Action Comics Weekly #642 (1989)

Action Comics Weekly #642 (March 14, 1989)
“Where There is a Will…! Chapter 1: The Decision”
“Where There is a Will…! Chapter 2: The Decline”
“Where There is a Will…! Chapter 3: The Summoning”
“Where There is a Will…! Chapter 4: The Restoration”
Writer – Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils – Gil Kane, Steve Ditko, Jim Aparo, Curt Swan, Jim Mooney, & Carmine Infantino
Inks – Art Thibert, John Nyberg, Ty Templeton, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey, & Kevin Nowlan
Colors – Glenn Whitmore
Letters – John E. Workman, Jr.
Editors – Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.50

Well, here we are.  Finally, the end of the road for Action Comics Weekly.  Far as I can tell, nothing like this little project we’ve undertaken all them months back has ever been done before.  Sure, I’ve made it a little easier for it to happen again… but, far as I can tell, this is the most complete resource for this peculiar little era.

It’s been a year of ups and downs… and, uh… further downs… but, I gotta say, I’ve had a lot of fun sharing this anthology with all y’all.  For some of these stories, this was my first time reading them as well!  So, we all got to broaden our horizons… and read features whose events were almost immediately swept under the rug!  Welp, can’t win ’em all, can we?

So, today we tie the final bow… but, we’re not quite ready to take the final bow.  Starting tomorrow, we going to be taking a trip through the looking glass… we’re going to look at the story that was originally going to fill the pages of Action Comics Weekly #642.  I think it’ll be a good time, and I hope you all decide to pop back in for the experience!

Now, if you’re interested in seeing what happens next in Action Comics… well, we’ve already looked at that issue!  You can check that out, right here by clickin’ the cover of Action Comics [Monthly] #643!

Pretty neat cover, ain’t it?  While on the subject of covers… ACW #642 has a nifty one as well, featuring the word of Mr. Ross Andru.  Really good stuff here… definitely one that could intrigue ya into snaggin’ off the stands!

Let’s take a look at the results of our final “feature” poll!

We’ve got ourselves a tie!  Howsabout that?  I might’ve voted for Wild Dog, but I wouldn’t have had a problem if Human Target took the nod… I enjoyed that story as well!  It really shined a light on the unmet potential of this entire Anthology project… should’ve been many more random “one-off’s”… even if that meant I would’ve had to create a whole bunch more Action Comics Daily “trade dresses”.

Speaking of all dem trade dresses… take a look at this week’s poll!  It’s all of em!  That’s right, this time out, we’re voting for the best OVERALL feature to occupy pages in Action Comics Weekly.  Whether they showed up forty-one times… or just once… they’re here to be voted for!

Now, I’m not one to beg or plead (much), but… if you’re enjoying this… or have enjoyed any of this endeavor, I humbly ask that you share today’s link with folks you feel might be interested… and those who might want to vote on their favorite feature.  Thank you all so, so much!

If you wanna catch up with any of the features, remember the Action Comics Daily Page is an easy-ish way to do so!  Just click’a the bannuh, and you’ll be delivered!

Best Feature in Action Comics Weekly?

Black Canary





Green Lantern

Hero Hotline

Human Target



Phantom Lady

Phantom Stranger

Secret Six





Wild Dog

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/S841DLIG

Chapter One: The Decision opens on a pretty familiar scene.  Green Lantern, Abin Sur is downed in the desert… and knows his ticket is just about to be punched.  Like any responsible Corpsman, he commands his ring to find him his successor.  The ring takes off… returning some time later with… Clark Kent?!

Clark uses his X-Ray vision to try and do whatever he can for the busted up Abin… and manages, with help of some emerald energy to at least take away some of his pain while he lay dying… and so, the two are able to get down to brass tacks about just why Clark had been summoned here.  Abin performs a little scan of his would-be successor… only to learn that he’s not native to this sector, because, ya know, he’s from Krypton.  Allegedly the Corps requires each of their Lanterns to be “native” of their protected Sector.  Not quite sure how legit that is… but, we’ll play along for now.

Abin asks if Clark would be willing to undergo a mind-wipe, to forget this meeting ever occurred… then projects the emerald visages of each potential successor into the sky.  Not sure exactly why he would do that, other than it kinda looks cool?  I dunno… it’s weird.  Anyhoo, the “floating folks” feature some familiar faces.  One of whom Clark recognizes… a “straight arrow” who was recently passed over for an astronaut program.  His name is, duh, Hal Jordan.  Clark tells Abin that Hal’s his guy… and is then “amnesiated” and returned to wherever the ring found him.

Pretty short chapter to kick us off… but, a decent one nonetheless.  Nothing we haven’t seen before, what with Abin Sur biting the dust.  I could swear I’ve read that Clark Kent was in line as a potential Corpsman… though, for all I know that might’ve been established here.  That’s not to say there haven’t been skatey-eight hundred Silver Age and Elseworlds stories where he slang the rang.

