robert Greenberger, Mike Carlin, Barbara Kesel, & Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

It’s the end of Action Comics Weekly as we know it… and I feel, err, I don’t actually know quite how I feel.  “… and I feel trepidatious” doesn’t really go with the beat of the song, does it?

Oh well… none’a that changes the fact that, this, my friends… marks the end of an era for Action Comics Weekly… and, as well as, Action Comics Daily.  This coming “week” will be shorter… instead of covering an entire issue in seven days… ACW #635 only has three chapters.  So, we’re going to be all outta wack going forward!  I mean… from this point on, Tuesdays are going to be our big “compilation” day?!  Yeah, that’s gonna take some getting used to…

Anyhoo, this week’s cover comes to us from George Freeman… who (without cheating and googling) I cannot recognize by name.  It’s not a bad cover.  Nothing necessarily sock-rocking, but good enough.

Let’s hop over to a poll most divided…

Ya see, that’s the trouble when there are two very strong features!  It’s almost like an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ACW having more than one worthwhile story!  I must admit, I was a bit torn as to which story to vote for between Green Lantern and Blackhawk.  I’m about 80% sure that I actually voted for Hal… but, this has been a busy week, and so I wouldn’t bet on it.

Now… for this week’s poll.  Remember, this is the final time we have the opportunity to vote for Black Canary, Nightwing/Speedy, and… Blackhawk!  Man, it felt as though this was a project that would never end… and now, if I squint, I can actually see the finish line!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #634?

Green Lantern

Phantom Stranger

Black Canary




Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/OIHB3KWM

We open with a… wordy as all get out monologue from our main-man Malvolio!  He threatens our Mr. Jordan that he will be the last thing he ever sets his eyes upon.  While he continues to pontificate, Hal uses his ring to scan the station for signs of life.  He does not find any.  He blames himself for their needless deaths… which, I dunno, since Action Comics Weekly started up has kinda been Hal’s “thing”.  As Malvolio begins to talk about his dear old dad, Hal gets up and looks as though he’s fixin’ to walk away.  Mal takes this as a grand gesture of disrespect, and informs him if he ever “shows him his back” again, he’ll kill him.

Hal lets loose with an energy blast, which actually manages to catch Mal by surprise.  Only one problem with Hal’s offensive assault… this entire rig’s made out of yellow, and while that doesn’t seem to inhibit Malvolio’s power… Hal isn’t quite as lucky!

But then, via the power of… I dunno, editorial intervention?  The fact that we’re rapidly running out of pages?  Hal just starts blasting the ever-lovin’ bejeezus out of Malvolio… and manages to take him off his feet!

Hal approaches the now-seated Malvolio, and proceeds to rain down punches upon his dome.  After a number of good “WHAAM!’s”, Hal stops himself from going any further.  He says nobody has to die… after all, (as far as Hal knows) they both took the Green Lantern Oath.  They’re almost like family!  If only Hal knew what Malvolio did to his actual family…

Hal regains his composure, and goes to walk away.  Hmm… looks like he’s forgotten all about Mal’s warning regarding “showing his back”, doesn’t it?

Malvolio draws a gun… and fires it right into Hal’s Power Ring, rendering it to little more than green bits!

Who’s ready for a Chris-hot-take?!  Nobody, huh?  Well, then I apologize for this here paragraph.  This is silly and minor, but stuck out to me nonetheless.  If you notice the way I wrote out the credits bit… Albert DeGuzman and Tony Tollin get “top billing”.  Sure, we can look at that as a little funny-ha-ha gag (and that very well might be the case), but part of me wonders if this was Priest’s way (if Priest, in fact, had any sway over the credits layout) of maybe protesting the way Green Lantern would be moving forward in a pretty drastically different direction than the one he mapped out?  Maybe Denny and Dan were just as irked?  I dunno… this is nothing more than a silly hot-take… probably loaded to the brim with projection!  It’s kinda what I do.

For the chapter itself?  Man alive, I loved it!  A knock-down, drag-out fight… with Malvolio really giving Hal the business!  I tell ya, this fella could’ve been a hyooge part of Green Lantern’s rogue’s gallery… I mean, I feel like you could build an entire event around him!  He’s twisted, pompous, powerful… really, the total package when it comes to an A-Tier baddie!

I joked during the synopsis that Hal only gained the upper-hand via the powers of “editorial intervention”… but, we’re going to learn that Malvolio was never really without control.  He’s insane, yes, but also… knows how to get what he wants.  Every move is calculated… we might even end this arc with him getting the proverbial “last laugh”.  Sure, it won’t actually go anywhere… but, well… we’ll talk all about that next week.

