Action Comics Weekly #639 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #639 (February 21, 1989)
Speedy: “Exiles, IV”
Demon: “Witches”
Hero Hotline: “Part 3”
Superman: “An Eye for an Eye”
Phantom Lady: “Belle of the Ball”
Wild Dog: “Crack Up, Chapter 4: Rung by Rung!”
Writers – Robert 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
Special Thanks – Tom Peyer
Cover Price: $1.50

Feels like just yesterday we entered the “six-thirties”… and here we are, closing the door on ’em!  If it wasn’t already clear, we are most definitely in the “home stretch”, my friends!

Next week sees the end of, not only one… but two of our “new look” features.  Tomorrow, we put Speedy out to pasture… and just two days later, we say goodbye to the Hero HotlineEvery other feature will see it’s penultimate chapter.  The following week… we clear the deck… and the week after that, well… that’s the double finale (more on that as we move forward)!

Should we… uh, discuss this cover?  It’s kinda hideous, innit?  I mean, at first blush, it almost (almost) resembles something from Brian Bolland.  It is in fact not him, but instead Kevin Nowlan, whose art I usually quite dig!  It’s just this cover that kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Oh well, next week we get a Wild Dog cover… and it ain’t half bad!

Let’s go to the polls!

Pretty good turnout last week!  Wild Dog proved his supremacy… which, sounds about right to me!  It’s hard to believe there are only two polls after this one!  Though, I figure when we wrap this whole thing up, I’ll probably do so with a “super-poll”, where we can all vote for our favorite (or perhaps “top three”) features for the entirety of the project.  That could be some fun!

Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #639?



Hero Hotline


Phantom Lady

Wild Dog

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/EH9FL6BV

We pick up right where we left off… the dude in the Randy Violent cosplay is holding Speedy up in his garage.  They share a bit of back-n-forth, of both the verbal and physical variety.  Roy wins this battle… steals the motorbike, and gets away.  Next thing we know, our second-favorite archer is literally kicking in the door of Mr. Burley.  Ya see, he ain’t keen on having some of the facts kept from him.  He didn’t know that Sean Bauman was the client… and also, the super-secret brother of Donald Lossner.  Speedy explains that Bauman was rather peeved to learn that his brother was both, a) gay and b) stricken with AIDS.  Now, wait just a second… has it ever been said that Donald Lossner was gay?  I don’t think that’s been confirmed in so many words.  Heckuva conclusion to leap to there, Roy.

Roy quits working for Burley right then and there.  That night, he goes on a date with the woman whose purse he saved a few chapters back.  It’s a pretty boring evening, until our man reveals that he has a daughter.  Seems ol’ whatsherface might not be quite as interested as she initially thought.  In fact, she spills her drink all over the place when she finds out.

Roy heads over to the bar to get her another glass of the bubbly, and on the bar’s television is a report from the AIDS Hospice.  An anonymous patient speaks out on behalf of those suffering.  Roy instantly assumes that this must be Donald Lossner.  Sure, while we’re jumping to conclusions already… what’s one more?  Worth noting, the bartender is all “Ehh, y’ask me, we oughta load all dem AIDS people onto a boat…” because, how else could we illustrate how tolerant Roy Harper is?

Speedy ends his date early… which, to be honest, doesn’t seem like all that much of a disappointment to our purse-snatched victim.  We join our man later on, as he’s driving Sean Bauman’s motorcycle up to the AIDS Hospice.  There’s a pretty big demonstration going on… seems there are a lot of NIMBY types in the area!  Roy manages to get inside, since… ya know, he’s dressed like a cartoon archer in broad daylight.

One of the demonstrators hurls a rock through the window of the joint, and Roy is pulled into the Resident Physician, Doctor Fielding’s office.  She kinda lambastes him for only caring about AIDS right now, while it’s “popular”… and asks where he and his ilk were years ago while folks were suffering in silence.  Well, she’s kinda got a point there.  She suggests maybe he was just as scared as the people demonstrating on the other side of the wall.

Well… this still ain’t all that great, now is it?

In reading those last couple of pages, I kept getting pangs of Denny and Neal’s “You were there for the (insert color) skins…” bit from Green Lantern/Green Arrow… only with AIDS patients/victims as the marginalized class.  It feels wildly ham-fisted… and really, just something that could’ve gone without saying.  I feel like it would have had more “oomph” if we got a moment with Speedy wondering to himself why he (or any non-Black Canary member of the hero community) hadn’t gotten involved with the plight of AIDS patients sooner.  This just comes across as trying too hard to underscore the issue… and, at least for me, winds up missing the mark.

