Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #625


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.

The second chapter of Black Canary's second story arc in ACW Black Canary continues her second story arc in ACW with issue #625.  The cover by artist Eduardo Barreto spotlights Deadman and a whole host of other characters in the red part of his costume.  I don't know if these are all characters he's possessed or what the connection is but you can definitely see Batman and maybe Sargon the Sorcerer and Enemy Ace.  Can you ID any others?

Black Canary

"Knock 'Em Dead" Part 2: written by Sharon Wright, pencilled by Randy Duburke, inked by Pablo Marcos, lettered by Steve Haynie, colored by Gene D'Angelo, and edited by Robert Greenberger.  Unlike the last story arc, which was told in eight-page installments, "Knock 'Em Dead" is broken up into seven-page chapters.

We pick up right where last issue left off.  Black Canary was exercising in some old house on the outskirts of Seattle when the floor gives out and she falls into... water?  Okay...

Elsewhere, a man sits alone in the dark, drinking and reading a death threat he received--possibly the death threat composed on page 1 of the previous chapter.  The man isn't identified here, but this is Ken Glazier.  Dinah Lance is scheduled to meet with him the next day as they're collaborating on a department store window project.

Dinah's friend Walt is also supposed to meet them for lunch.  He does his drinking at a bar where a woman sits down next to him and starts talking.  It's the red-headed woman we saw last issue, the woman who may or may not be named Deborah.  If we read between the lines of her dialogue, we might suspect she's a higher class prostitute.  Meanwhile, the mystery woman who stalked her from a car last time watches her and Walt from across the bar.

After a few more drinks, Walt and the redhead go up to his hotel room.  He invites her in, which activates her superpower to make the lights go out so her eyes can shine like supernovas.  Or maybe that's not a thing and it's just an artistic way of stressing her dark motivation when she follows him in.

Black Canary swims to the shore and passes out in the grass.  She doesn't seem that upset about almost breaking her neck or drowning.

Later, the redhead leaves Walt's hotel room.  The concierge at the front desk tries to forward a call up to Walt's room, but no one answers...because Walt is dead.

[Click the images below to enlarge.]

Dinah doesn't do much in this chapter--just falls into water and swims to safety, but she looks damn good.  And she's dressed in her Black Canary costume the whole time, which is a big plus.  I still can't get over how the same Randy DuBurke who so thoroughly underwhelmed me with "Bitter Fruit" wows me with this story.  The pages with Black Canary are striking, evoking a more fluid, dynamic style like Bill Sienkiewicz or Stephen Bissette from Saga of the Swamp Thing, especially with Dinah's seemingly endless blond locks.

The rest of the pages are pretty typical of Sharon Wright's scripts.  A silent page or two with a character we don't know and little context, and some deeper mysteries.  But the mystery itself gets more interesting this issue, because we have our first body.  And this time, the corpse has a personal connection to Dinah Lance.  That means she has a stake in this story and that makes me want to read it all the more.

I'm still leaning towards giving credit to the new editor, Greenberger, for the clarity of the story and the focus on Black Canary's look in the art.

The Rest

Green Lantern still gets the lead feature in this issue and it's a terrific little done-in-one written by James Owsley (who would become Christopher Priest) and drawn by M.D. Bright.  Hal Jordan goes undercover to monitor a peace summit between two warring alien species.  When the peace talks devolve into open rioting, the Green Lantern settles the conflict and ensures they sign the peace treaty.  Of course, on the last page we discover that the aliens' peace agreement ensures they will work together to create a doomsday weapon.  Classic!

In Shazam! by Roy and Dann Thomas and the Ricks Staci and Magyar, Billy Batson continues to uncover more sinister secrets at a day camp for Future Nazis of America.  The new Captain Nazi, as surprised by his abilities as anyone, displays his super strength, flight, and heat vision so he can be a match for Captain Marvel.  Billy joins a group of boys sent out to poison a racially diverse city, but blows his cover and gets tied up so he can't utter the magic word.

Secret Six by Martin Pasko and Frank Springer is...Hmmm.  I really want to like this strip but I can't get into the story in this format.  Plus, I've missed a lot of the story in other issues of ACW I haven't collected.  There is a whole lot of action and characters shown in this chapter that weren't in the last one, and Pasko's story doesn't make it the most new reader friendly.  Again...wanna like it but can't.

In the two-page Superman strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, we learn that while Superman's weakness is kryptonite, if you want to hurt Clark Kent just sit next to him in a plane for a couple hours and talk endlessly about how Superman is a god who can lead humankind to a more perfect and holy place.

All I really got from this Deadman story by Mike Baron and Kelly Jones is that Kelly Jones drawing Deadman is damn awesome!  There were zombies and ghosts and twins with black magic--all good, but a little disjointed with this penultimate part of the story lacking the appropriate setup from earlier stories.

In the letters column of each issue of Action Comics Weekly, the editors asked fans to write in and rank the six features each week.  Because of the publishing schedule, it took a while to get the ranking for the issues with Black Canary's "Bitter Fruit" story.  And the results weren't encouraging.  She pretty consistently ranked sixth out of six features.  It's hard to argue given the quality of the first story compared to the others in those issues.  It wasn't exactly worthy of Action Comics.  Here's hoping the ranking of the new story picked up!

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #626, which concludes Deadman's story and continues the ongoing stories of Black Canary, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, and the Secret Six.

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