Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #608

In 1988-89, DC changed Action Comics from a monthly Superman-focused series to a weekly anthology, also changing its name to Action Comics Weekly. It lasted 42 issues before reverting to a monthly format. I am going to review all 42 of those issues, one per week for 42 weeks. This is the eighth of those reviews.
Green Lantern gets a new writer! Blackhawk concludes! Wild Dog almost concludes! Deadman, Secret Six, and Superman all keep on keepin on!
After Tod Smith replaced original artist Gil Kane last issue, Peter David takes over the writing duties from James Owsley this week, and it's a very weird story to be the first of his run. Hal Jordan sleeps in the day of his Oprah interview, stops a few small-time robbers on his way there, and makes it just in time. Then, during the show, when he says he was chosen because he has no fear, the whole audience bursts into laughter, which seems to throw Hal for quite a loop. That's the story's ending, a much less exciting beat than, say, when Jordan makes a gigantic green gorilla to scoop up the robbers' vehicle and swallow it whole. So I didn't love the conclusion, and the entire affair was bizarre inasmuch as the notion of Green Lantern going on Oprah struck me as odd right away when it was brought up last time. Not to mention, there's very little talk during the actual interview about the whole mess with Star Sapphire and John Stewart, even though supposedly the main reason for Hal to be on the show was to clear all that up. Oprah does ask a question about Star Sapphire, and when Hal starts to answer, we suddenly cut to a half hour later. The details of what he said, how he tried to save his friend from being wrongfully imprisoned, and how effective any of that was all remain a mystery, and I'm a little worried we'll never get answers. I have to trust David not to merely drop threads established by Owsley, but the final scene of this story is about people laughing at Hal over his fearlessness, a completely new problem introduced, perhaps, too soon, as little else has been resolved yet. This wasn't a bad chapter of Green Lantern, but it was blah and a bit off, and not at all the strongest introduction for David.
The best part of this Wild Dog story is that it promises to conclude next week. I'm excited for that. This issue sees main villain B. Lyle Layman finally make his move on Helen, the woman he was leering at in the earliest issues but who hasn't been seen since. I had sort of forgotten that their potential future relationship had even ever been hinted at, and all of a sudden here they were sealing the deal. When talking with the police, Helen seems to remember something she saw that I bet will be important in catching Layman in the end, though she won't admit it yet, not when their romance is still so fresh. Still, for someone who has been mostly ignored by this story, Helen is in a possibly very powerful and influential position. The rest of the story centers on Wild Dog's injury from last week's gunfight. After he and Lt. Flint talk about the wound for a page, Wild Dog meets back up with the Legion of Morality and finally gets to be part of one of their outings. However, as he's suiting up to join them, one of the team leaders spots his bandaged arm, and this reveals him as Wild Dog. So Layman pistol whips him real good right in the face, and the Legion heads out to do their evil deeds unhindered while our hero is trapped and unconscious in their clutches. It should be the height of tension and drama in this story, but I'm not feeling much of that, because a) I'm not super invested in this story overall, and b) Wild Dog has been seemingly taken out once before, and he just woke up and blasted his way throw the bad guys effortlessly that time like he always does. His skill and luck in every fight are so ridiculously good, I don't worry about him even when it looks like all is lost. The dude is nigh-invincible, and I have no doubt he'll shoot his way out of this pickle per usual. Whatever happens, next week is the last week of Wild Dog for a stretch, and I could use the break.
All-in-all, this was a fairly average installment of Secret Six, but it was my favorite section of the issue because of a few key panels as drawn by the talented Mr. Dan Spiegle. In the opening page above, you can see Rafael Di Renzi looking like a shocked muppet in the lower right corner, an expression that gets repeated in the same space of the last page but by a different character (someone in the Secret Six—I still don't know most of their names). Both of those images made me laugh, and even if comedy isn't what Spiegle was going for, the point is the characters' emphatic looks got a reaction out of me, their emotions coming through so forcefully that I was disarmed. Spiegle has in the past done some excellent horror stuff, and there's a panel in here of Vic being fitted with a latex face over his vision-restoring helmet that I enjoyed on a gross-out level. But the best visual in this story, and indeed in this entire issue, was Vic punching his ex-wife's new husband through a window and onto a table. The panel where he hits the table, his limbs flailing, glass flying everywhere, people freaking out all around him, it's fantastically chaotic. There are no sound effects or dialogue, yet all the sounds of madness are still present somehow, because Spiegle just nails the sight of it so perfectly. It might be the best single panel in Action Comics Weekly yet, combining the fun of comicbook physics with Spiegle's generally more grounded style to create an entertaining, eye-catching, hard-hitting image. Do I care much about Vic's difficulties with his ex? Not particularly, but if it's going to lead to more of this level of artwork, I'm all for it. Meanwhile, the Secret Six continue to prepare for their next mission, exposing an evil meat-packing place that's making people sick, and the throughline of the investigation into the original Secret Six's plane crash moves slightly forward, too. So there's a lot going on, and while none of it makes a great deal of progress this week, it all looks great.
