Action Comics Weekly #638 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #638 (February 7, 1989)
Speedy: “Exiles, Part III”
Demon: “The Road to Hell”
Hero Hotline: “Part Two”
Superman: “The Power Within”
Phantom Lady: “Toast of the Capitol”
Wild Dog: “Crack Up, Chapter Three: Burning Down the House”
Writers – Mark Verheiden, Alan Grant, Bob Rozakis, Roger Stern, Len Strazewski, & Max Allan 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
Special Thanks – Tom Peyer
Cover Price: $1.50

And, just like that… we’re at the halfway point of the “new-look” Action Comics Weekly.  It’s hard to believe that in less than a month (barring my getting hit by lightning… or a bus), this project will be doneski.  Well, perhaps almost “doneski”, depending on how I decide to approach the final issue.  That might be a “daily” done in chapters, or an all-in-one (since it’s just one story).  Not sure yet!

Guess this project will keep us guessing til the end!

This week’s cover comes from the King… and, is just kinda “there”.  Nothing all that special, outside of the pedigree.  It’s nice to know that there’s a little bit of Jack Kirby in Action Comics Weekly!

Here’s last week’s poll… which, was rather poorly attended.  Don’t worry, gang… I already told you, this project will be over soon enough.  I shouldn’t get all that upset, this was yet another week where I forgot to vote in my own poll!

If I had remembered to vote, I’d probably have voted for Wild Dog… so, I suppose he’s kind of our “unofficial” winner for #637.

Here’s this week’s poll… apologies for the lack of icons this time out, I’m having a heckuva time getting used to this OneDrive thing on the new rig.  Seems to upload my stuff in weird and unpredictable “batches”.  I probably shouldn’t have sent all 30,000+ blog assets up at once, eh?  This also means I’m going to be cutting it really close on getting the “re-branded” ACW-to-ACD covers for next week’s issue done in time!  Fingers crossed!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #638?

Hero Hotline
Phantom Lady
Wild Dog

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/UGWCD1J1

We open with a news reporter reporting on a demonstration going on outside of a local AIDS Hospice.  Some dude in a hardhat talks about how he doesn’t want none’a this in his backyard.  We see that Speedy (in full costume) and his new boss Burley are watching this on a bar television set.  They have very different opinions on the AIDS epidemic… I’m sure you can pick out which side of the argument both find themselves on.  It’s almost cartoonish in their opposition here.  Roy stands up for the rights of those with AIDS… Burley immediately insinuates that Roy’s gay.  Cartoonish… zero subtlety here.  Roy stomps out of the bar (again, in full costume), and heads over to a pay phone to ring up that woman who he’d saved from the purse-snatcher a couple of weeks back.  His call, however, is interrupted by the arrival of a towncar.

After a pair of heavies… who just parked their boat on the sidewalk… inform Speedy that “dey’re boss wantsta tawk to ‘im” about the Lossner Investigation.  And so, without any question, our second-favorite archer hops into the back of the hooptie.  They arrive at the sprawling mansion of the Hollywood actor, Sean Bauman.  He might be an Arnold Schwarzenegger stand-in, only with He-Man’s haircut.

So, what’s the deal with all’a this anyway?  Well, ya see… Bauman’s real name is, are you ready… Phillip Lossner.  He’s the brother of the missing Donald Lossner… and the guy who put Burley Investigations on the case!  Out by the pool, they compare notes… and lemme tell ya, Phil ain’t pleased to learn that his brother has the AIDS.  He lashes out at Roy… calls him a liar… threatens him… all that jazz.

Speedy realizes that this conversation ain’t going anywhere productive, and so he gets all “screw this” and heads for the door.  Bauman’s heavies grab him before he can… and the A-Lister gets in Roy’s face and accuses him of spreading lies in order to ruin his career as a leading man.

Roy manages to hiptoss the heavies, and… for whatever reason, he just starts firing gimmick arrows all over the place.  Like, explosive ones… which, I suppose makes sense if he’s trying to escape, but… here’s the thing: Bauman’s compound is littered with (I assume) innocent civilians!  Roy’s willy-nilly arrow-slinging seems more than a bit irresponsible and reckless here.

Roy fights his way to the garage, and goes to steal one of Bauman’s motorcycles in order to make his escape.  Then… oh boy… then, we wrap up with Bauman… who stopped chasing Roy long enough to get into a Randy Violent costume (headband and all), shows up brandishing a big-ass gun!