Let’s talk Lossner.  I know my reading comprehension isn’t always the best, but I really don’t remember it being plainly stated that he was gay.  Maybe I’m too dense to pick up on allusions, but… I figure something being written as unsubtle as this story is, would say so flat out.  Feels like Speedy might be making some assumptions… then again, since this is such an unsubtle story, he’s probably going to wind up being right anyway.

Speaking of assumptions… how in the world did Roy know that the anonymous AIDS patient was Donald Lossner?  Was his face supposed to be pixelated on the screen?  It’s fairly featureless in the art… and, I mean, he only spoke under the condition that his identity not be revealed.  Seems as though enough people know who this fella is, that there’d be some sort of image manipulation at play… right?  Who knows… maybe I’m just thinking too hard about it.

Roy’s date was… pretty lame, but it was a means to an end.  It got him to the bar, so he’d see the interview, so he’d get some direction, so he’d yadda, yadda, yadda.  I thought it was interesting that his date seemed to want nothing to do with him after finding out about his daughter.  I also thought it was interesting (in another way) how willy-nilly Roy was about his secret identity… especially knowing that his daughter could be (and eventually would be) used as a way of getting to him.  Seems pretty dumb.

Overall… this is, what it is.  It’s still not great, but worse yet… with this chapter, it’s no longer dumb fun either!

We open with Glenda still peering into the Philosopher’s Stone.  What she sees inside is… the Witch in the Wookey Hole.  Wookey Hole, it turns out is an actual place in England… whodathunkit?  Anyhoo, Randu suggests she just ignore the lure of the Witch… and is, quite frankly, the only one talking sense in this whole feature.  Naturally, Glenda insists they head to da Hole.  They rent a car, and the car rental guy doesn’t seem to have the foggiest idea where or what a Wookey Hole is.  Oh well.  The Gremlin/Goblin/Demon/Bad Guy who has been holding Merlin captive is watching the whole thing unfold… and seems pretty cool with it.

We meet up with Jason Blood, as his ride drops him off at Tintagel Castle.  Being the cultureless doof that I am, I never know when things are references to the real world or not.  Looks like Tintagel is now a sort of tourist trap.  Jason walks through, and sees the statue of Morgan LeFay… only, he knows it’s not just a statue… but the real deal, just turned to stone.  He mentions that Glenda locked her away, and Etrigan bit off her hand.  Meanwhile, G-n-R arrive at the Hole.

Glenda and Randu continue into the Hole and through the caves within, until they come across the stone figure she saw in her vision… it’s calling to her, and Glenda ain’t offering much in the way of resistance.

At that very moment (I think), there are some worshipers dancing around Morgan LeFay’s stone figure… and chanting.  Suddenly, she’s brought back to life!

Mogan’s back… in the flesh, only… ya know, still missing a hand.  This, as you might imagine, peeves her quite a bit… and so, she takes it out on her followers.  We wrap up with the revelation that Etrigan has watched this whole event unfold.

The funnest part of this entire bit is the way that it’s facilitated my typing “Wookey Hole” over and over again.  Other than that… I probably could do without this one.

I think I’ve made this same complaint/observation about this one before, but… if this is following up or building upon a past story, why aren’t there any editorial footnotes?  What harm would they do?  You claim these stories happened before, and yet… no actual points of reference are provided!  Not that I’d read any of them… nor would this story inspire me to, but still… they could have only helped.

We get some weird time progression here.  We go from Jason Blood touring Tintagel during daytime, to a summoning circle at night.  I mean, night obviously follows day… but it could’ve been clearer.

Overall… ehh.

We pick up at the meat plant, where Flex and Private Eyes have come up empty on their search for Ms. Boulder.  They call into SOOZ, who doesn’t really have any suggestions for them.  Private Eyes then realizes that the fella guarding that meat freezer door just happens to have a signed 8×10 of Ms. Boulder sticking out of his back pocket… but, how can that be if he hadn’t seen her?  Well, clearly the dude is lying.  Sure ’nuff, Eyes peeks through the wall and sees the buxom country star shivering away.  When they confront the old fogey, he… get this… brandishes a meat cleaver, and actually manages to do some slicin’ and dicin’ on Private Eyes’ arm!

