Monday, June 16, 2014

Team-Up: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #635 (Jan 1989)

Black Canary's solo strip in Action Comics Weekly wrapped up in issue #634, but she did return the following week for a crossover story pitting several of the series' regular characters in one adventure. Instead of branding this post with the "Back in Action" title like the rest of her ACW appearances, I've gone with the Team-Up header.  Her appearance this time has nothing to do with the previous stories by Sharon Wright and Randy Duburke; this story is much closer to an issue of The Brave and the Bold or DC Comics Presents.

Action Comics Weekly #635: "The Crash of 88" is written by Mark Verheiden with pencil art and cover by Eduardo Barreto, inks by John Nyberg, letters by Carrie Spiegle, and colors by Tom Ziuko.  Robert Greenberger edited the main story.  The issue also contained two more strips that continued the ongoing sagas of Superman and Green Lantern, but I won't review those.  Note that the book is cover dated January, 1989, but the issue hit the stands in November of 1988, so the title still makes sense.

"The Crash of 88" is narrated by Weng Chan, the Hong Kong-born member of the Blackhawks better known affectionately and rakishly as "Chop-Chop".  Howard Chaykin saved the character some dignity when he rebooted the series and renamed Chan, making him more of a serious presence on the team and less a caricature.

By this point in his life and career, Chan is CEO of Blackhawk Express, spending more time in board meetings than in the cockpit of his cargo ships.  But the same corporate board tasked Chan with personally piloting a shipment of MacGuffin-style equipment to South America.  Along for the flight is the wheelchair bound scientist Clay Kendall, who formerly graced the pages of a Green Lantern as an employee of Ferris Aircraft before an accident left him disabled.  Chan and Kendall are joined by Susan Sullivan, the eye-candy of the group who serves no real purpose in this story.

Chan isn't happy about flying through a storm, shipping something he doesn't really understand, with people he doesn't really trust, but he likes even less the anti-aircraft fire the Blackhawk plane takes when they fly over the country of Sumango.

After the plane goes down in the jungle and Chan examines the damage, Kendall confirms that they have crashed in Sumango, and that's bad news.  Sumango, apparently, is ruled by a cruel military dictator named Colonel Diaz, whose human rights violations have earned him the condemnation of both the United Nations and the Soviet Union.  Right after Chan and Kendall voice that expository knowledge to Susan (and the readers), the trio come under fire by Col. Diaz's forces.

Chan and the others are captured, beaten, and their cargo is confiscated.  Then we segue to Green Lantern Hal Jordan, attacking his friends...

Hal wakes up from the nightmare of abusing his power.  The next day, Hal meets Black Canary's dark-haired civilian alter-ego, Dinah Lance, for lunch.  Hal admits he's surprised Dinah would agree to meet wit him considering her boyfriend and Hal's ex-friend, Oliver Queen, wants nothing to do with him.  Dinah knows that Hal is going through a rough time, but she's more compassionate and forgiving than Ollie.

Dinah tells Hal that he should talk to someone to get some perspective--someone from outside their world of capes and costumes.  The only one Hal can think of at the time is Clay Kendall, whom he knew from Ferris Aircraft.

Back in Sumango, Kendall is stuck in a tiny jail cell with Chan and Susan.  Col. Diaz's men come and retrieve Kendall for some purpose.  When Chan tries to stop them, Diaz takes Chan and walks him out of the small jail to a large high-tech building at the edge of the village.  Diaz tells Chan that soon he will be all-powerful, and it's all thanks to the mysterious shipment loaded in the Blackhawk plane that his men captured.

Back in Coast City, Dinah drives Hal to Clay Kendall's house, but when they arrive, Kendall's wife tells them he disappeared during a mission to South America.

Shortly thereafter, Dinah has changed into her Black Canary costume and she accompanies Green Lantern to the Blackhawk hangar.  They track Kendall and Chan's flight from the United States to its final destination at Reyes Bay, but there a reputable-looking man at the airfield tells them the plane never arrived, which means it probably went down in the dreaded Sumango.  The heroes fly off to Sumango, and before long discover the downed Blackhawk plane and Clay Kendall's wheelchair.

