Action Comics Weekly #637 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #637 (January 31, 1989)
Speedy: “Exiles, Part 2”
Demon: “Never Trust a Demon!”
Hero Hotline: “Hero Hotline”
Superman: “The Power of Darkseid!”
Phantom Lady: “Luck Be a Lady”
Wild Dog: “Crack Up, Chapter Two: Easy M$ney”
Writers – Mark Verheiden, Alan Grant, Bob Rozakis, Roger Stern, Len Strazewski, & Max Collins
Pencils – Louis Williams, Mark Pacella, Stephen DeStefano, Curt Swan, Chuck Austen, & Terry Beatty
Inks – Frank McLaughlin, Bill Wray, Kurt Schaffenberger, Murphy Anderson, Gary Martin, & John Nyberg
Letters – Tim Harkins, John Costanza, Agustin Mas, & Bill Oakley
Colors – Julianna Ferriter, Tatjana Wood, Bob Rozakis, Tom Ziuko, Glenn Whitmore, & Carl Gafford
Editors – Robert Greenberger, Dan Raspler, Brian Augustyn, Mike Carlin, & Mark Waid
Cover Price: $1.50

What a week it’s been.  Full of fun and adventure, but I’m glad it’s behind me.  If you’re interested in hearing about my trip back to New York City, and you’re an ACW “trade waiter”, you can check out yesterday’s piece for all those wildly dull details!

Not a whole lot to say about this issue overall… besides the fact that this is more-or-less going to be the roll-call until we wrap up this project!  What we see, is what we’re gonna get from this point on (with a couple of exceptions).

This week’s cover comes to us from Jerome Moore… and, I gotta say, it’s quite a striking image.  I’m not convinced it makes for a great cover… but, that’s been an Action Comics Weekly problem since the get-go.

Let’s take a peek at the results of our first “new look” poll!

Unsurprisingly, Wild Dog takes the win!  With all the hoopla going on at home this week, I actually forgot to vote… though, if I had… it would’ve been for Wild Dog anyway!  It was definitely the strongest feature… and might just be a lock to make it two in a row!

Speaking of which, this week’s poll welcomes the Hero Hotline into contention!  Vote in good health, my friends!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #637?



Hero Hotline


Phantom Lady

Wild Dog

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/JUQGI8HX

We pick up where we left off last chapter… Speedy is facing down a dude with a gun.  He immediately recognizes the man’s erratic behaviors (ya know, outside of brandishing a pistol) as his probably being high on drugs.  A police officer arrives, which only heightens the sense of urgency… and makes this baddie’s trigger-finger even itchier.  He squeezes off a few shots, but Roy is able to fire off a blunt-ended arrow which disarms the dude.  Afterwards, our man chats up the woman whose purse had been nyoinked… and, get this, asks her out to dinner.  She’s down with it… even referring to him as “sexy”.  I dunno, from this angle it looks like he could stand in as a doorknob at Beauty and the Beast’s house, but… whatta I know?

We jump ahead to Roy meeting with William “Just Call Me Bill” Rettick, the owner and manager of the shop where Donald Lossner worked.  If you recall, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t… Roy is working for a P.I. named Burley, and his first case is tracking down some information about this Lossner.  So, after Rettick fanboys out over meeting one of the Teen Titans, he gives Roy the run-around.  When the subject of Donald Lossner comes up, the tone shifts, and “Just Call Me Bill” gets all mum and angry.

Speedy’s next stop will by Lossner’s old apartment.  It’s so weird seeing him dressed in his Robin Hood gimmick (bow and arrow in hand), in broad daylight, sitting on a public bus… as a grown-up.  Oh well.  He gets to the place, and gets more of the run-around.  Lossner’s old landlord clearly wasn’t a fan’o the man… and he’s got himself a big ol’ bruiser to try and convince Roy to back-off.  Hmm, didn’t we recently see something just like this?

The Landlord warns his heavy to “be careful” because ol’ Robin Hood “probably got it too”.  Got “it too… are we really going down this road again?!  Roy kayos the creep, because… of course he does.  The landlord then grabs a 2×4 and proceeds to swing it in Speedy’s direction.  This doesn’t work out so well for him.

