Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #615


Every Wednesday, I review an issue of Action Comics Weekly featuring a backup story starring Black Canary among others.  Each installment of Back in Action will look at Dinah's story and touch on my favorite or least favorite moments from the rest of the strips in these issues.

Black Canary's seventh appearance in ACW was issue #615, which features a cover highlighting the return of Wild Dog drawn by Barry Crain and inked by Rick Magyar.  Even though I don't know much about this character, having previously only read the final chapter of his first story in this series, I really get a kick out of this cover.  "Wild Dog Breaks Loose" certainly suggests the action in the book's title, and the machine-gun fire backs it up.  But what I really love about this cover are the dogs.  I'm a dog lover and their inclusion in this image both warms my heart and cracks me up.

Black Canary

"Bitter Fruit" Part 7: written by Sharon Wright, penciled by Randy Duburke, inked by Pablo Marcos, lettered by Steve Haynie, colored by Gene D'Angelo, and eddied by Mike Gold.  In keeping with the rest of her story, other than her first chapter, Dinah's story comes at the end of the comic, after the letters column.

The penultimate chapter begins with Doug Vallines--the real Doug Vallines, the bald-headed fatty, not the cowboy--coming home to Seattle and hearing the message Dinah left for him regarding the attack on Hector Librado.

Doug goes to a public park the next day expecting to find "Bonnie Cardinal" but he finds the Black Canary.  After the initial shock that the Doug Vallines she's meeting isn't the cowboy who charmed her and maybe threw her unconscious ass in a dumpster wears off, Black Canary finally gets some answers.  Which means we the reader finally get some answers.

Doug explains that he was a pilot and sales representative for Scales Agriculture and recently discovered that he got something like cancer from his years of exposure to unsafe, untested products created by Scales' company.  Hector Librado has a similar disease, and Doug's lawyer, the goatee sporting Barry Neiman, had been looking for Hector when the goons put him in the hospital.  Dinah suspects that Scales and his cowboy enforcer, Gary DeMott, tried to silence Hector to shut down Doug's lawsuit.  But that doesn't explain the whole situation with the INS...

Meanwhile, William MacDonald from the same Immigration and Naturalization Service is aboard Vincent Scales' party yacht, informing the CEO that one of their problems will be taken care of any moment.  At the same time, the good-hearted INS agent Ellen Waverly comes home to find a hit man waiting for her.  Two gunshots bring her down.

Back in her civilian clothes, Dinah Lance goes to check on Hector at the hospital when she learns his condition is worsening and he's been moved to the intensive care unit.  As she's leaving, she overhears another man asking about Hector's condition.  She may or may not know that this man is Barry Neiman, the lawyer Doug Vallines told her about, so she decides to follow him from the hospital.

Barry goes to the apartment of Ellen Waverly, walking right by the anonymous assassin.  When Barry sees her body, he makes a run for it, but Dinah catches up with him at his car.  Barry pleads his innocence to Dinah, and then calls Doug to report that Waverly has been murdered.  Doug lets them know that Hector, too, has just died.  Doug is furious that all of his contacts and support in his case against Scales keep getting bumped off, and threatens to take matters into his own hands.

Barry drives Dinah to the pier.  They arrive in time to see Doug pulling his seaplane away from the dock.  Dinah dives into the water after him.  Concluded next week!

It's both sad and telling that this second-to-last chapter is the first time I haven't had any problems with the artwork.  Marcos' inks finally heighten Duburke's pencils rather than muddle them and the color doesn't ever confuse me about which character i'm looking at.

There's something else I noticed for the first time in this chapter.  We really haven't seen Dinah in her Black Canary costume much in this story, and this is the first time I really noticed the big gold jewelry adorning her neck and the black headband across her forehead.  The band is a nice nod to her Justice League International costume, though it's not keeping her hair out of her face.  The jewelry, though, seems like it's meant to evoke her old choker, but it just comes off as garish and flashy.

This Black Canary doesn't wear a costume.  She just has a change of clothes that happens to include a wig.  That fact makes itself all the more obvious when you consider her major dramatic action in this issue--leaping into the ocean to chase a seaplane toward the story's main villains--she does in her civilian clothes.