The plot thickens, as we get a glimpse of the people behind the attempted murder of Mr. Galt, whom they call "the Courier," whatever that means. He in turn refers to them as "non-believers," and since we know Galt worships Superman, and the baddies also say something about not planning on encountering Superman for months, it's starting to look like this whole thing is more directly tied to the Man of Steel than it originally seemed. Things are starting to develop more and more quickly now that there's a decent amount of information available, and since it's a fairly safe assumption that the silhouette who wants to talk to Galt at the end of this chapter is Superman, chances are we're going to learn a good deal more next week. The real headline here, though, is how comfy and cool Clark Kent's jacket looks. Is it wool? It seems like it might be, and whatever it's made of, I want one. Something about the loose-yet-snuggly fit of it and the visual appeal of the little black dots...Curt Swan, John Beatty, and Tom Ziuko all come together to make it one of the coziest-looking articles of clothing I've ever come across, comicbook or otherwise. I'm not sure if that was the intent, since Clark is wearing it at work so it's probably just a sports jacket, but whatever they were going for, it was, no jokes, my favorite part of this week's Superman story. Also, I liked that despite having no action and no in-costume Superman, this was still a fun, captivating read. I keep getting a lot out of this Superman narrative, which manages to advance just the right amount almost every week.
Dammit, Deadman! Why must you continue to be so disjointed? This week, we see Deadman escape Hell, only to discover that the Devil (or whoever it is that claims to be the Devil) got out first and is on the loose, killing people and doing who knows what else. So Deadman jumps into the body of the director of the CIA as a means of getting his hands on the special alien weapon he believes will be able to capture the Devil, just like it did to him. From there, things go nutty and get mostly boring. We get a few pages worth of Deadman trying to deal with the CIA director's personal problems, namely his wife leaving him over his numerous affairs. Part of that ordeal involves one of the women he cheated with, Lynn, calling him to say his wife found out about them somehow and confronted her. Deadman engages with Lynn at first, but quickly decides he doesn't have time to care about that stuff, which is basically how I felt about it while it was happening. He also "has a feeling" that the Devil is going to attend a gala reception that night for a visiting Soviet premier, though why the Devil would make that move is unclear to me and never properly explained. Mostly Deadman seems to choose that spot because the CIA director already has an invite, so it's a convenient place to start, but you've got to figure that in service of the story, the Devil will be there, so I'm curious to see if it ends up making sense for Deadman to have predicted that once we find out what the Devil's motives are. The cliffhanger this week is Deadman running into Lynn, the CIA director's girlfriend, at the gala, which might be exciting if he hadn't been so dismissive of her earlier, and if his dismissiveness hadn't matched my own feelings. I mean, better to have her show back up than for the initial conversation between her and Deadman to have been wholly pointless, but I'd kind of prefer if the CIA director's own life wasn't part of this story at all. Unless...Lynn's probably the Devil, huh? I'm just thinking that for the first time now, and there's no real evidence besides her having red hair, but I'll make that prediction anyway, because it seems like the only good reason to include her. Regardless, the whole story was annoying because, once again, it represented a totally new situation for Deadman to deal with, and the frequency with which that happens is becoming unpleasantly dizzying.
The ending of the Blackhawk narrative, while satisfying in its results, felt rushed in its execution. There's a ton of exposition from Cynthia about the history of the statue she came to retrieve, and none of it is all that interesting. It's the typical history of religious art in wartime, thing changing hands several times and records being lost, and while that is certainly a sad reality of war, it's not the most compelling material, especially when delivered in info dump format. Once that's all been explained, Blackhawk and Cynthia's lives get saved because of a random lightning strike toppling a tree and causing a cave-in, which is a pretty lame way to get the heroes out of trouble. If not for a perfectly timed and placed act of nature, they'd be dead and Red Dragon would still have all her money and power. Instead, she gets shot out of the sky by André, who we knew had to show up last minute to save the day based on his set-up. He's surprisingly joined by Chuck Sirianni, who I'm assuming is an established Blackhawk character but had never been mentioned before in this story as far as I can remember. So that was a random addition to the cast right at the finish line, and it fed into the generally sped-up feeling of this whole conclusion. Even the central plane fight was a bit hard to follow, not given enough room to do anything all that fun or explosive. The very, very end, where Blackhawk and Cynthia take a few parting, friendly jabs at each other worked nicely as a topper, as their dynamic has always been the best element of this narrative, and now that all their secrets are out they can be even more at-ease with one another. I'm guessing she won't come along when Blackhawk returns in Action Comics Weekly #615 (as promised at the end of this issue), which is too bad, but I appreciate that she and he had one final, enjoyable exchange. This ended as I knew it would end, with Cynthia's past exposed, and both she and Blackhawk barely escaping with the gold and their lives, so in terms of the facts of the plot, I liked this as much as I expected to. It moved a little fast, so I sort of wish that Blackhawk had gotten one more issue, but what can you do? It worked, just not quite as smoothly as I'd hoped.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Wild Dog/"Moral Stand Chapter Eight: Winged Dog"
5. Deadman/"Gala Reception"
4. Green Lantern/"Where the Heck is Green Lantern?"
3. Blackhawk/"Another Fine War - Conclusion"
2. Superman/"Questions and Mysteries"
1. Secret Six/"Blind Impulse"

No comments:

Post a Comment