We’ll actually be talking about a whole lot next week… Priest’s plans for the character (in and out of Green Lantern), the way in which one of Hal’s most character-defining moments could have been traced back to this very arc.  It’s going to be equal parts fun, enlightening, and frustrating!  Doncha dare miss it!

Picking up where we left off last time, the Phantom Stranger is stood before Tannarak, Tala, and the Cat-Beast.  They exchange some pleasantries, before the Stranger accuses them of being slaves to the “Lords of Order”… I thought they were all about the Lords of Chaos?  Are they the same thing?  Maybe they are… I certainly don’t have any interest in researching further.  We learn that Cassandra Craft has been deposited in some Nether-Dimension, which is good enough for me.  Elsewhere, Doctor Thirteen hails down a police car and points them toward the weird lightning storm atop the Empire State Building.

There, our baddies have the Phantom Stranger in a sort of stasis, preparing a ritual to summon the Lords of Chaos (I knew it was supposed to be Chaos!).  So far, it looks like it’s actually starting to work!

On the ground, Thirteen is stopped at the door.  The police won’t let him inside, and so… he socks an officer in the face.  Yeah, right.

Back up top, it looks as though they’re conducting some sort of psychic bloodletting or something.  The Cat-Beast slashes at the Stranger’s chest… and appears to be absorbing all of his magickal energies… or something.

After watching this go down for a few moments, Doctor Thirteen decides it’s time to intervene… and he does so with, get this, a broom!  He rushes into the scene… swinging a friggin’ broom!  What’s more, it actually gets the job done!  The Cat-Beast is knocked off the top of the building!  I’m not sure if this is a statement on the innate power of mundane things (and people), but… this is pretty lousy.

The Stranger comes to his senses and judo-tosses Tannarak off the building, where he (and the still-hovering? Cat-Beast)… explodes?  Wha-?  Okay, so long as it ends the story, I ain’t gonna complain.  We wrap up with a portal opening, Cassie Craft rushing out, and we’re happily ever after!

I tell ya what… in the nearly four-years that I’ve been blogging every single day, there’s only been one time I stopped reading something part way through out of absolute boredom.  That was the The L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons) mini-series from 1999.  It was painfully dull, and I only made it halfway through.  I sometimes feel bad about that, but… ya know what, I probably shouldn’t.  

While trying to get into this arc, I was feeling those same “L.A.W.” pangs… I really just wanted to not talk about this story.  I feel like I’ve built up enough goodwill that I might’ve been able to take a “Mulligan” on this one… and actually began writing a post to that effect.  Basically, just a parody post of what I usually do here… just to keep myself entertained, because the story here… just wasn’t doing the job.

I ultimately decided to play it straight… for better or worse.  What we have here is… still wildly dull.  For the amount of actual “story” we get, this could’ve easily been a done-in-one… two chapters, tops.  Again though, ACW editorial was pretty weird around this time, what with all the changes in the air.  For all I know, Paul Kupperberg had this written as a tight two-parter, and was told at the last minute that it had to fill four.  Or, this was just a relic from a different “age” of comics that somebody found while cleaning out a filing cabinet in a storage room that hadn’t been used in over a decade.  Either way… this is perhaps the most skippable thing I’ve read as part of the Action Comics Daily project… and that covers a heckuva lot of ground.

We open at “act” the Contemporary Theatre where much of the second-half of this story has taken place.  There, Cat has Ken strung up high above the stage in some rigging.  He ain’t dead or anything, though… well, not yet.  Nearby, Black Canary, who figured everything out after her trip into the sewer last week, looks on.  Somehow Cat doesn’t notice that there’s like a mile of blonde hair just a few yards away.  Before Cat can cut the cables and send her ex-husband plummeting down to the stage, Dinah swoops in… asking the all-important question, “How did your daughter die?”.  I mean, this broad’s pretty unstable… might wanna wait til you’re on solid ground to begin the interrogation.

This leads to, of all things, a flashback scene.  Ya see, Cat’s totally cool with Ken spilling the beans right now… and so, he does.  The thing of it is, Ken while married to Cat, but screwing around with The Deb, found himself in some pretty risky situations.  This is when he somehow contracted AIDS.  I say “somehow” because we don’t know if this was a sexually-transmitted or needle-sharing sort of situation.  Whatever the case, he got it.

Fast-forward about a decade… Ken, along with Dannie (his daughter with Cat) were out biking, when there was an accident.  Dannie broke her arm, and lost a lot of blood.  Ken just happened to be a match (AB Negative)… bingo-bango, the kid’s now got AIDS too!  She dies not too long after.