This story isn't really a Black Canary adventure so much as a Dinah Lance pseudo-mystery.  Unless you don't consider Black Canary an alternate identity.  Hell, she even calls herself Bonnie Cardinal when she's "in costume".  It seems as though this story is trying to run as far away from the normal tropes of a superhero comic as fast as it can.  And that wouldn't be bad except that's what she is, those are her roots, and it comes off as if the creators are ashamed of that part of the character.

The Rest

Peter David begins a new Green Lantern adventure, this time with artist Richard Howell.  Hal attends a science convention where his girlfriend, Arisia, is modeling for a self-defense object.  There's some woman named Veronica who is apparently beautiful, but we never get a look at her.  The joint is robbed by two super-criminals named Siphon and Castle, who look utterly %@#$ing ridiculous, but they actually have cool powers.  Siphon gets trapped in a box but swaps places with Hal, sticking the Green Lantern in an airtight safe lined with yellow.

In the surprise of the week, Martin Pasko and Rick Burchett kick off a new featuring starring Janos Prohaska, better known as Blackhawk.  The story is set in Singapore, 1947, and combines elements of pulp and serial adventure, like a cross between Casablanca and Raiders of the Lost Arc.  After a daring shootout with some drug smugglers, Jan is reunited with an old friend from Russia named Natalie Reed.  He hires her on as the crew chief and engineer for his plane just as he receives a mission to investigate a mysterious plane crash.  I really like this story, I love Burchett's art, and one of my favorite things about it is the title: "That Was No Lady."  It reminds me of Lady Blackhawk, another leggy blonde familiar to fans of Black Canary from pre-Flashpoint Birds of Prey.

Max Collins and Terry Beatty bring Wild Dog back for a story called "Fatal Distraction".  The story opens with the police and press investigating a serial murderer who targets men outside singles bars.  Since I missed most of the character's last story arc, I learned a lot more about the man under the hockey mask and why he does what he does.  He keeps a mission log, ala Punisher's war journal, and he has friend and confidant in the press, ala Daredevil's silent accomplice, Ben Urich.  He shoots up some creeps robbing a convenient store, but aims for their knees so as not to kill them.  The rest of the story is narrated by an impressionable child who witnesses the vigilante in action, and the woman who is going around murdering men to avenge someone named Bobby and redeeming herself to someone named Jordan.  If I had to guess, she was raped by someone outside a singles bar, causing her to miscarry an unborn child named Bobby and disgusting her husband named Jordan.  That's my first take.

In the two-page Superman strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, the Man of Steel barges into a hospital room to find an assassin smothering the man Superman intends to question.  Superman violently pushes the killer, who is dressed as an orderly, into the wall.  The nurse on duty says the man in the bed is comatose and can't answer any of Superman's questions.  Then a police officer tells Superman that the would-be killer died when he slammed into the wall.  But... but wait... Superman doesn't kill!  I'm sure there was an argument about that online recently!  There must be more to this story!!!

In the Nightwing story by Marv Wolfman and Chuck Patton, Cheshire continues to successfully murder her targets, while her one-time lover Roy Harper not-so-successfully tracks her down.  Meanwhile, Nightwing meets a high-ranking official in London and tells him about his work with Speedy from the Central Bureau of Investigation, and how they're trying to catch Cheshire.  The official, Lord Hill, is pissed that nobody from the CBI informed him that they were operating in the United Kingdom.  Cheshire returns to her home where she takes care of her and Roy's daughter, Lian.  She insists to the old man who might be family that around her child, she is Jade, not the killer known as Cheshire.  Roy threatens some lowlifes to get a lead on Cheshire, then he asks Dick to meet him that night.  Dick, growing ever suspicious of Roy's motives, calls in support from the rest of the New Teen Titans.  Some boy named Danny who I don't know drops the bomb that Roy no longer works for the CBI.  He's operating on his own.

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #616, which concludes Black Canary's first adventure in this comic, as well as continuing the sagas of Superman, Green Lantern, Nightwing, Blackhawk and Wild Dog.

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