Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #630


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.

John Severin's cover to ACW #630 includes the flashy logo of "The Man of Steel" and boy how I wish last year's film of the same name would have included Superman lifting a circus elephant.  Scratch that.  I would have preferred Superman lifting a circus elephant for three hours to what I actually saw in The Man of Steel.  I love the playfulness of this cover.  It reminds me of something from the Wayne Boring era of Superman and Action, or even further back to Joe Shuster.

Black Canary

"Knock 'Em Dead" Part 7: 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.  Black Canary's story comes second out of the six features in this issue.

Picking up where the last chapter left off, Black Canary follows Deborah, the prime suspect in at least two murders to a warehouse where the Deb is hoping to score heroin.  But the Deb walks into a police ambush, and the cops aren't looking to arrest her.  These corrupt Seattle cops want her dead for killing Rich and ruining their drug dealing scheme.

Deb sounds pretty surprised to hear that Rich is dead, but the cops don't buy her innocence.  They move in for the kill, but Black Canary springs into action.  She takes down two of the cops and the other is wounded by friendly fire, but in the chaos of the fight, Deborah escapes.  Canary follows but loses Deb, and now Deb knows that she's being targeted.

The police have Deborah's apartment staked out but they're not the only ones.  Cat Maddox, the actress starring in a local production of Peter Pan and a woman who has had a keen interest in Deb since before the killings began is in a diner waiting for the prostitute to return.  A former acquaintance named Anna recognizes her in the diner and expresses her condolences about a loved one of Cat's suffering from a horrible disease.  Hmm... Disease?  We've heard AIDS pop up in the periphery of this story a couple times.

Cat excuses herself from the conversation and jumps an a bus as it arrives.  As she does so, she prevents Deborah from getting off the bus and thus getting caught by the police.

The next day, Ken Glazier meets an old friend at an outdoor basketball court.  Ken shares a newly arrived death threat from the killer he believes is his old flame, Deborah.  He admits to phoning in the anonymous tip to the police that pointed them in Deb's direction, but now that she's running scared she doesn't seem to be halting her quest for vengeance.  Ken warns his friend to stay away from her, but as the unnamed friend is gay, he doesn't believe Deb will get to pick him up in a bar.

Later, Lieutenant Cameron takes his daughter to see Peter Pan at the local theater.  He sees Dinah Lance ushering for the show and they talk about the case.  Cameron admits that Deborah is in the wind and he must pull some of his men off the investigation.  He thinks she was killed by drug dealers and they'll be lucky to find her body.  Unbeknownst to either of them, Deb is still alive, tied up somewhere underground.

[Click the images below to enlarge.]

This chapter showcases the best and worst of Randy Duburke's artwork.  The woman named Anna who talks to Cat in the diner? She looks exactly like Dinah when she's not dressed as the Black Canary.  And the gay man that Ken Glazier talks to looks exactly like Walt Sarno looks exactly like Dinah's friend from Sherwood Florist.  On the other hand, the action in the first three pages looks terrific in his stylized way.

In case there was any doubt, Deb is not the killer we're looking for.  She's a patsy and the most likely killer is actress Cat Maddox.  But what is Cat's motivation?  What's her secret history?  Me thinks it's tied into Ken Glazier; maybe she's his ex-wife.  The suspense builds as lairs of mystery are pealed and newly folded.

The Rest

Green Lantern spends most of his eight pages fighting Captain Atom in the latest chapter by James Owsley and M.D. Bright.  Hal Jordan calls Cap reckless, always prematurely assessing the situation and too eager to fight.  Pot calling the kettle black, in this case, because that sounds more like how Green Lantern has been written for most of the modern era.  Then again, I feel like Captain Atom has been used as a reactionary straw man for anti-military sensibilities ever since DC brought him over from Charlton.

The latest story in the adventures of the Secret Six by Martin Pasko and Frank Springer comes to a close as the mysterious Mockingbird explains how he survived a long time ago only to die at the end of this story.  And then someone else dresses up as Mockingbird at the very end.  Never ends.  Except this feature does, and the next issue will have Phantom Stranger in its place!

In the two-page Superman strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, Clark Kent gets a tour of the underground complex housing the spiritual fellowship that reveres the Man of Steel like a god.  The high priestess of the order can move the earth with her powers, and other Followers of Superman display other abilities as well.

Clark Kent discovers that some form of external radiation is granting them their superpowers, that someone or something is manipulating them.  Meanwhile, the nefarious Consortium is sending an army of tanks and helicopters to destroy the compound and kill all of the cultists.

The fifth chapter of Nightwing & Speedy by Cherie Wilkerson and Tom Mandrake is the... third or fourth that does not show or even mention Nightwing.  Roy Harper is trapped in a burning house with his infant daughter Lian and the two Irish squatters, Moira and Button.  He gets Button outside, but she overhears the police say they firebombed the house, so the cops kidnap little Button.  Roy gets the others outside and confronts the mysterious private detective-looking guy who always shows up when Roy's in a tight spot.  Later Roy gets an anonymous tip telling him where to get Button back from the Friends of the Empire.  At the train station, there is a shootout between F.O.E. and Sanas, the rival faction in Northern Ireland.  Button is taken onto a train that is heading straight for a car full of explosives, 'cuz that's how you do a cliffhanger!

Martin Pasko and Rick Burchett's latest installment of Blackhawk drops a few historical context bombs as Jan Prohaska is called into the Oval Office to talk to the President of the United States about the still-forming C.I.A.  Meanwhile, there's some other mysterious business popping up about the creation of the hallucinogenic drug, L.S.D.  Also, that sexy Nazi chick.

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #631, which kicks off a Phantom Stranger story to replace Secret Six, and furthers the adventures of Black Canary, Superman, Green Lantern, Nightwing, and Blackhawk.

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