Wow, this was bad.

I mean, I’m not one to usually just come out and say something like that… but, wow.  This was just so dumb.  I’m not even sure where to start with this one.

I guess we’ll go beat-by-beat.

The AIDS crisis/hospice scenario presents itself with a “teachable moment”… which, our writer doesn’t take advantage of.  That, to me, is a bad thing for the message of the story… but also, a good thing in that it kinda zigs where I was expecting it to zag.  I figured Roy would hop up on his soapbox to lecture Burley about how HIV/AIDS is actually transmitted… which, again… good for the “message”, bad for an entertaining read.

Of course, this scene is still written with very little subtlety… Burley immediately accuses Roy of being gay.  Which, c’mon… what grade are you in, pal?  You’d figure Roy would be like, “wow, you’re kind of an a-hole” and maybe leave to fill out that application at Del Taco like he threatened a few weeks ago… but, nope.

Instead, he heads out to try and make time with that girl who’s purse he saved last week.  Unfortunately for him, the heavies arrive.  Now, here’s another one of those missed moments.  Roy hops into the back seat of their car without any questions.  Last week, we had that really great scene where he was dealing with his inner conflict… he’s a hero, but he’s also a father.  You’d almost expect that to at least waft through his head here.  Ya know?  Like, thinking about how dangerous it is to get into a stranger’s car… especially when you’ve got a little baby (who’s getting younger every chapter) to consider!  But, nope.

Then we meet Sean Bauman… who is actually Donald Lossner’s super-secret brother, Phillip.  He doesn’t cotton to the idea that his brother has AIDS… and assumes that Speedy’s just trying to screw with his career.  So, what does he plan to do?  Kill Speedy?!  Isn’t that just a little bit harsher than the public finding out that his brother has AIDS?!

Then, Speedy starts flingin’ splody arrows everywhere… which is, ya know, dumb.  Then… THEN… Roy tries to steal the Bauman-cycle… which is, also dumb.  But, then… dumbest of all, he’s confronted by Sean Bauman… who stopped, mid-chase, to tie a headband around he noggin, and squeeze into a pair of Randy Violent’s camo-cargos!  This is just so dumb.  I really don’t know what they’re thinking here.

Here’s the question though… did I hate this?  No, not really.  I understand that it’s awful… but, it’s so over-the-top awful that it kind of passes into the realm of campy.  High energy… high impact… no regard toward consequence, just stupid mindless action.  It’s bad, yes… but, I dunno, I kind of enjoyed it for just how bad it was.  Also, I think it thinks it’s much deeper than it actually is, which in a case like this, almost makes it all the more endearing.

We open with Glenda and Randu at the Gotham City Airport trying to board a plane with the Philosopher’s Stone.  Looks like the 1989-approximation of the T.S.A. has a bit of a problem with that, which strikes me as kind of odd.  I mean, the “stone” is more like a little rock.  I know plenty of people who would take home rocks and shells from the places they’ve been… nobody says boo!  Maybe they’d be more trepadacious in the post 9/11 world… but, this just looks like an excuse to draw attention to it.  Fine for what it is, I s’pose.  Meanwhile over at the Hill, Jason Blood is attacked by that weird warrior.  The Warrior himself summons Etrigan, which… gotta say, probably isn’t in its best interests.

Indeed, over the course of the next handful of panels, Etrigan absolutely wrecks the dude!

The Demon then tells Blood that he’s headed toward Tintagel, which is a place in England with ties to the Arthurian Legends.  Stands to reason that Morgaine LeFey might just be lurking around there.  When Blood wakes up, he hitches a ride.

We shift scenes to somewhere else, where Merlin has been strung up by a weirdo demon-beast… thing.  The baddie drinks a big ol’ swig of the Magician’s blood, as he waits for their guests to arrive.

We wrap up at Heathrow Airport, where poor Glenda is still getting static about her “pet rock”.  With a wave of his hand, Randu gets the T.S.A.-adjacent fellow to back off.  Kinda begs the question why he didn’t just lead with that.  Glenda peeks into the stone, and sees… a witch!  Is it Morgaine LeFey?  Is it someone else altogether??  Do we care either way???  I know the answer to at least one of those questions!

This feels like a chapter that could’ve been summed up in a single comics page.  I guess that might be unfair, so many of these latter Action Comics Weekly stories feel the same way… but, it seems especially true here.