That night, Roy is spending some time with Lian… who, I’m sorry, is drawn to look something like a Capuchin monkey here.  Like, is this Yorick playing with Ampersand?  Anyhoo, he hears a police siren from outside and instinctively gets up as though he’s going to attend to whatever the situation may be.  That is, until he remembers that he’s a daddy now, first and foremost.  It’s difficult for him to do, but he lets the police do their job, while he gets back to his.

We wrap up the following day.  Speedy is popping in on Burley to provide an update on the Lossner case.  He winds up meeting Rettick’s secretary instead, who offers up a bit of information… turns out, Donald Lossner disappeared after he was diagnosed with… you guessed it… AIDS.

So… another AIDS story.  I guess it’s timely… relevant… all that jazz.  Not sure I wanna jump right back into one after that over-long Black Canary arc, but… I guess it’s really not up to me, now is it?

Let’s talk about the surreal nature of seeing Roy Harper… dressed as Speedy… carrying his bow and arrow… in broad daylight.  That’s just… I dunno… weird, no?  It’s not often I consider the notion that a superhero/vigilante might have to rely on public transit in order to go about their daily business… and, to be completely honest, I probably could’ve gone on just as well without actually seeing it!

It really pulled me out of the story… made it feel as though, at any moment, a couple of guys in white coats were going to start chasing our man around with a butterfly net.  I mean, couldn’t Roy wear his costume… like, under a trenchcoat or something?  Is he really so destitute that we couldn’t afford to draw him a jacket?  So weird.  Maybe our artist just isn’t good at drawing trench coats?

Tell ya one thing, our artist seems to be really interested in drawing chins!  Big ol’, chunky, well-defined chins.  So much attention goes into this one part of Roy’s anatomy, that the rest of him almost feels unfinished!  Hell, in a few panels here… the art was unfinished!  Sleeves were missing, lines were omitted… that could’ve been an inking or coloring error, but holy cow… they never missed a chin!

Keeping with the art.  What happened to poor Lian?  Not only did this ragamuffin get de-aged back into diapers… now, she looks like she ought to be walking on all fours.  Eesh.  I will say, however, this scene was probably the strongest of the chapter.  Roy battling that internal conflict over what his role in the world should be was pretty powerful stuff.  Is he a hero?  Is he a father?  Can he be both?  Really great scene… I hope we get more like that in the coming weeks.

Overall… a decent enough chapter, plenty of stuff to enjoy.  Roy as the world’s gaudiest Private Investigator was pretty neat… as was his stopping to chat up the purse-snatching victim.  The aforementioned scene with Lian was definitely the best bit of this, and might be worth it all on its own as a study in what changes when you go from kid-sidekick to adult-hero.

We pick up where we left off last week… Etrigan looks like he’s about to make a snack out of the young boy that Jason Blood had just exorcised.  Jason ain’t digging this, and attempts to call the Demon off.  I… hmm… I thought that this was a transformation-situation, and not a case of these two being actual disparate physical beings.  Maybe I’m missing something… heck, I might just be flat-out wrong.  I can’t claim to be an expert in Demon-ology.  There’s a bit of a standoff… until Blood threatens to slit his wrists… so, maybe they do share a body and this “meeting” is more ethereal than it appears?

As the dust settles and the smoke clears, Blood informs the woman who hired him last issue that her son will be okay.  He arrives back at his Sanctum Whateverthehell, and is informed about Glenda’s vision in the Philosopher’s Stone.  He’s not quite sure what to make of it, as, since Merlin disappeared… the Stone ain’t done bupkis.  She is finally able to convince him that she saw something… something having to do with the resurrection of Morgaine LeFey.

Blood springs into action… well, he books a flight to England anyway.  We join him there as he drives by iconic locales like Stonehenge, the Chalk Horses, and Silbury Hill.  He ponders just what Silbury Hill is all about.

And… as if on cue, the mound is struck by lightning!  From it bursts… well, some helmeted-dude on a horse.

