Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Action Comics Weekly #640 (1989)


Action Comics Weekly #640 (February 28, 1989)
Speedy: "Exiles, V"
Demon: "Abandon Hope"
Hero Hotline: "Part 4"
Superman: "Where There's Smoke..."
Phantom Lady: "Lady of the House"
Wild Dog: "Crack Up, Chapter 5: 'Tween a Rock and a Hard Place"
Writers - Mark Verheiden, Alan Grant, Bob Rozakis, Roger Stern, Len Strazewski, & Max Collins
Pencils - Frank Springer, 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

The closer we get to the end... the less relief it seems I'm feeling.  Instead, I have these weird pangs of dread and melancholy.  I guess, deep down, I never thought this would actually wrap up.  When is it "too soon" to be nostalgic?  Because at this point, I'm sorta-kinda longing for the days of being beyond frustrated at Black Canary or mind-boggled by the ending of Catwoman or thinking "there's only 15 weeks until Malvolio finally shows up!".  Guess the grass is always greener.  

I've been looking forward to this point in the run for... well, the whole thing.  I wanted this to be wrapped and "on the shelf" for future chroniclers to discover and use... and here I am, wishing it could keep going on.  Maybe it's the Holidays coming up... maybe I'm just a bigger softy than I thought.  Whatever the case, your humble host is, in the words of "those kids today", afflicted with "the feels".

Oh well...

Let's look at this week's cover.  I was instinctively going to attribute it to Terry Beatty... and it looks like DC Comics made that same mistake back in the long ago in a letters page.  Turns out, it's actually our old friend from the Blackhawk serial, Rick Burchett who drew it!  It's a nice cover, and certainly the highlight of the post-Crash ACW up to this point!

Speaking of letters pages, if you're on the fence about reading 'em here, I'd recommend it this time out.  Some interesting information (such as our Secret Six feature being adapted from a self-contained miniseries pitch) as well as some neat late-era "hot takes".  Worth a look!

Let's go to the polls!


Well now, that's about as decisive a victory as we've ever seen here.  Not sure that says a whole heckuva lot about Wild Dog (though, he certainly got my vote) or the sheer lack of competition in the "new-look" Action Comics Weekly.  Maybe a little of both?

Here's this week's poll... and your final opportunity to vote for Speedy or Hero Hotline!  Next week will be the absolute final time to vote for any of our features... which, wow... where did the year go, right?


Best Story in Action Comics Weekly #640?

Speedy
Demon
Hero Hotline
Superman
Phantom Lady
Wild Dog

Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/G2ZAFOSL

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We open with Speedy gazing over the crowd of protesters.  Our writer makes sure to point out that they probably "vote Republican"... because, if southern California is known for anything, it's it's strong Republican base.  Anyhoo, the protesters are carrying some pretty gross signs... the kind of signs that are so bad that you probably couldn't even post them online as an example of "bad" these days without people flipping out.  So, I won't.  You probably have a pretty good idea the sort of words appear on 'em.  So, Speedy heads outside to engage in some "crowd control", and by that... I mean he fires a net-arrow into the crowd... followed by a gas-arrow.  The numbers game soon catches up to our second-or-third favorite archer, and he starts getting his butt kicked.



Just then... a familiar face arrives on the scene!  Is that... could it be... no way, it's Randy Violent Sean Bauman!  He tells the crowd to "leave da kid alone" before entering the hospice.



Inside, Sean Bauman/Phillip Lossner is led to his brother's bedside... and we finally get to meet the man this whole arc has been built around, Donald Lossner.  He is, as you might imagine, quite ill.



The brothers have a heart-to-heart, which ends in an embrace.  Sean tells Speedy to keep his motorbike as a token of his gratitude.  I honestly thought we were going to wrap up with the cliche deathbed scene.  But alas, Donald will live to see another day... just not another comics panel.



With the job (well?) done, Roy heads off to meet back up with that date he abandoned at the bar... ya know, the one that probably doesn't want anything to do with him since finding out he has a daughter?  Yeah, her.  They reconnect, and... get this... she tells him she doesn't want anything to do with him, since he has a daughter.  Wonk, wonk.