With the story told, Cat decides it’s time for Ken to take his final bow.  However, before she can send him to his final splatting place, Dinah produces a sack… from which it looks as though she’s dumping Dannie’s ashes all over the stage.  Wow, that got dark–er.

Over the course of the next couple of pages, Dinah battles an enraged Cat.  This is kind of what we’ve been waiting for for the past near-dozen weeks… however, the way it’s rendered… it’s nigh on impossible to actually follow.  The art is veers into the, uhh, “hyper-experimental” at this point?  It looks like the fight ends with a spotlight either blinding Cat… or literally exploding.  It’s quite “out there”.

We wrap up this chapter, this arc, this feature… with Cat, dead… splattered all over the stage.  Dinah produces the actual urn full of Dannie’s ashes, so we know she didn’t actually callously dump a child’s remains all over the place.  Ken’s alive… and is going to be okay, ya know, AIDS notwithstanding.  After a “witty” Law and Order style closing-line from Dinah… that’s that!

So, all’s well that ends well.

Such a strange story… I’d say “strange little story”, but this sucker ran for eleven weeks.  Let’s talk nuts and bolts for a bit, since that was my main takeaway (and problem) with Wright and DuBurke’s first run-up at telling a Dinah story.  This one meandered far less… and, most importantly, introduced us to our cast early on.  If you were following along during Dinah’s first arc… we were still meeting major characters in like the penult–er, second-to-last chapter!

This story was, like the one before it, sorta-kinda “torn from the headlines”… at least thematically.  The AIDS epidemic was hyooge news back in the late-80’s.  It was like one of the three certainties in life.  It was like everybody was out to get you 1) hooked on drugs, 2) initiated into a gang, and 3) infected with AIDS.  It’s up there with quicksand as one of the things I was sure would eventually take me out.

Here’s where this arc differs from the last… in the first arc, we met the Librados… illegal immigrants, who did some rather unsavory stuff just to make ends meet.  We got this sorta-kinda “Robin Hood” vibe from them… doing bad things, but for all the right reasons.  Ya know?  Real Philosophy 101 “ethical dilemma” sorta stuff.  Here, Ken Glazier… for all intents and purposes, a “good guy”… he cops to his unsavory prior actions.  He regrets them… laments them, takes responsibility for them… and has been “broken” ever since.

There isn’t like this neon-arrow pointing at him telling us he’s who we should be rooting for, like there was with the Librados last time out.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, Ms. Wright was far less heavy-handed and agenda-driven this time out… and the story was much better for it.

On the other hand.  Mr. DuBurke?  Mistuh Mistuh Mistuh Mistuh… DuBurke.  I wanted to love this art.  In fact, it was just about the only thing I was looking forward to while this arc loomed on our Action Comics Daily horizon.  Like I’ve said a few times already… this art is fine to look at, but no good at telling a story.  I mean, look at our big climax here… I haven’t the foggiest idea which way the characters’ heads are screwed on, much less what’s actually going on!  We’ve waited nearly a quarter-year for this scene, and I can hardly make heads or tails of it.  That’s not good.

What I’d really like to see is like a “Director’s Cut” of this story… because, I feel as though there is a very tight and solid story hidden somewhere here… underneath the weird ACW schedule, without any repetitive nothin’ happenin’ scenes, without waiting until the last minute to spill all of the beans.  There’s something good here.  This isn’t to say the story, as delivered, was bad… because I don’t think it was.  I just feel like it could’ve been better.

I get that’s a pretty broad thing to say… I mean, every story (and every thing) “could’ve” been better.  What I’m trying to say is, this arc showed promise and potential, where the first outing did not.  There’s a feeling that if nudged ever so slightly, this could have been a very special Dinah-centric story… in a time where Dinah-centric stories really weren’t a thing.

Would I recommend knock ’em Dead?  Hmm… if given the choice between Librado’s Way and knock ’em Dead… definitely choose the latter, but… ya know, I dunno.  It’s not bad… maybe check it out?  Howzat for riding the fence?

Superman continues his ascension toward… whatever is beaming down to Earth and causing the Fellowship to display their weird powers.  Upon arrival, he manages to come across a… machine of sorts?

After some relentless pounding and tearing, all the while trying to keep a little bit’a oxygen in his lungs, Superman is able to nyoink the “heart” out of the machine.  We wrap up with him fearing that he might just have breathed his final breath.

Well, this certainly was the next chronological scene of this story, now wasn’t it?

Now, there were a few things I actually liked here.  The fact that Superman is preoccupied with how he’s going to breathe in a vacuum is a new post-Crisis/post-Man of Steel wrinkle in his makeup, and I’m happy to see it be included here.  Also, with Superman knocking the machine “offline”, we’re left wondering if he just (un)wittingly disarmed his Fellowship Followers!  This might be leading to something… dare I say, interesting?