Over the next few days, we’re going to get a pair of disparate (and contradictory) points of view into the relationship between Superman and Green Lantern (Clark and Hal).  I think it’s going to be pretty interesting… especially some of the backstage stuff that stemmed from it.  Heck, it’s going to be the primary reason why Action Comics Weekly has two endings… published over a decade apart!

If you’ve been following along with this project from the start… firstly, thank you… I know how hard that’s probably been!  Second, you might recall a scene that occurred wayyyyyyyy back in Action Comics Weekly #606 (as covered on March 8) that I suggested you pay “special attention” to.  That’s finally about to pay off!  If you’re new, or have forgotten… here’s that scene again:

Action Comics Weekly #606 (Green Lantern)
James Owsley (w) / Tod Smith (a)

In that scene Hal Jordan’s really looking for a pal… and so, he makes a list of folks he might reach out to (including Barry Allen, who was quite dead).  Clark Kent’s name is there… I see it, you see it… and a certain fella by the name of Neil Gaiman also saw it.  More on that as we continue through these last few days of coverage.

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.

We open at an Eastern European seaport, where it looks as though there’s about to be some sort of stand-off.  A mustachioed gentleman is brought in to try and diffuse the situation.  Ya see, this one fella’s grandfather just got his pink slip, and he ain’t handling it all that well.  As the negotiator enters the scene, he is struck by a green light.  Get used to that, it’s going to happen a few more times!  We shift scenes over to, I wanna say New York City… where two rival gangs are about to square off.  One group is definitely being depicted as more “noble” than the other, they’d rather use their words (and perhaps a dance step or two) than weapons.

From outta nowhere, Nightwing bursts onto the scene!  He starts taking out members from the armed side of the fracas, before… getting struck with a green light.  Hmm…

Next stop, somewhere in California.  Guy Gardner is confronting an arms dealer… and in order to prove that this dude ain’t nothin’, Guy even removes his own Power Ring… and slips it on the dealer’s finger!  Before he can kayo the creep, however, he is… dun-dun-dun, struck by a green light!

We now shift over to segregated South Africa, where an Arch Bishop is preparing to meet with a journalist about spreading the word.  Upon arrival, he is met with a vandalized church.  As he gives his statement, he is… struck by a green light.

Over in the U.K. (I’m guessing), there is a police stand-off going on.  The baddies are clad in balaclavas and are carrying some pretty heavy-duty firepower.  Before things can bubble over, our old friend Deadman arrives… and takes up residence in the body of one of the baddies!  Just then… you guessed it, he’s struck by that green light.

Meanwhile, in North Dakota, a Native American gentleman named Rufus is out camping with his grandson.  Their camp is suddenly attacked by some sort of big cat (I can never tell ’em apart!).  Grampa Rufus leaps into action… and is struck by that green light!  This is starting to feel like Millennium!

In Metropolis, Clark Kent is doing some research into something going on concerning the New York Mets, when… duh, he’s struck by the green light.  I thought we already established that he couldn’t be a Green Lantern for this Sector?  Like, in this very issue!

Next stop, Beirut… where a hostage negotiator is freeing himself from captivity.  Rather than just quit while he’s ahead and head for sweet freedom, he knows that his job won’t be complete until he frees the rest of the captives.  He rushes toward his captors… and just as they open fire, he’s struck by the green light.

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.  Time stands still for a moment, and the specter of Hal Jordan rises from his corpse to take a look at all of his potential replacements.  Before he gets too good’a look, he’s met by another spirit vacating its body… Deadman.

Ol’ Boston’s all “Dude… you’re about to die… how lucky are you?“.  Hal still isn’t sure exactly what’s going on.  As Deadman tries to convince him to just “let it go”, one of the line-up of Lantern candidates in stasis begins to stir.  Naturally, it’s Clark Kent.  Now here’s where some of our backstage shenanigans begin to rear their heads.  Clark introduces himself to Hal as someone who “interviewed him once”.  Hmm.  So, with that line, it’s been established that Hal Jordan no longer knows that Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same.  If you remember that bit from ACW #606… it was pretty clear they did know each other’s secret!  Whatever the case, Clark is here to play the “angel” on Hal’s shoulder in opposition to Deadman’s “devil”.

Hal’s spirit flies around a bit, getting a better look at who’s hand might soon be wearing his (er, Malvolio’s) ring.  He can hardly believe that he beat these people out in the first place, considering their courage and resolve.  He asserts that his successor is his call to make… however, before he can commit to a pick… a “genie” emerges from his physical ring.