I’m really struggling to come up with anything to say.  Can’t say the story is bad, or even all that dull (which I initially feared), but… ehh, it kinda just “happened”?  A stop-gap between last week’s cliffhanger, and Jason Blood’s trip to Tintagel… with a dash of getting Glenda and Randu into the playing field.

Not bad… serviceable.  Art’s nice!

Picking up right where we left off, Diamondette is being held up by the geek with the razor… who proves to be nothing more than a minor irritant.  Ya see, Diamondette works for Hero Hotline, and so it might stand to reason that she’s got herself some super-powers.  She hi-yah‘s the razor… rendering the geek unarmed.  He immediately gives himself up.  We can see that newbie, Hotshot is quite taken with Ms. Diana Theotocopoulos.  Must be the Mr. Sinister-esque diamond on her forehead…

After the daring capture of the geek, SOOZ reminds Stretch that he’s still got a cat to rescue from a tree.  I tell ya what, these Heroes are always on-call.  He nabs the newbie, and they head out for the save.  Meanwhile, Mister Muscle and Private Eyes are still on the Melanie Boulder case.  Turns out, she vanished while touring some meat freezers… ya see, she was about to start her “Meat is For Me” promotion.  A woman after my own heart!

While Microwavabelle is watching some microwave recipes on Cooking Avec Craig, a call comes in regarding a robbery at a liquor store downtown.  She and Voice-Over get the gig… and we learn that Microwave Mom’s husband, Martin had been killed in just the area they’re setting out to investigate!

Somewhere outside, Stretch and Hotshot find Nancy and Sluggo’s cat.  Hotshot (who gets his code-name here) decides that he’ll give rescuing it a go.

He does this by… ya know, shooting the cat in the butt with his flames.  Just like ya do.  You’d figure it might be easier… and less dangerous… for the super stretchy guy to, super-stretch and nab the bugger… but, that’s not how we do things here.

We wrap up back at the meat freezers, where Brother Bicep and Private Eyes are asking around about Ms. Boulder.  They come across an old coot who refers to the lady as a “Siren of Satan”… before saying he hasn’t seen her.  The heroes leave… and we come to find that the old man was (gasp) lying!  Melanie Boulder is on ice!

There’s something to be said for “hand holding”.  Ya hear it a lot these days… much of our consumable entertainment gets grief for holding our hands too much.  Look at video games, for example.  So many “current year” games are written off as being 50% tutorial and 50% actual game.  We never needed a pop-up to tell us to “Press A” for Mario to jump… or tilt your analog stick left to make him… ya know, move to the left.

I feel like this hand holding has, for the most part, made us dumber.  It’s like we now expect to have our hands held sort of as a guiding force for whatever we do.  So, what’s dumb bloggin’ boy to do when he comes across something like Hero Hotline?  Well, besides thinking way too hard for “deep” and thought-provoking analogies, he might just find himself struggling to find the best way to present everything that happens… in a way that allows a reader to appreciate the story, while managing to identify and follow the myriad of the characters.

To be perfectly honest, this feature might’ve been the one I was most looking forward to… and my most dreaded.  I wanted to share this because, well, it’s a lot of fun… and it’s really, really weird.  At the same time, it’s a tough one to keep track of… it’s kind of the comics discussing/reviewing equivalent of “herding cats”.

Have I blathered on long enough without saying anything?  Okay.

As a chapter, it’s unsurprisingly, a lot of fun.  I am really digging the weird veteran/rookie relationship between Stretch and Hotshot.  I also appreciate Hotshot having the hots(hot) for Diamondette.  Feels like they’re, in a small way, “world building” here.  We’re planting seeds for future stories and potential relationships… and, to me, that’s always a good thing.

We learn a little bit about Microwave Mom’s past here.  Her husband was murdered… which is something I didn’t even remember.  Her tag-team partner for this latest outing (Voice-Over) remains my favorite member of the team.

The Melanie Boulder sub-plot… is probably the one that will leave the biggest mark on the team (in the form of a new member), but… it’s kind of the dullest thing going at the moment.

Well, we’re at the halfway point for this feature… no sooner will we learn all these folks’ names, than they’ll be nyoinked out of our pages!  Oh well, whattayagonnado?  I hope you’re all enjoying this one!

Darkseid does his thing to the Consortium geeks, and explains to Superman that he’s only here to follow up on his little experiment.  Then, he vanishes!  Superman feels pretty bad about not being able to save those Consortium guys…

… to which, the lead-lady of the Fellowship (whose name escapes me), is totally fine with Darkseid wiping them out… considering that the Consortium was responsible for the raid (and subsequent massacre) of the Fellowship that we witnessed back in “flashback land”.