Flex kayos the creep and rips the freezer door off its hinges to save the “Siren of Satan”.  The old man is arrested, and everything’s hunky dory.

We next shift scenes to the liquor store hold-up, where Voice-Over and Microwave Mom are trying to deduce whether or not this robber is the same guy who murdered M.M.’s husband, Martin one year earlier.  As the baddie rants and raves, and threatens to do harm to his trio of hostages, V.O. uses his powers to throw his voice.  Pretending to be God, he has a heart-to-heart with the robber.

The bad guy ain’t buyin’ it… and so, the heroes up the ante.  Microwave Mom super-heats some of the bottles inside the store in order to give the guy a “sign”.  As the bottles pop their tops, the robber begins emptying his gun… into the bottles, of course.  You really don’t think anybody’s actually going to get shot here, do you?

This dude’s really losing his crackers here… and Voice-Over sees his opportunity.  As the “Voice of God” he encourages the robber to confess his sins…

It’s here that we learn that this guy was in fact responsible for the death of Microwave Mom’s husband, Martin.  And then… well, with his soul freed of sin, the robber proceeds to put his gun up to head, and… 

Wow.  He really did it, dinnae?  V.O. tries to blame it on the fact that the dude was on drugs… but, it’s pretty clear he knows what’s really up.  The Captain of Police rushes back into the scene… and all we see is the robber’s hand… clutching a crucifix.  With all of their super-powers, the Hero Hotline couldn’t defuse this situation without casualty.

We wrap up with Hotshot and Stretch on their way back from saving yet another cat in a tree.  A woman rushes toward them and asks for help.  Ya see, there’s a dude in the subway threatening to shoot another guy if he doesn’t stop smoking.  Stretch gets a closer look, and tells her not to worry… it’s only a squirt gun.  She confirms this, but reveals that this squirt gun… is filled with gasoline!


That was a fair amount heavier than I was expecting it to be.  I’m really not sure how to even follow it.  I guess we can just break down each beat.

First, we get some hackin’ and slashin’ at the meat plant.  I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting to see blood on that cleaver!  That should have been a sign that this entire chapter was going to be a bit more intense than the others.  I really dug the use of Private Eyes’ powers here… he is able to take a look into his wound, and deduce whether or not it was something he needed to concern himself with.  Naturally, you’re going to want to stop the bleeding… but, he was able to tell that this wouldn’t leave him with any permanent damage, which I thought was pretty cool.

At the end of the chapter, we get an anti-smoking advocate threatening to spritz gasoline on someone who refuses to stop smoking.  Again… pretty heavy stuff… far more extreme than I would have expected to see here.  We’ll have to wait until next week to see how that works itself out… but, definitely worth noting.

Now… we gotta talk about the middle portion.  Some really solid stuff here… and a little bit to unpack.  We know that Microwave Mom’s husband, Martin was murdered during a hold-up at a liquor store… and so, anytime there’s a liquor store hold-up, M.M.’s ears are perked.  Turns out, this time… the would-be robber was in fact Martin’s murderer!

Voice-Over gets to use his powers of throwing his voice in order to get into the bad guy’s head as the “Voice of God”.  The robber has an… almost literal… “come to Jesus” moment, when he becomes convinced that God is actually speaking to him.  He reveals his greatest sin… killing Martin.  Acknowledging his crime… clearing his conscience, he feels his only recourse is… ending it all!

Now, this is an act that doesn’t only affect the robber… this is kinduva “stain on the soul” of Voice-Over and Microwave Mom too.  If V.O. didn’t push… didn’t make this guy confess, it’s likely that he wouldn’t have killed himself.  Ya see, it was that one step too far… the robber was already convinced that God was speaking to him… Voice-Over could have had him do pretty much anything at that point… including and especially, dropping his gun.  Instead, he pressed for information.

There would have been plenty of time to interrogate this guy… or even pull the “Voice of God” gimmick on him at a later (and less armed) time.  We can see that V.O. really feels this one… in that he tries blaming the dude’s actions on the drugs he was taking.  While the drugs might’ve dulled his senses a bit, I’m pretty sure we all know what really caused him to pull the trigger.

Microwave Mom seems a bit less affected… which, is to be expected.  Sure, she had a hand in getting V.O. “into” the robber’s head… but, for her… this was personal.  There’s likely some vindication in this dude blowing his brains out.  When the Police Captain asks if there was anything they could have done to stop this, she outright says “no”.  It’s an amazing amount of depth for these brand-new characters, who we’ve only spent a handful of pages getting to know.  Really good stuff here.