Just like Superman, though… I suggest we not hold our breath!

We pick up right where we left off… Speedy and Nightwing are about to be arrested for “stealing” a file from the C.B.I. Headquarters.  Now, rather than attempting to explain their situation, our heroes comment how embarrassing this all is before… proceeding to beat the hell out of the rent-a-cops?!  I mean, these poor dudes are only doing their job… c’mon!  After the hub-bub dies down, and by that I mean, once the cops are kayoed… Dick and Roy are called into an adjacent room by a C.B.I. Agent, presumably one of the “good ones”.

Inside the darkened room, she welcomes Speedy back to the C.B.I., but warns him not everyone is happy to see him back.  Yeah, no kiddin’, lady.  She explains that her gig is keeping a watch over C.B.I.-C.E.O.s who have “gone astray”.  She then informs the boys that, get this, Sepulveda’s on the takeWhaaaaaa?  Yeah, yeah, I think most of us figured that out like eight weeks ago, but whattayagonnado?

She’s just about ready to proceed with a “bust”, however, is unsure who Sepulveda is reporting to “on the outside”.  Nightwing’s like “duh, it’s totally that Danvers jerk.”, which… is actually all our Agent needs to hear!  I mean, she doesn’t ask for proof or anything!  Thank God Dick didn’t say any of our names!

Speedy wonders aloud how Hunter (our friend from the Train Turlet) figured it all out… and just like that, our stinky pal stumbles out of the shadows to explain!  It’s all tied up in the F.O.E.s (betcha forgot all about them… I know I did).

Well, at least now our Agent has a bit more to go on than the hearsay of a masked man, and so… she proceeds with the bust.  We see Sepulveda being frog-marched out of his office… some dude freaking out in his office… and Lord Danvers being arrested at the airport.  The wheels of justice sure move swiftly… when you’re running out of pages to tell your story!

We jump ahead to learn the fates of our antagonists… Sepulveda gets thirty-years in prison… “Teflon” Lord Danvers manages to have all charges dropped… and, uhh, Mr. Monroe has his bail set at two-million dollars.  Mr. Monroe?  Who the hell is this guy?  Have we met him?  Is my memory really so bad that I can’t remember meeting one of our prime antagonists?!  The hell?

Back at Roy’s apartment, he’s steaming mad that Lord Danvers “got off”, but is soon calmed down having received quite a pleasant missive from Moira and Button back in Belfast.  Everything’s going great for them.  Also, Hunter just sold the rights to his story, wrote a book, and is making a bundle.

We wrap up with the revelation that Lord Danvers didn’t actually get to go back to life as usual… he found himself caught up in some sex scandal… and hung himself.  Welp… all’s well that ends well…

If you listen real close, it’s almost as though you can hear the *crunch* of truncation with this one.  Everything gets wrapped up nice and tidy here… and with the quickness!

I know I’ve harped on how uneven the back-half of a lot of our features have been of late… ya know, moving into the all-too-brief “next evolution” of Action Comics Weekly (post-Crash), but… I mean, where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?  Maybe I’m imagining it… maybe I’m projecting… I dunno.  There’s no way to “double-blind” this sort of thing, and there’s no such thing as a “comics placebo”… so, preconceptions are just part of the gig!  I feel like there was some wonkiness behind the scenes… and, unfortunately, I’m judging these stories as though that is 100% true.

So, whatta we got here?  Nightwing and Speedy beating up some security guards/officers who were… ya know, just doing their jobs.  Hell, even if our heroes get cleared on the file-stealing issue, shouldn’t they have to face up to punching out innocent people?  Am I just not supposed to think of that?  I mean, this is a (relatively speaking) “grounded in reality” sort of story… shouldn’t this sort of thing be addressed?  Hell, even in a throwaway line where Roy complains about having to pay a fine or something?

From there, the heroes meet a “good” C.B.I. Agent, who is willing to take them at their word without question.  That seems like rather slipshod “secret-agenting”, doesn’t it?  It’s hard for me not to blame this on the perceived “truncation” of this story.  Ya see, this story had a relatively strong first half… meandering a bit, yes… but, it felt like Wilkerson was invested in “setting the table”.  Here though, the rapid-fire results we’re getting?  It’s just so tonally different and oddly paced that it feels completely out of place.

Then, the arrests go down… possibly introducing us to a brand-new character?  If he isn’t new, and I’m just too dense to remember, he certainly wasn’t featured prominently enough to fit here.  Was he just the “fall guy” for Lord Danvers?  I feel like that shouldn’t even be a question… if he was, we/I should know immediately!