Superman tries to set her straight… including stifling another attempt at referring to him as “Holy One”.  He then gives her the lay of the land… ya know, Darkseid gave them the power… and in so doing, took away some of their free will.  He continues to lecture them for awhile before flying away.

The woman (Tierra!) laments the fact that they have been foresaken, to which… our old creepy friend, Bob Galt suggests that Superman did not abandon them… he freed them.  Fair enough?

Man… could this be the last time we have to see Bob Galt and the Fellowship?!  That’s not a rhetorical question, folks… this is me begging and pleading with whoever’s in charge for this to be the end of ’em!

It’s kind of “out with a whimper” though, innit?  I mean, we’ve spent 38 weeks, and 76 pages building to this scene… and, it’s kind of a cop-out, right?  Just a lecture, a lesson-learned… and that’s it?  Blech.  Not worth the build… and yet, somehow… this is one of the only things from Action Comics Weekly that DC Comics bothered to collect in trade paperback?  I know the company is known for making some of the dumbest decisions in entertainment (hello, 2020!), but… why would you waste the paper, electricity, and man-power collecting this?!

Least it looks good.

Our story picks up as Dee arrives at the Capitol.  The weaselly Roger Richter is there waiting for her… and, well, he sees right through her disguise.  Not sure if it was due to her comically over-sized shades falling off, or if maybe Roger is a bit too obsessed with the young Ms. Tyler.  Anyhoo, they’re there just as a trio of ninjas terrorists have kidnapped the (Vice) President (and Speaker of the House)… it’s now up to them to prove that they’re bad enough dudes/dudettes to rescue the Veep!  Worth noting, this VP looks nothing like George Bush nor Dan Quayle… so I’m not sure when this is supposed to be happening.

Dee plans her next move, and decides to go with… well, her only move to this point, the little hologram projector she has on her suit.  She engages her holo-brooch, and charges toward the baddies.  Only, they see her as an absolute army of Phantom Ladies!  Oh, also… Dee’s cabbie calls her Phantom Lady, because he drove the original around back in the 40’s.

She gets the drop on the goons, which is all well and good.  Unfortunately, Roger Richter attempts to prove what a stud he is by running in waving his la pistola around.  This gets him swooshed in flames by the giant armor-wearing terrorist.  Dee delivers a missile drop kick, hurting her foot in the process.  Whoops.

The cabbie gets involved and tackles one of the smaller terrorists, before succumbing to the sheer number of ’em.  There were, two of them, by the way.  With the cabbie on the ground, one kicks him with such force that… I dunno, if you have small children around, you might want to shield their eyes.  I’ve never seen a beating like this before.  I mean, look at the hatred and vitriol behind this kick.  I will see this every time I close my eyes for awhile.

Back by the steps, Dee is in the clutches of the armored goon… and he proceeds to squeeze the stuffin’ out of her.  Here’s another panel that makes me feel uncomfortable, but for a different reason.  Feels like Chuck Austen spent a little too much time and effort getting this one “just right”.

Anyhoo, ahem… Phantom Lady uses that little wrist-mounted laser to bore a hole into the metal-man’s head, and he finally lets go.

The li’l terrorists go to flee, and so Dee makes a hologram of a van barreling toward them.  This causes them to swerve into a light pole.

We wrap up with the metal man removing his helmet… and revealing that, you guessed it, Guerrehart is behind the whole thing!  Who’s Guerrehart?  Well, he’s the only bad guy we’ve met to this point, so naturally he’s the brains of the operation.


This is a weird one, because… I kinda feel like it’s not that great, but I can’t lie… I’m having a lot of fun with it.  It’s just so silly and, I dunno… for a story about terrorists, it’s kinda “light”.  Even the Austen art, which I know isn’t all that great… I’m really enjoying!  It just fits the tone of the story… if that makes any sense.  It might not make any sense, actually… because I couldn’t even put into words what I think the “tone” of the story is!

I still find Dee’s costume to be pretty ridiculous… however, with the way she’s drawn, I’m not entirely convinced it’s not supposed to be a bit “much”… and by “much” I mean “way too little”.  It, again, fits the nebulous “tone” of the story.