Overall… I’d say if you’re going to read one chapter of Hero Hotline… this probably ought to be the one you check out.

We open at the Daily Planet, where it’s coming in over the wire that the Quracis are taking credit for a recent suicide bombing.  Lois and Clark are pretty somber in the telling, but there’s this fella named George beside them who uses this as an opportunity to make some ignorant blanket statements about “those miserable” so-and-so’s.

Lois is aghast at his comments, and she and Clark try to learn this fella something about not letting the actions of a few besmirch the reputation of an entire culture.  George goes all “eye for an eye” before storming out to grab some lunch, it’s really about as unsubtle as you might imagine.

We shift scenes to the Quraci Gardens Restaurant, where the proprietor laments the recent bombing news… as anytime the Quracis do anything, his business suffers.  These are some real concerns… and, I’m kind of shocked that they’re being addressed.  Anyhoo, a pair of street toughs storm into the joint and proceed to beat the owner up!

All the while, he’s trying to reason with them that he’s an American.  Unfortunately for him, these goons ain’t in the mood to listen.  We wrap up with the restaurateur kayoed… and his establishment set on fire!

Well, I’ll tell you this much… this beats the hell out of the Fellowship garbage we’ve been following for the past 38 weeks!

This is actually a well-crafted chapter… we have a conflict established with the Quraci Bombing… the tone set with the air of distrust, anger, and fear toward the Quaraci people… and we see it play out right on panel!

So, you’re tellin’ me that Roger Stern was capable of giving us a substantial chapter in two pages all this time… and he waited til the very end to actually do so?!  C’mon, that’s just unfair!

Now, for the story… it’s good… it’s real.  I probably could have done without such an unsubtle character in intolerant George… but, I have to admit that it set the table for our ending… and, I mean, ultimately he’s going to wind up seeing the error of his ways, right?

I appreciate the restaurant owner lamenting the cause-and-effect of Quraci aggression… and how it really messes with his bottom line.  He considers himself an American… and part of his American dream is being a successful restaurateur.  This is a really good scene that drives home Clark’s earlier point regarding “holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few”.

Overall… where has this kind of two-page storytelling been all this time?!  This is good!

We open with Phantom Lady having a bit of breakfast and checking out the news headline of her saving the Vice President and Speaker of the House.  Worth noting, she’s still in costume… complete with domino mask… sitting in her own damn kitchen.  Her roommate, Sarah walks in, and we learn that… as luck would have it, that rotten Guerrehart is having a costume ball that very evening.  Now, since Phantom Lady is the hottest thing in town, Dee is certain there’ll be plenty of locals dressed as her… making it that much easier for her to slip in undetected.

Late, a limousine arrives to pick Dee up and sweep her away to the soiree.  Her “date” for the evening is ramblin’ Roger… and he looks to be dressed like… I dunno, maybe Speedy?  They plan to find out what G-hart’s got on her daddy.

Inside the gala, sure ’nuff there are a bunch of Phantom Ladies… including Dee’s old friend, Marie… who recognizes her immediately!  Gotta say, that doesn’t say much for the efficacy of this costume, now does it?  Mr. Guerrehart and his “heavy” note that there are a lot of Phantom Ladies present this evening…

After a brief and ambiguous conversation, Guerrehart breaks away and retires to his study.  Dee discreetly follows, leaving Marie in Roger’s… uh, capable (?) hands.  Upon arrival at the study, Dee spies her daddy, dressed like Humpty Dumpty… with a gun!  He squeezes a round off into Guerrehart’s chest… only to learn the suit of armor the dude’s wearing isn’t just for show.  G-hart’s heavy clobbers Dee’s Daddy with his club.

Dee causes a ruckus outside the office, and uses her hologram button-thingie to “shape shift” into a little girl, who’s just looking for the turlet.  The bodyguard… get this… just leaves the office.  What we see is Guerrehart flipping through his files while Dee’s Daddy is laid out on the floor.  Door’s wide open, by the way.  I thought this dude was supposed to be this criminal mastermind?  Oh well, Phantom Lady takes this opportunity to strike, and zaps the baddie in the neck with her… zappy thing.

Dee carries her Daddy out of the soiree… and along the way runs into the bodyguard.  Lucky for her, Marie is in position to… shoot the heavy through the hand?  That’s a bit extreme, innit?  Oh well.  We wrap up with Dee and Roger tossing Daddy into the limo, and taking off.