It’s… Abin Sur!  Err, shouldn’t it be Malvolio?  Or, at the very least Malvolio’s Daddy?  Abin (a programmed response operation of the ring) talks… a lot.  Like, a lot – a lot.  What it all comes down to is… Hal’s got a choice to make.  He can either live… or choose someone with a lesser will than he (remember, Hal’s the top banana on Earth) to follow in his footsteps as this Sector’s Green Lantern.

Taking advantage of the situation, Deadman takes this as his opportunity to convince Hal to “choose death”.  Clark’s all “Hey, hey, HEY… what is going on here?!” and tries to sway him the other way.  It’s to the point where Boston and Clark are basically just arguing among themselves… and are barely paying any attention at all to Hal…

… who, at this very moment, rises to his (physical) feet.  As his would-be replacements blink back to their prior locations, it’s make abundantly clear that Hal Jordan has chosen life.

Well, there we have it… Hal Jordan ain’t dead after all!  Whole lotta weird build to get here though, wasn’t it?  I mean, introducing all of these potential replacements?  It really did feel like those opening chapters of Millennium!  Which is to say, pretty dull… and ultimately unsatisfying!

We could talk about some of Hal’s would-be successors… but, really… why?  Outside of the superheroes, these aren’t folks we’re going to run into again (though, we’ll see ’em in the next chapter).  I do appreciate the “every day hero-ness” of the cast, which puts into perspective that Hal Jordan himself was chosen for the role while a civilian.

Something that stood out to me, and this is probably very “current year” of me, but… there were no women here!  Weird, right?  Nowadays, with the over-corrective nature of the comics industry, it’d probably be all women.

I dug Deadman and Superman playing the “angel/devil” on Hal’s shoulders, trying to convince him of his next move.  They felt like the right characters to fill those roles.  Deadman, as a dude who’s been stuck between life and death for so long, it would stand to reason that he’d be on the side of “letting go”.  Superman, despite anything that J. Michael Straczynski wrote, is a character who values life.

I didn’t like poor Malvolio getting jobbed out again.  There’s no reason why Abin Sur would have been inside this particular Power Ring to confront Hal.  I guess that’s just another indication that Hal’s Action Comics exploits (outside of the death of Katma-Tui and the breakup with Arisia) are completely null and void!

Speaking of which… it looks like he no longer knows Superman’s secret identity!  Ya see, that’s kind of the entire reason why this story even exists!  The original ACW #642 was scripted by Neil Gaiman… who, did his due diligence… and ya know, read Action Comics Weekly!

That scene from Action Comics Weekly #606 … again!

When he read (the oft-referred to) ACW #606, he took the conversation between Hal and Clark (as seen above… again) as the confirmation of Hal knowing Superman’s secret ID in the post-Crisis DCU.  Editorial decided, some time in the interim, to reel back on the amount of folks who knew the Secret of Steel… buuuut, didn’t fill in their freelancers.  When Neil turned in his script… which is very much a Hal/Clark “buddy” story, it got rejected!  Couldja imagine DC ever rejecting a Neil Gaiman story?  Well, it happened!  Pre-Sandman… but still… it happened!  Don’t worry though, as mentioned… that story will eventually be told… but, that’s for another day.

Overall… a bit of a long chapter here, with a whole lot of extra “stuff” that didn’t feel necessary.  I understand and appreciate the need to “fill pages”, especially when it’s a fill-in script… and, even more especially when it’s a Weekly title.  Nothing offensive, and the art was great!

We open with Deadman, fresh off his little run-in with Hal Jordan and Clark Kent, returning to the body he’s vacated… only to find that the “residual green energy” from that green light did the trick.  From here, we jump over to that mustachioed negotiator… who, with the help of some residual green energy is able to successfully, ya know, negotiate.  Meanwhile, Green Lantern is following the helicopter of the fella who very nearly murdered him!

In Beirut, that other negotiator… ya know, the one who was about to be perforated but good when the green light swept him away… turns out the residual green energy affords him the ability to produce a will-construct shield to deflect the shots.  It’s academic from here.  Meanwhile, Hal catches up to the chopper.

In New York, Nightwing is speeding around the street on a motorcycle… he uses the residual green energy to erect a pair of barriers to separate the rival gangs.  He ensures them that the walls will dissipate as soon as they find a way to peaceably work out their differences.

Hal Jordan confronts Major Easterly.  I tell ya what, the “vignette” nature of this chapter would be really cool… if any of the cutaways were in the least bit interesting!

Elsewhere, that Arch Bishop is able to use his residual green energy in order to convince a pair of officials of… something.  I’m really not sure what his whole story was here.  It’s like Maggin gave us way too much, and not enough at the same time.  Whatever the case, it works out well for him.

While Hal and Easterly wrestle, with the former getting the better of the latter, we hop back over to the Dakotas, where Grampa Rufus is able to zap that mountain lion… bobcat… leopard… puma… jaguar… uh, “big cat” with his residual green energy to save the day… and his arm.