We wrap up with our man returning to the offices of Owen Burley, P.I., and it looks like the goofball's got another gig for him.  Thankfully, it's one we're probably never going to see!



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All's well that ends... right?

Boy, this wasn't all'at great... it almost feels like this arc was paced expecting a sixth chapter to wrap things up... but found out about the Human Target one-shot that will be taking the "slot" around halfway through.  Very odd pacing, on an already unsatisfying story.

Let's get into it... from start to finish.  We open with some weirdly-specific anti-Republican rhetoric.  I hate it when either side of the aisle pulls this kind of "drive by" commentary in comics.  It's just... "here's a bad guy... they must vote for the party I don't vote for."  It's an oversimplification and an arrogance that makes me think less of any writer who engages in it.

Speedy, again, slings before thinking... I mean, firing a gas-arrow into a crowd as a first resort?  That doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do.  Doesn't seem like the most legal thing to do, either.  Can you just attack people who are protesting?  Holding signs and chanting?  I mean, we might want to... especially in cases like this, but... can we?  That just seems like a way to punch your ticket to a night in jail.  The whole thing gets out of hand pretty quickly... but, we got this chicken/egg thing here.  Did the crowd grow unruly because they were always going to... or because a gaudily-clad archer had his bow trained on them?

Phillip Lossner arrives to defuse the situation... and to make peace with his ailing brother.  This was a pretty good scene, kind of boilerplate... but, not bad.  I am happy the sidestepped the cliche of Donald dying in Phillip's arms immediately after their heart-to-heart.  If I were a betting man, I'd have put it all on that exact thing happening.

Roy gets dumped by that lady he picked up during a moment of (her) weakness... because she ain't fittin' to battle Lian for Roy's attention.  Fair play, right?  At least she isn't leading him on... or, worse yet, trying to unseat Lian as Roy's top priority.  Our man doesn't quite see it from her perspective... and, in an incredible showing of maturity, chucks a few ice cubes in her direction.

The non-ending... I mean, is there anyone out there hoping for more of this?  Like, the "Further Adventures of Speedy and Burley, P.I.'s"?  Yeesh... some characters aren't headliners... and, ya know what... that's okay.  While I didn't dig this much at all, I will say... this is the sort of thing that Action Comics Weekly is all about.  Odd little "try out" stories... some are going to hit the mark... and others, well... just ain't.

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Picking up where we left off... Morgan LeFay has been shifted from stone to flesh (give or take a hand), and is unleashing her "appreciation" on her resurrectors.  Etrigan has a front row seat for the festivities... and, while he'd enjoy taking the heads off of some of these LeFay-ites, his focus is primed on the lady herself.  He just so happens to be responsible for her one-handed-ness, and is quick to rub that in her face.  She, as you might imagine, ain't pleased.



LeFay lashes out... proving her superiority to the Demon with the quickness.  She even accuses him of being "all blow, no show", which... I'm glad didn't lead to a flashback scene.  Before we know it, he's on his knees before her... being slowly turned to stone!



We shift scenes to the Wookey Hole, where Randu and Glenda are still following the Philosopher's Stone.  It leads them to an innocuous-looking door... well, maybe not completely innocuous-looking... there is a creepy face on it.  Anyhoo, this face introduces itself... looks like this is the literal doorway to Hell!  It invites them to enter... and Glenda's all "Yeah... no thanks."  She does change her tune, however, when the door reveals that Jason Blood is inside... and in a bad way.



The fact that the pair have willingly entered the doorway to Hell makes that one weirdo who's been holding Merlin hostage quite giddy!  So giddy, in fact, that he calls his manservant to prepare a bath for him.  The tub is full'a gross stuff, including a map of the Jersey Shore... talk about a reference that would work across generations.  Probably not into our current generation so much, but... close enough!



We wrap up back at Tintagel, where Jason Blood is watching Morgan LeFay entomb Etrigan in stone.  Knowing that if the Demon dies, so does he... our man figures it'd be in his best interest to get a move on, and try and save his "other half".



