NTS #3 – Forever Amber

New Talent Showcase #3 (Forever Amber)
Writer – Rich Margopoulos
Pencils – Stan Woch
Inks – Steve Montano
Letters – Duncan Andrews
Colors – Jeanine Casey
Edits – Roger Slifer

Today we say goodbye to the feature I was certain was going to be New Talent Showcase’s flagship strip… Forever Amber!  Not sure why, but I really thought this was going to be our one “constant” throughout most of the run.  Probably because it was the cover feature in NTS #1… and the first story in the book.

Whatever the case… today it ends!  Not sure if Amber is Forever-Gone, or if she’ll be back down the line… though, well… if I were a betting man, I’d figure it best to say our goodbyes to the fair Servant of Kali today.

Our final chapter picks up right where we left off last week, with Amber being held up at some warehouse by a group of police officers… one of whom promises to splatter her “pretty brains” all over the wall should she get out of line.  He continues running her down, and even tosses a few racial epithets for good measure.  It looks as though all hope is lost for our Amber, when suddenly… gunshots!  Remember how last time, that one rapist guy was trying to sell all that opium… but Amber turned it all to, well, amber?  Well, this is the fall-out from that.  The rapist has very likely just been shot to death.  All the cops, but one, rush off to the “tub” to find out what all the hub-bub’s about.  Lucky for Amber, the officer left guarding her is sympathetic to her situation.  He too is of mixed race, and knows how difficult that can be… he assures her that America is still a land of opportunity and sends her away.

We follow Amber all the way to… her father’s house!  Wow, I wasn’t expecting to meet him quite this quickly.  She knocks on his door, as the Sun Stone glows.  When he answers… get this, he’s overjoyed to see his daughter!  He rushes for an embrace, which Amber returns… and they both start crying.  The End.

Okay, it’s not really the end.  Inside, Amber and Mr. Jones catch up.  All seems to be going well, if not a bit reserved.  Amber finally asks her big question: Why did he abandon them all those years ago?  Well… I hope you’re ready for some exposition, cuz I’m about to deliver dollops.

Ya see, Roderick Jones was a Combat Engineer in the Vietnam War.  While on R&R, he met Su Wan, fell in love, and dey make’a da baby.  Su Wan was already with the Circus, and Roddy was called to the field… so their relationship seemed doomed from the start to be a short one.  Fast-forward later in the war, Roddy is exposed to Agent Orange… and his quality of life plummets.  He’s discharged, and broke… but still sends whatever he can to Su Wan and Amber.  He never called for them to join him in America, because, as he puts it… he’s a “rotting corpse gradually rotting away.”

This sends Amber and a weird “This is America” style rant… she just can’t believe that the government would turn its back on its people this way.  Dad explains that, back then, everyone had “blind faith” in Washington, D.C. and didn’t ask any questions.  During Vietnam, really man?  Ya tellin’ me there weren’t any… I dunno, “movements” during that era?  Hmm.  Anyhoo, the discussion is interrupted by a ringing phone.  It’s Jones’ buddy Scully… and, from the sounds of it… somethin’ big is about to go down.

Ya see, there’s this Army General Brillhart speaking out against the Vietnam Vets who have been pressuring Congress for more medical aid… and, well… the Vets are pretty ticked.  So ticked, in fact, that they’ve kidnapped the General!  What’s more, they’re planning on executing him… tonight!  Dad decides he’s gotta intervene and stop his pals before they do anything they’ll regret.  Amber insists she come along as well… and so, she does.  Before we know it (18 minutes later), Amber bursts through the door of the place where the General is being held.  She does her “Kali this, vessel that” spiel while wiping out a gaggle of Vets.  When finally stood before the General… well, let’s just say, this dude’s a real piece of work.  He breaks out a Fred Blassie line, mocking Papa Rod for being a “Pencil-Necked Geek”.

Brillhart assures the Vets that he has no fears about dying… which, might just be his way of trying to call their bluff.  Welp, Scully don’t play that… and instead of backing down… he raises his rifle to around the General’s eye-level.  Jones, however, steps in before he can pull the trigger.  Then, it’s Amber’s turn to talk.  She reflects on a time where she and Su Wan tried getting into the American Embassy… and were given the boot by some Colonel.  She draws a single rose from a nearby vase.  Wow, nothing sets the stage for an execution like a vase full of roses!  These Vets sure know a thing or two about the romance aspect of an assassination.  Anyhoo, she picks up the rose… and turns it Forever Amber!

She then threatens to do the same to the General… annnnnd, knowing this broad ain’t screwing around, he finally gives up.  He begrudgingly tells the Vets that, while he can’t actually help them fight for their benefits… he can stop running their names through the mud.  The Vets are cool with that.  We wrap up with Amber and Daddy Rod walking up to the United States Senate for a hearing on Agent Orange.  The End… probably?

Betcha weren’t expecting this to be a story about the fallout of the Vietnam War… because, I sure wasn’t!

This wasn’t bad or anything, it just went a whole ‘nother direction from where I assumed it was heading.  Really not sure why we even needed Amber to have her Sun Stone powers for a story such as this, ya know?  She only really used it a couple of times… and, it was more as an “added” thing than anything outright intrinsic.  She could very well have beaten up any number of goons using her actual fighting prowess… and, heck, there had to be another way she could’a FUBARed the Opium deal.  She could’ve “Secretly replaced their regular drugs with Folgers Crystals” or something.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, with all the set-up… it feels like Amber was being built for more than just this type of story.  I feel like she should be sparring with Super Villains, not threatening some General with a rose she turned to glass.  I mean, what’s next: Amber stands up during the Senate Hearings on Agent Orange and starts ominously and threateningly waving her Sun-Stoned hand around?

Let’s talk pacing, because… boy howdy, did we get quite an exposition dump today!  Feels like multiple chapters worth of information was plopped in our laps… so much so, that we’re barely given the opportunity to digest it all before the story ends.  I wonder if this was always planned as a three-part arc, or if Margopoulos and Company assumed this would run a few more issues before wrapping?  It feels to me like the first two-parts were (relatively speaking) lollygagging compared to this.  This was some breakneck “go-go-go” stuff.

Again, it’s not bad or anything… I just wish it had more time to “breathe”.

Speaking of “breathing”… I don’t actually own New Talent Showcase #4 (and try as I may, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere over the past several weeks)… so, this feature might be going on a bit of a “breather”.  No worries though, I’ve got plenty more in the works, including a whole new (very-much DIY) “Showcase” I’ll be introducing this weekend.  Should be fun, especially for readers who want to see some more stuff from the actual DC Universe here.  I’m really looking forward to it.  We’ve also got Superman’s Birthday on 2/29… so, expect something kinda weird that day too!  Hopefully, before long, we can pick up with NTS where we left off!  Heck, maybe I’ll find it in the next couple days to render this entire paragraph completely meaningless!

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