Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #627


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 cover to ACW #627 spotlights Nightwing drawn by Gil Kane, a polarizing and at times frustrating artist.  Polarizing because he drew some incredible stuff on Sword of the Atom and the Silver Age Green Lantern, and he contributed a lot to Marvel's monster characters, but then he went and crapped out a cover like this.  Aside from that being a horribly boring cover for a book called Action, his Dick Grayson looks a little chubby and a little ethnic.  I can't decide if Kane thought Dick was Mexican or Korean but that seems like what he's channeling in this cover.

Black Canary

"Knock 'Em Dead" Part 4: 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.  For the first time, I think, since her first story debuted in ACW #609, Canary's story is not the last feature in this issue.  She actually comes third in line between Secret Six and Superman.

The fourth chapter opens up with Ken Glazier thinking about the death threats he has received.  He believes the same woman out to get him killed Walt Sarno the night before.  Ken seems surprised and disdainful toward the note's assertion that he ruined the woman's life, considering she already took so much from him.  He even says she murdered him years ago.  Figuratively, I imagine.  Or not...

Anyway, Glazier isn't the only one driving around Seattle thinking about Sarno's death.  The police are cruising the streets questioning prostitutes off the assumption that Walt Sarno was murdered by a woman associated with the Barfly Robbers crime spree.

Black Canary is on the case, too, and dressed in her leather jacket and fishnet stockings, she does kind of blend in with the street-walking hooker crowd.  Some of the ladies are familiar with her--or, with her undercover persona, that is.  She asks about the heavy police presence, and a girl named Wanda mentions a hooker named Deborah who used to work the streets before upgrading to the barfly scene.  This Deborah was beautiful and claimed to have a boyfriend in the theater business.

Wanda is interrupted by the arrival of her knife-weilding pimp.  Black Canary puts the guy down in fast, efficient style.  Wanda tells her about Deborah's drug dealer, but the cops arrive and arrest Dinah on suspicion of prostitution.

Elsewhere, Deborah scores heroin from her dealer, Rich.  Elsewhere elsewhere from that, the mysterious woman who was following Deborah goes to bed, looking at a picture of a little girl, the same girl from the picture on Page 1 of the first chapter.

[Click the images below to enlarge.]

It's nice to see Black Canary go undercover and do some private investigator work.  It's all the more amusing by the fact that she's using her superhero costume to blend in with hookers.  Sharon Wright had Dinah burn her Justice League International costume in the first arc, now she's getting picked up by the cops for looking dressing like a prostitute.  I doubt that sort of thing happens to other Justice League veterans.

The mystery continues to deepen, but not so far it's out of sight.  Did Deborah really kill Walt Sarno, or was the mystery woman behind it all?  Who was Deborah's boyfriend from the theater world?  Was that part of Ken Glazier's background?  He's a lighting guy, right?  What happened to his family and why is he being targeted by a woman who thinks he ruined her life?

Randy Duburke is still doing a solid job on this story, but the few action beats in this chapter don't really shine.  They're muddled and lack a real sense of movement and fluidity; I'm not sure if that's all his fault or the inker's but Dinah beating up the pimp is confusing and underwhelming as a fight scene.

The Rest

The Green Lantern feature by James Owsley and M.D. Bright guest stars Captain Atom.  Cap has been sent from Justice League International to investigate the disturbance in the forests of Northern California--that disturbance being the alien Visitor destroying everything in sight, mistaking violence for human greeting customs.  The Visitor keeps "greeting" Captain Atom, which levels more of the Redwoods.  Down in Los Angeles, Hal Jordan gets a psychic summons from the alien, and learns that it has gathered enough resources for its shrine/ship that it will soon be leaving.  But before it can go, Captain Atom destroys its shrine/ship, stranding the alien and probably insulting it.  It's strange in this story to read Green Lantern being the more passive, tempered spirit.  I've never had much use for Captain Atom, but he makes a cool foil for Hal in this instance.

It seems like things are coming together in Secret Six by Marty Pasko and Frank Springer.  The redheaded lady manages to figure out some things about Mockingbird and the Agency and a deadly chemical weapon, while the guy with cybernetic legs breaks out of jail, sneaks into a control room and turns off some surveillance monitors.  Then three members of the team bust into a building and shoot some people.  There's also another guy talking to someone who looks like the grand wizard of the KKK.  Same as every week: I want to enjoy this but I can't tell what's going on.

In the two-page Superman strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, Clark Kent and Bob Galt are driving a jeep across the desert when two raiders in airships start shooting at them.  Clark fantasizes about how easy it would be to take them out as Superman, but can't do so because he can't reveal his identity to Bob.  It's a cute trick to throw in some Superman action even when it doesn't make sense at this point in the story.  I also really like that Clark considers using his heat vision, but holds off because he doesn't know how it will affect the ships.  It could accidentally kill the pilots, and killing is wrong.

In the previous issues, there were six different stories.  This time, though, there is only five, because Nightwing returns with a double-feature guest starring Speedy.  In a story cowritten by Marv Wolfman and Cherie Wilkerson and drawn by Tom Mandrake, Dick Grayson and Roy Harper are on a ferry heading to Ireland when superhero life happens.  A couple of drug smugglers drive a truck off the ferry and Nightwing fights with the survivor over a coffin carrying a dead body filled with drugs.  Roy rescues Dick, and they make it to Ireland where Roy explains that he was fired from the CBI for getting too close to a drugs investigation involving Ireland.  Now, when he happens to be bringing his infant daughter there, he's involved in another drugs investigation.  Coincidence?  Certainly not!

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #628, which sees the return of Blackhawk as well as the continuing adventures of Black Canary, Superman, Green Lantern, Nightwing, and Secret Six.


  1. Reading these reviews, the very stylized art by DuBurke has really grown on me. You wouldn't expect a Sienkewicz'd Canary would work but the tone of these arcs meshes nicely.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. There's quite a stylistic shift in how Duburke draws Dinah in costume in the "Knock 'em Dead" story arc that wasn't there in the last ACW story. It's so different from the way any other artist has ever drawn her.