--

So unmoved am I by this story... I briefly considered filling the "review" portion of today's piece with assorted grunts.  Not just to be a snarky jackass, but because grunts were my actual reaction reading through this thing.

Etrigan produces LeFay's hand?  Hrrr.  She turns him to stone?  Hmm.  Randu and Glenda spend a page talking to a door?  Urmph.  The cliffhanger ending?  Sigh.  I mean, this just isn't for me.  I don't care about any of these characters... and the story is just uninspired enough not to change that fact in the slightest.  It's not bad, per say... it's just not anything that's ever going to rock my socks personally.

Morgan LeFay's "all blow, no show" line was probably the highlight of the chapter... and actually serves to describe my exact feelings on the story as a whole.

Oh well, only one more of these to go!


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We open with the "Master Inventor" Roderick C. Broderick arriving at Hero Hotline Headquarters (HHHQ?  Triple-HQ?).  With him, he's got his dog, Astro... inside an impenetrable transparent box.  Ya see, he just invented this plastic that is impervious to destruction... only, when testing it (by putting his pup into a box made out of the stuff), he forgot to pop any airholes into the thing.  So, ya know... time is of the essence.  Flex heads over to get a better look... and does his darnedest to bust the pup out... without any success.  Thankfully, Diamondette is nearby to use her diamond-hard hands to slice through the adhesive holding the crate together, and setting the dog free.  Astro then b-lines it to Roddy... and starts chewing on his lab coat.



We shift scenes over to the subway, where Hotshot and Stretch have confronted that one anti-smoking dude stalking the area with a squirt gun full'a gasoline.  Since he won't listen to reason (imagine that), Hotshot pulls a distraction, and Stretch nyoinks the pistol away.  Kinda underwhelming as a cliffhanger pay-off, but whattayagonnado?



We head back to HHHQ, where Ms. Melanie Boulder... the Siren of Satan, herself... arrives to express her gratitude for her new hero.  Flex prepares himself for a hug... but, naturally, she stomps right past him and plants one on Private-Eyes.  She also winds up joining the team, sorta.



Now, Boulder's got some problems... and I'm not talking about back pain... though, she probably deals with a bit of that as well.  Ya see, since she was stuck in the frigid meat locker, it seems she's lost her voice.  Can't put on a country concert without a voice, can ya?  Well, lucky for her... Voice-Over has the ability to throw his voice, and mimic anybody!  Ms. Melanie's agent is overjoyed... the show will go on!



This comic, however, will not.  We wrap up with the Hero Hotline operators informing us that the story is over... but, not to fret because there's going to be a six-issue miniseries featuring the team before ya know it!



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Gotta say... after last week's heavier-than-expected chapter, I was a bit let down by this.  That was poignant, tragic... really strong stuff.  Here?  It's back to the funny ha-ha's, which isn't necessarily bad... but, just doesn't quite measure up to the expectations set last time.

What's more, there's really just not a whole lot more to say about it!  It ties a neat and tidy bow on the arc, which is a good thing... but, doesn't really incentivize coming back for the promised miniseries.  I suppose if you liked this, and want more of the same... you're good to go!  If you wanted something more... well, no promises.

I don't want it to sound like I didn't enjoy this... because I did.  There's a definite charm to this story, and these characters... however, after last week's exceptionally strong outing, it's hard for me not to be a bit disappointed.

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We open with Clark Kent walking down a Metropolis street.  He laments the fact that he'd been tied up in California (with the Fellowship and the Consortium) for the past little while, otherwise he might've been able to do something about the Quraci conflict... So, I guess, California... and all the stuff he was still able to do in the other skatey-eight books he manages to appear in every month, if what kept him from addressing Qurac.

Anyhoo, he begins to smell fire, and so... he decides to supe up and check it out.  He comes across that Quraci Restaurant... which we saw get lit up last week.  He puts out the flames and rescues the Proprietor.  He learns that two nogoodniks started the fire... and, the Restaurant Owner seems more offended by the fact that they said he wasn't American than anything!

Superman is on the case... and it doesn't take him look to find the pyromaniacs.

--

As good a "middle chapter" as we're likely to get given the premise.  Not half bad... but, certainly not as powerful as last week's outing.