Suddenly, the air is filled with screams and the roar of a ginormous red, seemingly energy-based monster that can literally lifted mountains.  Green Lantern takes to the sky to attack the monster, while Black Canary runs toward the village.  She says this threat is out of her league, showing that Dinah, unlike maybe Hal, knows her own limits.  Still, even though she might not have the physical means to contend with the giant energy monster, she is every bit the hero.  Closing in on the monster, she spies a poor family huddled under their hut.  Black Canary races to the peasants to protect them, but the monster raises its massive foot to step on them.

As Green Lantern fights the monster, Black Canary leads the peasants to safety, but Col. Diaz's soldiers capture her.  The energy monster grabs Green Lantern, but he manages to fight out of its grip.  Then the monster vanishes momentarily, only to dematerialize all around Hal.  The energy is too much for him to fight on his own, so the green power ring flies off his finger to summon the one man Green Lantern knows can help.

Diaz's men bring Black Canary, Clay Kendall, and an unconscious Green Lantern back to the jail.  Kendall tells Chan that they interrogated him to learn the secrets of the cargo, which was actually a very high-tech energy collector.  This is what Diaz uses to power the giant monster, and Black Canary reasons that if they don't find a way of stopping him, Diaz and his pet will destroy everything in the region.

Half a world away in Metropolis, Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent is listening to a meeting of what sounds like the city zoning board.

Clark Kent removes his civilian disguise and takes to the air as Superman and follows the green power ring back to Sumango.  Superman doesn't need super-vision to see the devastation Diaz's monster has left on the countryside.

When Superman sees the energy monster, he gives it the benefit of the doubt and tries to talk to it first.  Of course, the monster hits Superman, sending him flying through the jungle.  That's enough for diplomacy, Superman decides, and responds with his fists.  But the energy monster can absorb even the Man of Steel's most powerful blows.

Meanwhile, Black Canary and Chan decide they've had enough of Sumango's jail scene and bust out.

Black Canary and Chan sneak around the village, while Kendall and Susan remain in the jail cell with weapons and the still-unconcious Green Lantern.  After taking out some of Diaz's men, Canary and Chan are spotted.  They dodge machine gun fire by diving into the power facility.  There, they discover the energy collector machine that Chan and Kendall were transporting.  Diaz has hooked himself up inside the machine and is feeding the energy monster outside.

As Superman presses his attack, the energy monster disappears again.  This time it rematerializes in the power station, destroying the building around it and endangering Black Canary and Chan.

Back at the jai, Kendall and Susan are about to be overrun by Diaz's forces, when the green power ring slips on Hal's finger and wakes him up.

Superman and Green Lantern attack Diaz's pet together, raging at him for hurting Black Canary.  Diaz, though, is too powerful for even the combined might of Superman and Green Lantern.  The energy begins to overwhelm them.  In the nick of time, Chan recovers and does the practical thing of unplugging Diaz from the energy collector.  Devoid of his power, Diaz attacks Chan, and receives a kick to the face for his effort.

In the epilogue to the story, Green Lantern returns Clay Kendall to his wife, while Weng Chan goes back to the corporate headquarters of Blackhawk Express to rip the board a collective new @$$hole.

This story was fun and Verheiden's script really takes advantage of the 29 story pages to make the story feel big and expansive.  I'm not sure why he chose to make Chop-Chop Weng Chan the narrator of this story instead of, say, any of the other Blackhawks, or even the Blackhawk.  It seems like this should be a return to action or a catharsis about his place in the corporation, but I'm not sure either was really captured well.  And if so, I'm not sure either was exciting enough to anchor this story with more heavyweight characters in the wings.

Superman isn't given a whole lot of development; he's used mostly as a strongman brawler, but it's okay for this story.  Green Lantern's inner demons are shelved for a brief detective story with a personal stake and plenty of action.  As purely a tagalong, Black Canary makes the most of her appearance with some nice action beats.

Artist Eduardo Barreto draws a muscular and fierce looking Superman and Green Lantern, and his Black Canary is shapely and beautiful in a way that leaps off the page even when she doesn't have much to do in the scene.

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