ACW #640 – Phantom Lady

Action Comics Weekly #640 (Phantom Lady)

“Lady of the House”
Writer – Len Strazewski
Pencils – Chuck Austen
Inks – Gary Martin
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Glenn Whitmore
Editor – Mark Waid

Welcome to the next part of our Penultimatum!  The second-to-last Phantom Lady chapter awaits us!

We open with the Phantom Lady pole-vaulting over the barbed-wire wall of Guerrehart’s compound.  Not sure why she didn’t just start her search here, but whattayagonnado?  Anyhoo, she lands… and is immediately attacked by a pair of guard dogs.  She thinks to herself how she never realized he’d have guard dogs… I mean, you just pole-vaulted over barbed wire to get here, shouldn’t you just assume there’s more to this evil mastermind’s security detail?  Also, wasn’t she just here for a party?  Oh, worth noting, she’s wearing the “night vision” version of her usual eyewear… and it looks a lot like Cyclops’ visor.

After monkey-flipping the pups, she climbs up the side of stately Guerrehart manor.  She lets herself in, and proceeds to stomp through the joint.  She approaches Mr. Guerrehart’s office… and, the door is unlocked.  Maybe I gave this guy too much credit in the security department.  Anyhoo, she finds a wall safe… and fiddles with it until it opens… all the while, she left the office door wide open.  That doesn’t seem smart.  Over an intercom, Guerrehart congratulates P.L. for getting into his safe… before siccing his caveman bodyguard on her.

They wrestle around for a bit… with our gal Dee ultimately getting the upper hand.

Just then, Guerrehart himself enters the room… pistol in hand.  Rather than just shooting the home invader at point-blank range, he decides it’s time to have a little chat.  He slowly approaches, to get a better look at her… as her Cyclops’ visor had been knocked off in the skirmish.  He recognizes her… but doesn’t get the opportunity to boast all that much.  Dee blasts him in the face with her wrist-laser gimmick… cracks a really bad joke… and nonchalantly exits the scene!

We wrap up… with a full-page panel.  Dee is back at her apartment, looking through photos (presumably from the safe).  On them, it would appear that Klansman are lynching a man.  Dee might just recognize somebody in these pics!

I feel like this is a story that isn’t sure what it wants to be.  Are we playing “serious”?  Are we evoking “silly”?  Is this a four-color spy/intrigue/action movie?  Just what is it?

I’ll tell ya what it isn’t… “all that good”.

This is the fifth chapter of this arc… and we (and our hero) knew who the bad dude was in the first.  We spent the three week interim lollygagging around Washington, D.C. just killing pages.  It’s hard for me to hold “meandering” against this story, considering it’s part of the latter half of Action Comics Weekly, where meandering was probably part of the storytelling “mission statement”, but all’s I’m saying is… this could have been told better.  Whether or not it’s a story worth telling/experiencing is a matter of opinion, but… it could have been a lot better.

Let’s touch briefly on the art… Chuck Austen has some real trouble evoking action.  All of his figures look as though they’re poorly articulated action figures on displayed in a shoe box diorama.  There is zero energy here… and it’s hard to assign “impact” to anything that happens.

For Dee’s findings… I guess we’ll leave them be for the moment.  I will admit that I’ve never read this arc before now, so I couldn’t tell ya where it’s headed.  I have a sneaking suspicion… probably the same one anyone reading has, but… for now, the “jury’s still out”.

As little pleasure as I’m getting from this feature, I will say that it’s easier to follow than a lot of what we’ve gotten in ACW.  That might not be saying much… but at least it’s something!

Tomorrow: Crackhouse Blues

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