I appreciate the all-too-brief callback to the original Phantom Lady.  That connective tissue, for whatever reason, really aids in my enjoyment.  I know I can drone on (and on) about my affinity for “lore”, but… ey, I am what I am… and I know what I like.

Overall… this was an okay chapter, that I probably enjoyed way too much… and probably for all of the wrong reasons.  I think this is the halfway point for ol’ Dee… so, we’re rapidly approaching our climax!

We open at that bar where Jack, Andy, and Lou hang out and chat from time to time.  Ya know, I didn’t even realize this would be a recurring scene until now.  I really like it as a means of “working through” some of the story beats.  As you might imagine, today’s topic of conversation is the death of li’l Georgie Washington last chapter.  Lt. Andy is pretty upset about the whole thing, and says that the officer who actually shot the lad is pretty shaken up as well.  From here, Lou Godder jumps head-first into a racial rant… claiming that the cops don’t care about killing black kids.  This really feels forced, ya know?  Really doesn’t seem “in character” for what we know about Lou… he always seemed so even-keeled.  I get that this is a horrendous (and avoidable) situation, but… he’s really ripping into Andy here.  What’s more, while he’s reading him the riot act, he isn’t exactly making any suggestions for what the police ought to have done.

This is just a rotten situation, no matter how you slice it.  A poor (relatively) innocent kid, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time… with the wrong people, wound up dying.  Andy stammers for a bit… he’s at a loss for words.  After all, he was just doing his job!  The problem is, when you clear one group out of a condemned crackhouse, it doesn’t take long for another to move in.  So, not only was Georgie’s death avoidable… it also won’t do much of anything to stop the drugs from being trafficked.  After Lou leaves, Jack tells Andy not to take anything he had said personally.

We follow Lou to… hey look, it’s the crackhouse!  He watches as a (white) kid drops a delivery through the slot.  I don’t think it’s a big deal that the kid’s white… but, who knows?  Anyhoo, as Lou watches… he is joined by, believe it or not… Wild Dog!  Feels like we haven’t seen him in weeks!  They chat for a bit… and it’s kinda contentious.  The Dog tells Lou to get in position to snap a few pics, because he’s about to make some news.

And so, Wild Dog heads up to the crackhouse… with a gas can in hand.  Y’all smell where this is headed?

Naturally, the kids inside ain’t keen on letting him in… but, that’s okay… Jack’s got himself a master key to the joint.  Once inside, he even drops some bad-ass action movie line about being the “fire inspector”.  Really good stuff!

The Dog proceeds to pour gasoline all over the place… I mean, this gas can is deceptively deep.  He then presses the kids up against a wall, and dangles a lit match in front of them.  They give up the name of their boss (that’s that Willie guy we met last time).  He lets them leave, but decides… what the heck, might as well burn this place down anyway!

The kids run through the kitchen, where a third is smokin’ on that crack.  This goofball runs into the front room to confront Wild Dog, and winds up getting a gasoline bath for his troubles!  Our man is still rattling on about being the “fire inspector”, which… isn’t as funny the third and fourth time.

We wrap up with Jack pouring even more gasoline all around this kid… including onto his crack pipe!

A very solid and entertaining chapter!  Wild Dog doing what he does best… raising hell!  I feel like it’s been a minute since we’ve seen him “in action”, but boy-o-boy, this installment makes up for that in spades.  I mean, here he is… burning down a crackhouse!

As has been my normal complaint for this arc, I’m not a big fan of how Lou Godder is depicted.  I always looked at him as the most analytical of our Wild Dog “inner circle”, but here he’s just angry and ranting without taking any explanation into consideration.  Sure, this is a heavy subject… and it’s being treated as such.  Lou’s rant kind of cheapens the whole thing by reducing it to race.  It almost robs Georgie of his humanity… to Lou, it seems he’s just a “black kid”.  Maybe that’s heading somewhere… maybe it’s just a means to an end to get Wild Dog to burn the crackhouse down… I dunno.  Whatever it is, it’s uncomfortable.

The Fire Marshall Jack scene, though?  Man… so silly, but so great.  Him spouting off tough guy lines and pouring from a seemingly never-ending gas can… that’s some weird stuff.  I mean, dude actually ended the chapter by telling one of the druggies that “smoking is hazardous to his health”.  Corny, but great!

Overall… looks like we’re ending this issue of Action Comics Weekly on a high point.  Had a lot of fun with this feature, as I normally do… it’s still so weird to me that Wild Dog never got a shot at his own ongoing title!

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