After Hal drops Easterly’s chopper, he decides it’s time to escalate his concerns… and so, he pays a visit to the Honorable Jerome R. Medowar of the Utah Supreme Court in order to try and torpedo the career of the decorated Major.  The Judge is all about it… he ain’t the biggest Easterly fan, referring to him as a “politician”.  He assures Hal that he’ll give it his best shot.

We pop back over to Guy Gardner, who, without his ring must depend on the residual green energy to turn the arms-dealer’s own will against him.  Bada-bing, bada-boom… he gets his ring back.

Back in Utah, Medowar does a bit of digging on Major Easterly.  He expresses a bit of trepidation, knowing that the Major’s in pretty deep, and highly connected.  If this investigation goes sideways, he could very easily have the Judge assassinated!  Hal assures him that he’ll be under his protection from this point on.  Somehow, that makes the Judge comfortable enough to proceed.  Has he… uh, not seen what happens to people under Hal’s care?  I mean, I don’t wanna say he’s bad at his job or anything… but, there’s at least cause for concern, is there not?

Back in Metropolis, Clark is approached by that same kid who tried to fund-raise for his school band trip before he was whisked away by the green light.  The lad is then inhabited by… Deadman!  Boston confronts Kent, and sorta hints that he knows he’s actually Superman.  So, at least somebody here knows the Secret!

Kent proceeds to leave the building… Boston body-hops in attempt to keep up.  They share some small talk about life and death… and pass under a movie theater’s marquee.  A worker is taking down the the letters for the film Fatal Attraction.

We wrap up with Boston jamming out of his latest vessel, telling Clark that, as far as “life” goes… he can have it.  In a clever detail, the marquee only reads ACTION at this point… and the Real Steel Deal gives the reader one final weekly wink.

Well… for a “final” chapter (heck, a final issue), this uh… hmm.  It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but… was it any good?

Not really… it smells like page-filler, it quacks like page-filler… what I’m trying to say is… it’s page-filler, nothing more.

It’s a bit deflating to have been building to this for over forty weeks… and have just so danged little to say about the conclusion!  Outside of the “epilogue” portion (which we’ll talk about more in a bit), this entire outing has been completely disposable.  Again, it’s “page-filler”, and very likely eleventh hour page-filler, as the original Gaiman script fell through… so, it’s hard to get mad at creative/editorial.  This issue was just a victim of circumstance… and an uncharacteristically rigid adherence to a newly-established continuity nugget.

If I’m being honest, this entire endeavor probably should have wrapped up with The Crash of 88! back in ACW #635.  I have a sneaking suspicion that editorial feels that way too, as everything since then (outside of the wonderful Wild Dog) has been slipshod at best.  If ya ask me… this whole thing ends with Superman saving the Fellowship from Darkseid and Hal Jordan returning to Earth, having to deal with the after effects of wearing Malvolio’s ring.  Whattayagonnado?

So… let’s take this chapter apart.

The majority of the thing felt like I was reading Millennium or New Guardians… which is to say, we saw a bunch of civilians being given some powers.  Also, I was incredibly bored.

The epilogue, however, was the thing.  It was very well done, and the marquee reading “ACTION” at the end was… poignant.  Perhaps I’m a little too close to this, but… I’ll admit, my typing fingers did get a little shaky as I worked my way through that final paragraph.  It truly felt like everything we’ve been exploring throughout this past year is… done… complete… over.  It’s sobering in a way.

The use of the marquee was especially appropriate and clever, as when this entire deal was announced, it was done via a series of house ads depicting… a marquee!  Action Comics, following issue #600, went on a bit of a hiatus while all of the pieces were shifted into place.  Here are some of the ads we got:

Pretty neat, huh?  Brings everything around full-circle, don’t it?  We’ll talk more about that tomorrow during out compilation post.  Don’t forget… next week (as in the day after tomorrow) we’ll begin our look at what could’a been.  That is, the original Action Comics Weekly #642.  Will it be betterCould it be worse?  We’ll get down to it in the coming days!

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m about to do something quite surreal.  I get to trudge upstairs with this comic book… file it away… and, for the first time in about a year, replace the lid on my Action Comics longbox.  Weird day, friends…

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2 thoughts on “Action Comics Weekly #642 (1989)

  • Chris U

    Best overall feature is a "no brainer" for me. It is overwhelmingly BLACKHAWK. This has been a fun run. What's say we do it all over again? (Or I guess I could just re-read all the blogs again)

  • Grant Kitchen

    In the letters page it mentions Speedy will play a major role in Green Arrow particularly in that year's annual. I mentioned this before but just in case anybody missed it you should know before you buy that Annual Speedy's "appearance" is limited to a Who's Who entry in the back. Not exactly a major role. In fact I'm pretty sure we don't see Roy Harper in the GA series at all until issue 75 nearly four years later.


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