Really, my lone takeaway from this bit was the fact that the Restaurateur was more upset at the idea that the pyros referred to him as not being American.  It's almost as though torching his place was secondary.  There's a certain poignancy to that... something that really tugs at ya.

It's weird how, in just two parts (four-pages) we have already gotten deeper characterization and more interesting conflict than we had gotten in the entirety of the first thirty-eight!

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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!




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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!

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We open with... could it be?  Is it her?  Oh boy, it is!  Ms. Susan King!  Finally!  She's at the corner of Crack and Eightball, reporting the news of the fire Wild Dog set a couple chapters back.  Man, just check out at how happy she looks!  She's lovin' every second of this.  Anyhoo, she reports that the fire was set... though, she's not sure if it was a "crack" house or "rock" house.  I don't quite get the lingo, so I'll assume they actually are two different things... or are different enough.  At the same ol' bar, Lt. Andy and Lou Godder confront Jack.  They've got sneaking suspicions... and they want answers.



Andy invites Jack into "his office" (the toilet), so they can all get on the same page.  He and Lou start ripping into our man for his recklessness... and, outta nowhere, Lou brings race back into the equation.  He just won't let this go!  Was he accusing Wild Dog of "going after" white people during the earlier arcs of this feature?  I don't think he was.  This is really off-putting.


Jack throws it back in their faces... he says he's doing exactly what the both of them want him to do... what they wish they could do themselves, if they weren't cowards.  He's getting his hands dirty, so Lou and Andy... and those they work for (the Press, and the Police respectively) can stay "clean".  He also kinda kicks it back on Lou... saying he knew, as the crack/rock house was burning, he would call the Fire Department... only after he snapped some pictures for his newspaper article.  Great stuff from Jack!


We shift scenes to a hotel, where a couple of teen-age metal-heads are making their way toward a particular guest's room.  A dude with dreadlocks answers their knock, and it's pretty safe to assume this is going to be one of Jack's next targets.


Before the deal can go down... they're there to buy drugs, just in case that wasn't abundantly clear... Wild Dog bursts in the window, postures, and spouts a few really great/cheesy lines.


Of the three dealers (who the Dog refers to as "Archie, Jughead, and Reggae") two are immediately shot dead.  The teen-age metal-heads b-line it toward the door, leaving our man alone with the last surviving dope-pusher.  To be... concluded!


--

Man, another bang-up chapter for Wild Dog.  Just some excellent stuff.  I'm not sure where "popular opinion" falls on the Dog, but... I gotta say, getting to experience this feature (along with Blackhawk), might just make this entire endeavor worthwhile.

Let's get into the story itself.  Lou Godder, what happened to you?  He's gone from being the lone sane voice in this series to... a dude who accuses everyone of being a racist?  As I said during the synopsis, Lou has never pointed out the race of any of Wild Dog's targets before... but now, it seems it's all he can do.  It really doesn't help his cause or his character.  It doesn't shift Wild Dog's constitution any further into the "shades of gray"... because, dude's already a vigilante... he kills people (of all kinds!).  He's already "gray" enough without entering race into the equation.

Jack had some great comebacks to Lou and Andy's interrogation.  He rightly points out that he's doing everything they would love to do, if not for all the red tape and consequence.  He points out the hypocrisy of Lou... only calling the Fire Department after he snapped a few pictures for his story.

Jack/Wild Dog has long been used as a pawn and a tool for the Quad Cities P.D., and Lt. Andy Flint in particular... to be told to "stand down" now seems silly... irresponsible, even!  I mean, he's already gone past the Rubicon at this point... if he were to just stop, than everything he'd done will have been for nothing.  Li'l Georgie Washington's death would be for nothing... torching the crack/rock house... would be for nothing.  All it would do is tick off some very dangerous people... and show them that Quad-Cities' Finest and Wild Dog don't have it in them to "stick the landing"... which, you gotta imagine would embolden them all the more.

Overall... really enjoyed this, though the attempt at giving Lou and Andy "layers" isn't exactly working for me.  I can't tell if they're being used as strawmen, or as a form of conscience for Jack?  Either way, this one is worth reading.


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