I dunno, you guys… came into this arc a bit lukewarm, but it won me over.  Then, something happened.  Not sure what exactly, but around the second-half… third-third, the worm definitely turned.  Pacing was tossed out the window, and it was just a mad-rush to get to everything tied up so this can end in time for The Crash of ’88!.  It’s too bad, really.

Well, Nightwing and Speedy’s story it now behind us… but, have no fear, Speedy will be returning post-Crash with his own solo feature.  Oddly enough, it won’t be written by Cherie Wilkerson… who, for much of this story, seemed to want to write only about Roy anyway!

Picking up where we left off, Jan’s still trippin’… and now has his hands wrapped around Olaf’s throat.  The big man is able to swat the Major away, and thankfully knocks him back to his senses.  As Jan shakes out the acid-y cobwebs, he manages to level out their altitude.  At this point, Weng starts to come around… just in time to see all of their in-flight instruments begin to go haywire!

Turns out they’re flying in the vicinity of a strange little island of sorts… one from which a “magnetic field disturbance” is originating.  Olaf grabs the binocs, and sees a fella in an ominous uniform looking back at them.  The Nazi rushes into a cavern… 

The Blackhawks land, and come barreling out of the back end of their plane in a Jeep!  Needless to say… we got guns a’blazing!

The good guys pick off a bunch of Nazis… however, have their tires shot out by the faux Ms. Darabont.  Janos gets thrown from the Jeep, but is able to collect himself and give chase into the cavernous base.

As Frau Whatsherface pontificates about how the “Reich Will Rise Again”, Janos shows us he ain’t screwin’ around by… shooting her, right between the eyes!

We wrap up with the Blackhawks deducing that the real Darabont is likely dead somewhere back in Berlin… and they lament the fact that, so long as they got what they were sent for (the L.S.D.), nobody’s really going to care.  Annnnnnd, that’s the end!

Gang… I am going to miss this feature.

When I began our Action Comics Daily endeavor way back on February 1… I really thought all I was in for a fun revisit to the Green Lantern stories… and a very “muddling” rest of the time.  I kinda saw it as a self-fulfilling prophecy, where I’d maybe get about six week in… and call it a day.  What I wasn’t expecting, was that I’d absolutely fall for a feature that I’d previously not had an iota of interest in… and I certainly didn’t think that feature would be… Blackhawk!

I’ve said it before… especially early on, I’m not all that big on war comics.  For as “well read” I am with comics, my tastes and interests are… relatively narrow.  So… even if going through this Action Comics Weekly experiment hasn’t been the most fun or exciting experience, it has a place in my heart for the simple fact that it got me to finally buckle down and read a Blackhawk story.  Even if this were the only bright spot (and I’m not saying it was), it all would have been worth it.

So, whatta we got here today?  Well, an ending… a sorta abrupt ending (like all the rest), however, Martin Pasko has the ability to use that to his benefit.  Sometimes things just end… loose ends don’t always get tied up… and sometimes, you just gotta move onto the next “thing”.

Janos neutralizes the threat of the next Reich… by shooting everybody!  They deduce that Ms. Darabont is likely dead… but, at this point, there’s nothing they can do about it… so, it’s treated in an “it is what it is” sort of fashion.  It’s not “neat” or “tidy”… but, it works… and it speaks to the talents and understanding of the realities of the comics medium that Mr. Pasko doesn’t bend his story to necessarily give us a “neat” ending.  To do so would be to undermine much of what got us here.

If we look at some other concluding features this week, they tried giving us finality and closure… and it, unfortunately, didn’t do the overall story any service.  They felt rushed, truncated… and worst of all, convenient.  We manage to sidestep most of that with this final chapter of Janos and the Gang.

Overall… man… I’m going to miss this.  There is a follow-up series by the same creative team that I have started to grab whenever I come across it… but, I can’t promise I’ll be able to get around to covering it here anytime soon.  Granted, that’s probably more of a bummer for me than anyone reading this…

Anyhoo, that’s a wrap on our pre-Crash coverage of Action Comics Weekly… our next “daily” will cover The Crash of ’88!

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2 thoughts on “Action Comics Weekly #634 (1989)

  • Billy Hogan

    It was a lot of fun to revisit the Blackhawk features in Action Comics Weekly. DC Comics is going to include these stories in a new edition of Howard Chaykin's Blackhawk 3-issue miniseries Blood And Iron.

  • Chris U

    I voted for Blackhawk one last time. It was a tough decision between Blackhawk and Malvolio…… errrr I mean Green Lantern, but I just had to support the troops.


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