This isn’t bad… I’m just having trouble bringing myself to care.

It’s perfectly enjoyable, for what it is… and appears to be interested in telling a story, rather than meandering like so many of our ACW features have done during their earlier chapters.

I am a bit confused about the relationship between Jason Blood and Etrigan.  I’d always assumed it was a Hulk/Banner sort of situation.  Maybe it is?  Maybe it, like the Hulk/Banner situation, evolves and changes throughout the years?  I dunno.

That’s one thing I feel like this feature could do better… provide context.  Here, while Glenda, Randu, and Blood are chatting… there are callbacks to previous stories.  At least I assume they are, it’s not like we get any editorial footnotes to let us know where we might find those previous stories.

I guess the fact that I don’t hate this is a good sign… sometimes that’s all we can hope for!

We open with the fella we’re going to eventually know as Hotshot reporting to work for his first day at the Hero Hotline.  Being a spritely young eighteen year-old, his mother insists on coming along to check out the place.  Like any teen-ager would be, he is pretty mortified.  They see the folks we’re eventually going to know as Mister MuscleFlexMister MightyBrother Bicep (uh, this dude likes to change it up) and Stretch.  The former has his hands quite full… and the latter is, well… an a-hole.  They eventually run into the robot, who we will eventually know as SOOZIE-Q (or, 500-2Q, if you prefer).  She isn’t much help either… she just refers them to the TV Set in charge before checking in on Mr. Muscle/Flex/et-cetera.

As Miste-err, the big guy… interrogates the baddie he just brought it, he appears to get a little bit of lip.  Turns out it’s just the Hero Hotline member, Voice-Over… who has the ability to throw his voice.  Ventriloquism powers seem pretty useful in the field, don’t they?  Suddenly, a job comes over the TV… turns out the famed country and western singer Melanie Boulder has gone missing.  Melanie Boulder, it’s worth noting, apparently has… large… uh, boulders.  The fella get all excited about this gig, and even wrangle the fella we will eventually know as Private Eyes in on it.

Somewhere across the room, SOOZ is welcoming Hotshot to the team… he goes on to demonstrate his powers to control fire and what-not, which gets him a “talking to” from his mother.  In response, Stretch… uh, stretches himself into a shovel, and scoops her out of the panel.

Hotshot gives Stretch a thank you pat-on-the-back… which is not appreciated in the slightest.  In fact, Stretch absolutely loses his crap… and starts screaming at the newbie for… whatever reason.  Ya see, Stretch is an old-timer… and doesn’t seem to cotton to these kids walking in off the street to join “this business”.

Next, we meet Microwavabelle or Microwave Mom… who, actually introduces herself by her code-name!  How ’bout that!  She demonstrates her powers by reheating Stretch’s cuppa coffee.

Just then, another job comes in… a special one for Stretch.  Now, if you have the ability to stretch, Plastic Man, Elongated Man or Mister Fantastic style… what better gig would there be for you than… rescuing cats from trees?  Stretch… isn’t amused.  In fact, he absolutely loses his crap… again.

Elsewhere in the room, that Baddie that Flex brought in has managed to free himself from the interrogation chair… and is holding up the entire Hero Hotline with… uh, like a straight razor?  Okay.  Before he can escape, however… the girl we’ll eventually know as Diamondette enters to announce that she’s been accepted to Medical School!  She doesn’t get long to celebrate, however… because this baddie promises to give her a “close shave” if the gang doesn’t cooperate!

Well… um… this would be what we in the biz call a “synopsizer’s worst nightmare”.  A whole slew of crazy characters, off-the-wall action… and, ya know… zero in the way of context.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun… but, the whole time I’m reading it, I’m worrying how I’m ever going to be able to actually describe it.  Thankfully we have already discussed the Hero Hotline at this blog, otherwise… oi, I couldn’t imagine how tough this would have been to get through.  On a purely “synopsizing” level, that is… the story itself is a lot of fun.

I’m going to include some of the information included in lieu of a letters page at the end of Hero Hotline #1 (1989).  It shares a bit more about the characters, and might make this a bit easier to digest.  Click’em to make’em bigger.

