ACW #642 – Chapter 2 (of 4)

Action Comics Weekly #642 (Chapter II)
“Where There is a Will…!, Chapter II: The Decline”
Writer – Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils – Steve Ditko
Inks – Art Thibert
Colors – Glenn Whitmore
Letters – John Workman
Editors – Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn

Funny thing about this issue… this, final issue.  As I was familiarizing myself with this run back in the early-mid 2000’s, I did a usual amount of obsessive internet research.  One of the common things said regarding the procurement of these issues was: Action Comics Weekly #642 will be the only one a would-be collector will have trouble finding.

Turns out, that wasn’t exactly the case for me.  ACW #642 might not have been among the first issues of the run I came across… but, I did find it pretty quick… for like 50-cents.  It resulted in one of those situations where I was perhaps a bit too excited to find a particular comic… as in, my level of excitement was befuddling to the dude behind the counter, who saw this is just another crappy DC Comic from the late-80’s… and not the “hidden gem” I’d been conditioned to see it as!

It’s always interesting when ya experience a little bit of that comictive dissonance when you’re collecting a series or run!

Anyhoo, today’s Part II of that issue… featuring art from, of all people, Steve Ditko.  If you need to catch up, click’em here for Part I.

Chapter II: The Decline opens in the present day.  Hal Jordan is having a sort of homecoming, flying over that same salt flats he’d been summoned to by Abin Sur all dem years back.  Turns out someone has been storing some stolen nuclear materials at a lone farmhouse here.  Hal proceeds to bash through the barn to see what’s what… and somewhat surprisingly, doesn’t find anything.  At least not right off the bat.  Just then, a couple of goofs begin unloading their pea-shooters in his direction.

Hal’s right leg gets winged by a bullet… which is odd, considering his ring is supposed to protect him.  He wonders just why his ring “winked out” on him, but keeps fighting the good fight.  After fighting off his would-be attackers, Hal goes ahead and peels the floor outta the farmhouse… revealing a full-blown military installation below!

As a helicopter approaches, Hal attempts to scan the area for the nukey stuff.  As he makes his way to it, he tries to psyche himself up… and clear his mind of all of his troubles.  Ya know, the Guardians splitting, his love-life woes both with Arisia and Carol.  He thinks his muddied mind might be what’s messing with his ring.  Anyhoo, he finds the motherlode of “boom” stuff.

Before he can get a closer look, however, he is approached by Major William Easterly.  Easterly makes it crystal clear that he is the law round these parts, and suggests Hal just “move along” before things get out of hand.  Hal’s a bit conflicted… he ain’t exactly looking for any trouble, while at the same time… dem nukes are dangerous!

As Hal is marched to the helicopter (in cuffs), he attempts to reason with Easterly.  He tells him that with that much nukey-stuff, there is a big possibility for “nuclear blackmail”.  The Major has zero idea what the hero is going on about.  He doesn’t have any notion that there’s anything “nuclear” going on.  To which, one of the underlings reminds him of his Plutonium stash.  Whoops.

That’s all Hal had to hear… he busts out of his bindings, and goes to grab them canisters.  Major Easterly, however, has other ideas… as in, he shoots Hal point blank in the chest.

As Hal lay dying… his ring begins scanning the Earth for his replacement.

So, Hal’s dead huh?

Well, when the cover copy (which I’ve obscured with the Action Comics Daily “branding”) offers the question “If Hal Jordan Dies… Who Will be the New Green Lantern?”, I suppose it stands to reason that Hal’s gonna bite the dust.

What a way to go though, eh?  Not in a battle to the death with a supervillain… not having his ring swiped from him in the vacuum of space… not even by sacrificing himself to reignite the Sun… but by a shot through the heart (and Easterly’s to blame).  Seems such a weird “ending” for Hal Jordan, dunnit?  Well, I don’t wanna bury the lead… but, c’mon… he’s gonna be fine.

Now, a question about Hal’s winky ring.  He attributes his ring disregarding his safety as a result of his mind being muddled.  His focus being on the Guardians and his love life.  That may very well be the case, but part of me wonders if this has to do with the fact that he’s wielding Malvolio’s ring.  Was that already wiped away here?  We know that it will get a mention a couple years later in Green Lantern (vol.3) #25 (see below)… but, considering the relative continuity “upheaval” of this era, I gotta wonder if that had already been all but swept under the rug here?

Again… continuity was kind of up in the air here… heck, continuity restructuring is the entire reason we’re getting this story (and not the one we’ll talk about in a few days) to begin with!  Who’s to say?  Certainly not this guy.

So, overall… decent chapter, and I found myself enjoying Steve Ditko’s take on Hal Jordan.  There might’ve been a bit too much in the way of “introspection” and exposition here, but it’s all in service of what’s to come.

Tomorrow: Chapter III – The Summoning… Who Will Wield the Ring?

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