Wow, this one just keeps getting better and better, now doesn’t it?

Okay, no… notsomuch.

I’ve been sitting here for the last 10 minutes trying to think of anything to say about this chapter… and, I’m sorry… I’m just at a loss.  It’s not like it was aggressively bad or anything… just pretty un-noteworthy.

My main takeaway here is… Guerrehart is a really dumb villain.  For a criminal mastermind with his fingers wrapped around the throat of the beltway… he’s really quite a dunderhead.  You’d figure he’d not leave the door to his study wide open… or, actually… forget that… you’d assume he wouldn’t make it so any of his guests could get within 100 feet of his study to begin with!  What an idiot.

Marie was pretty cool… though, I don’t think it’s in her best interests to start firing off shots at a Washington, D.C. mansion featuring a who’s who of government officials.  I think we have to assume she was promptly arrested and held on charges of terrorism… if not sniped outright.  Just dumb.

The art… is still weird.  The faces seem to get cartoonier each week… and yet, such loving care and attention is paid to… well, a certain other part of the anatomy.  I mean, look at that panel where Dee and Marie hug… all pressed together… so much care put into such a sliver of a panel.  Oh well… you know what they say about Action Comics Weekly: There’s something for everyone!

We pick up… pretty much right where we left off… only it’s a bit more fiery.  Lou Godder stands outside the burning crackhouse… and isn’t quite sure what to make of the situation.  Part of him wants to let it all play out (while snapping as many pictures as he can), but another part of him realizes that, if he doesn’t call this one in, the fire is likely to spread and cause even more damage.  Just then, Wild Dog emerges with one of the junior crackheads (or junior crack-peddlers) in tow.  After shaking the stuffing out of the lad, the Dog finds out there whereabouts of wee Willie Wallace!

Speak of the devil, our next scene takes us to wee Willie’s love shack.  He’s in bed with a girl who looks as though she could be anywhere from 12 to 45 years old.  She leaves, because she has a curfew… and doesn’t wanna get grounded.  Okay, so she’s just a rough-looking teen then?  So yeah, she leaves… Willie lights up a smoke and digs into the latest issue of Players Magazine.

Next thing we know, this poor gal is bound and gagged outside Willie’s pad.  He refers to her as “jailbait” which further assists in narrowing down her age.

So, who bounded and gagged the gal?  I’m so glad you asked… it’s the same person who just loaded Michael Jackson’s Bad into the CD Player… don’tcha just love it when a fight scene has a soundtrack?

Naturally, this home invader is our very own Wild Dog.  He confronts Willie… both about the crack, and the age of his latest “conquest”.  Man, is it just me… or does this girl look quite a bit older than she’s supposed to be?  Rough livin’, I tell ya what.  Anyhoo… Willie ain’t about to spill the beans… and so, Wild Dog proceeds to empty his pistol into Willie’s waterbed!

Willie still ain’t talking… and so, Wild Dog gets even rougher.  He slams the little dealer’s face into the water… and holds it down underwater in hopes that it loosens his lips a bit!

And Willie still ain’t talking… still.  Wild Dog promises that if he doesn’t start squawking… he will drown him in his own bed.  At this point, Willie realizes the Dog ain’t screwing around… and starts stoolin’ out his suppliers.  It was all the Jamaicans, ya see… and it just so happens that there’s going to be a big meet-up the following night!

Same as it ever was… I love this feature!

High-intensity street-level fun.  A main character that gives “no effs” so long as he can deal out some justice.  It goes “over the top” in all the right ways.  I mean, popping a CD into the player, so the next scene can have a soundtrack?  We’ve seen that sort of thing done ironically… but, this is legit… and it’s awesome.

I like the opening scene, with Lou Godder kinda just gobsmacked that Wild Dog literally torched the crackhouse.  You gotta wonder if he feels a measure of responsibility for it… considering all the static he’d been giving Lt. Flint about Quad-Cities Finest’s inability to neutralize this threat.  I know I’d feel responsible if I raised a ruckus, and some dude in a hockey mask burnt down a building for me!

I think if I were to have any quibbles about this chapter, it would be the design of Wee Willie’s “jailbait”.  When I first saw her, I assumed she was an older woman… I’d have never guessed that she was a child.  I think if that were made clearer in the art, it’d be easier to have even more contempt for Willie.

Overall… another super-fun chapter!  Can’t wait for the next one!

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