So, where do we even begin?  Maybe with just how odd it is to see a story like this in the pages of Action Comics?  I mean, if you ask me, this is the sort of thing we should have been getting the entire time during the Action Comics Weekly experiment.  There should’ve always been an “oddball” offering… a story/feature/arc that wasn’t afraid not to play it straight.  Something silly.  It’s crazy to consider that it’s taken us this long to get a purely comedic/satiric story in these pages!

The characters we meet are wacky, but… even in these short and frantic eight-pages, we can already tell that they have that nebulous quality of “heart”… and I’m really looking forward to “meeting” these characters all over again with you.  If I’m remembering right, they will be more-or-less fleshed out over the course of this arc, and we’ll have plenty more to say about them as we proceed.

Ba-Boom… it’s Darkseid.  See ya tomorrow, everybody!

Okay, okay… Darkseid is revealed as the mastermind of this “Holy War” between the Fellowship of Superman and the Consortium.  After a brief expository introduction for the rocky Apokoliptan ruler, we learn a little bit more about our present situation.

Ya see, Darkseid put all of this together as sort of a social experiment.  He was intrigued with the concept of “fanaticism” and wondered just how far humans would go to show their devotion.  Turns out, they’ll go pretty far… especially when bestowed with amazing powers.

Superman asks how many lives have been lost in the name of Darkseid’s twisted “science project”… to which, D-Side calmly replies, “thirty-four”.  Love that.

The baddie then turns his attention to the Consortium… and after giving them their due props for orchestrating much of this Holy War, he… uh… banishes them to the Scream-Centers of Apokolips.  Heckuva “gold watch” retirement, I must say!

Alright… here we finally go!

It’s fitting, in a way, that this whole magilla comes down to Darkseid just being kind of bored, and while waiting for the right opportunity to, ya know, take over the Earth… is killing time conducting a little social experiment.  This whole story, to this point, has been a non-event… and learning that it’s born out of something similarly mundane… I dunno, actually kinda makes it work?  Sorta?  On a meta “Chris is projecting his feelings into this story” kind of way?

Really not much more to say though… I mean, no matter how good it is (and it’s worlds better than what we usually get), it’s still like… a dozen talky panels.  They’re good panels… but, unfortunately, they don’t give me too terribly much to blather on about.

We open with a trench-coated Dee Tyler flashing a bouncer in order to gain entry into a night club.  Dude is bamboozled and gobsmacked by the sight, and gives her the “thumbs up”.  Inside the joint, we get probably the second cringiest “ta-da” costume reveal that we’ve seen in the pages of Action Comics Weekly (just a peg below Dinah’s new-look Canary costume early on in her run).  The fellas inside can’t help but fawn over her in any case.

She chats up the bartender, looking for information on a man named Farid.  The barkeep plays dumb, until she offers him a little bit of “Vitamin C”… as in, a C-Note.  His memory miraculously returns… and he starts spillin’ the beans.  He also, for whatever reason, gives her a vial of a strange liquid.  She proceeds to pour it into her drink… and, again, for whatever reason, slides the thing across the bar… smashing into some other guys’ drinks.  I… feel like I’m missing something here.  Was this supposed to come across as “bad ass” or something?  Because, it didn’t.

We follow Dee into Farid’s office, where we learn that this specimen has something to do with the arms deal we heard a little bit about last week.  He isn’t completely forthcoming with information.  In fact, when she mentions Guerrehart, Farid plays dumb.

Dee is able to use her feminine wiles to get him to come around.  She learns that there will be some Senators doing something at the Capitol.  Not sure exactly what they’re going to be doing… but, I’m sure it’ll be important for the story!  Farid goes to wrap his arms around our Phantom Lady… only to discover that she’s a hologram, maaaaaaan.  Looks like Dee’s roommate, Sarah is a holographic genius, or something.

Farid responds by… pulling a gun!  Yikes.  Dee narrowly escapes the night club, beating down goons all along the way.  We wrap up with her hopping into a cab, and telling the hack to floor it to the Capitol.

