Monday, May 4, 2015

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #622

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 (sort of) for 42 weeks. This is the twenty-second of those reviews.
I don't have a ton of time tonight, but I really want to get this post up because it's "due" today, so I'm only going to give myself five sentences for each section of the issue. Probably good for me to practice some brevity anyway. The cover image above is a lie—nothing even remotely like that happens in this issue. I'm fairly certain this cover was originally supposed to be used during the time when Green Lantern was in Chicago, and for some reason they held onto it until now. Whatever the explanation, the cover is ridiculously far removed from the interior.
This was a weird one, with much of the story devoted to Hal Jordan musing on his relationship with Superman. Hal first tries to track the energy beam that broke his power battery last time, but the trail leads him to the edge of his space sector, i.e. the border of his jurisdiction as a Lantern. So he considers asking Supes for help following the beam deeper into space, but then thinks about a not-so-friendly encounter they had in the recent past, as well as Superman's general holier-than-thouness, and decides against it. Hal compares himself to Superman, saying they are both essentially boy scouts, but that Superman is an exemplary one while Hal is is a more of a screw-up. It's an apt enough observation, but I fail to see what purpose it serves at this point in this narrative, a story that barely started to get rolling at the end of last week, and then this week derails itself to hold two superheroes up next to each other and then go nowhere with it.
Despite myself, I ended up liking the conclusion of this arc. Wild Dog I still hate, even though he admits here that he may be doing the wrong thing, because I've always assumed he understands that he's as bad or worse than his enemies, so him stating so aloud did nothing for me. However, twisted as terrible as it was, I enjoyed what the story's resolution did for both the Night Slasher and Wild Pup. They were each able to give the other something healing and comforting, if perhaps a bit warped, and it was satisfying that the main villain of this narrative didn't have to be killed by Wild Dog, since up to now that's been his solution to every problem. As flawed and crappy as it was all the way through, the final chapter of this tale hit the mark, ending unexpectedly and in a way that was heartwarming and dark at the same time.
Why is this Starman and not Deadman? I have no idea, but I also have no complaints. This was a nice, tight, well-structured story, one half a televised anti-superhero tirade, the other half a smart, simple example of the value of superheroes in their own worlds and ours. It's a discussion of both the best and worst of what superheroes offer, and a generally fun, funny, fast-moving tale that looks good and is easy to follow. At the very end it reveals itself to be primarily an ad for the Starman ongoing series, but it earns it by being so solid and complete in so few pages.
I was right about Superman's reasoning behind switching back to his Clark Kent identity before reveling himself to Bob Galt, so it felt nice to have called that correctly. Superman is dealing with the whole situation rather impressively, working hard to help Galt while still doing everything he can not to feed Galt's unhealthy hero worship. The best part of this week's chapter, though, was at the end when it promised to tell us the bad guys' motives next week. I've been anxiously awaiting some insight into just what the hell is going on for a couple months now, so it's legitimately exciting to know that I'm finally so close to answers. I have one more sentence, so...Curt Swan still rules all!
I walked away from this chapter with two main thoughts in my head. First, I like how the Secret Six title pages come way late in the chapter, because they're always used as a way to amp up the drama in a key moment. And second, LaDonna is a damn badass. There's been a lot of the Secret Six sort of half-assing and faking their way through missions, but this time LaDonna gets to pull some full-on, secret agent awesomeness in a way I don't think anyone has before. Of course, in the end, she still stumbles right into enemy hands, but even that isn't enough to detract from how freaking cool she looks and acts right up until that last moment.
I found myself barely paying attention to this story as it raced toward its conclusion, which may be part of why the ending so confused me. Margaret, the woman who Blackhawk and crew were supposed to save, the entire reason for them being there in the first place, dies somehow, and it's not clear to me if it's an accidental death, if the bad guys get her while they are shooting at Blackhawk's plane, or if it is her co-agent/brother who kills her as part of his efforts to get Blackhawk's team to join the newly-formed CIA. Also, I mostly don't care how she died, because however it happened, it's a lame way to end things. She's the catalyst, she seems to be the most informed and competent of all the good guys, and she therefore provides the only truthful exposition; so basically, she's the most important character, and then her death happens off-panel and is given almost no weight or space after the fact. Weak.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Blackhawk/"The Big Blowoff"
5. Green Lantern/"The Edge of Forever"
4. Wild Dog/"Fatal Distraction Chapter Eight: To Help a Child"
3. Superman/"Seeds of Doubt"
2. Secret Six/"Big Dead Man on Campus"
1. Starman/"Starman"

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