This… really isn’t all’at great, is it?

At first blush, this feels like just a series of cool/”bad ass” moments, strung together by a pretty weak narrative.  Like, we’re supposed to come away from this thinking that Dee is just the coolest character around… but at the same time, it’s so over-the-top that it comes across as more dorky than anything.

That over-the-top-ness leads to a severe lack in subtlety… everyone here feels like a cartoon character.  Chuck Austen’s art here doesn’t help matters much either.  I mean, look at this murderer’s row of dorkiness we meet here!  From the bouncer to the barkeep to Farid himself… eesh.  Dooooooooorks.

On that note… the big costume reveal.  Yikes.  Reminiscent of Dinah’s post-burning ta-da from back in the day.  I will say, at least this reveal didn’t make coffee shoot out of my nose like that one did.  If you need a refresher/reminder… here ya go:

Yeah, still can’t help but to hear that RuPaul song!  Yikes.

Picking up where we left off last time, li’l Georgie Washington is being sold on working as a look-out for slick Willie.  Well, perhaps I’m selling him short, this balding teen-ager is being offered the opportunity not only to act as a look-out, but also to go on food runs!  Movin’ on up!  Georgie is a bit hesitant, but can’t turn down the “big dough”… fifty bucks a day!  He agrees to come aboard, but first, he’ll have to quit his job at the Wheeler Garage… in person.  Big Willie understands, and even tosses him some advance cash to buy a new bike!  Jack is cool with Georgie quitting the gig… though voices his opinion that he hopes the “better job” he’s leaving for is on the up-and-up.

We jump ahead, and join Quad Cities Finest as they patrol the neighborhood where Big Willie’s drug den resides.  Ya see, they know there’s some shady going’s on… going on in this neck’a the woods, and are already assembling a SWAT team to raid the joint.

The next day, Georgie (and his receding hairline) has arrived for his first day of making the “big dough”.  He knocks on the drop-house door, and has a few bucks tossed at him from the mail slot.  The fellas inside want some burgers and fries.  As Georgie gleefully rides off toward the nearest Big Mac dispensary, Lt. Andy Flint and his team are suiting up to begin the bust.

George returns with the goods, and despite his best efforts, is unable to slide the burgers and fries’s’s’s through the little mail slot.  And so, the fella inside opens up… just as the Police make their way onto the property!

One of the drug-denners grabs for his… I dunno, do we call this a “semi-automatic”?  I know less than nothing about guns.  At first blush it looks kind of like a child-size Uzi.  Anyhoo, he opens fire through the walls… and so, the police return that fire.  Well, fair is fair?

The drug-denners pretty much immediately surrender… none’a them really wanna die.  There’s just one problem though… this raid didn’t go without casualty.  Anybody wanna guess who took a bullet to the chest?  Anyone?  C’mon… it’s a gimme!  Okay, okay… li’l Georgie Washington is dead.

Well, it’s taken awhile, but finally… there’s a dead kid in the pages of Wild Dog.  Smart money was on this happening in the previous arc, what with Wild Pup running around, but I feel like there will be a greater impact here.

Georgie Washington wasn’t so much a “bad kid”… he was just a kid who got wrapped up in bad things.  He’s trying to (I assume) help his family… so, we get that altruistic-y/moral-ethical conundrum sort of dynamic here.  Doing bad things for all the right reasons.  Just in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.

I’m very interested to see where this is headed.  After Lou Godder’s weird racial-rant last week, I wonder if he’s going to try and make something out of this with the Quad Cities P.D.?  I wonder how Jack’s going to react to learning that his former employee was killed?  I think there are plenty of interesting directions this might go… only, there aren’t all that many chapters of this story left ahead of us.  Hopefully we can get to a satisfying conclusion in the next four weeks.

Overall, a great… though, moderately cliche, outing.  The art here… and this isn’t something I normally notice, was quite lacking in backgrounds.  A lot of characters on plain white backgrounds this time out.  Maybe this is normal for Beatty, and I’ve just never noticed it?  But, here… for whatever reason, it really stood out to me.

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