Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #611

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 third appearance in ACW was issue #611.  The terrific cover by Alex Nino shows Superman in action, chasing a pair of getaway cars, while the hoods open fire on the Man of Steel.  I must say I love the idea of this cover and I love the composition of the cars and the gunmen, but I feel like Superman is too far away.  There's a lot of blue sky and blank space to account for the title and tag, but there's still enough room that Superman should be twice as big as he appears in this image.

Black Canary

"Bitter Fruit" Part 3: written by Sharon Wright, pencilled by Randy Duburke, inked by Pablo Marcos, lettered by Steve Haynie, colored by Gene D'Angelo, and edited by Mike Gold.  Once again, the Black Canary feature is the last story in the issue.

The third part of "Bitter Fruit" opens with an immigrant family driving through the desert at night.  The children in the back of the car are abruptly startled as lights flood the windows of their car and the voice of the Immigration and Naturalization Service demands their surrender.

We cut to the kids, now grown, visiting their father in the hospital.  The kids from the first page grew up to be Rita and her brother, Luis.  They're at the hospital visiting their father, who at some point we'll piece together is Hector Librado from the first page of Part 1.  The nurse tells Rita and Luis that visiting hours are over and shows them out.  Once Hector's kids leave, he is almost visited by the mysterious man with the beard who was following them last issue.  The nurse refuses to let him in and he leaves somewhat ominously.

Meanwhile, Dinah Lance in the blonde and black leather guise of the Black Canary goes to a bar looking for the thugs who beat up Luis in Part 1.  Rather than question every lowlife in the place, she simply takes a seat at the bar and lets them find her.  When they approach her, she pulls a gun from one of them and forces them to slip out into the back alley.  Their exit is observed by a man dressed vaguely like a cowboy.

As Black Canary tries to get information about who the thugs work for, the cowboy comes up behind her with a gun of his own.  The thugs escape while Cowboy and Canary try to glom information from each other.  Cowboy says his name is Doug Vallines; Dinah introduces herself as "Bonnie Cardinal".  As they shake hands, someone or something hits Canary upside the head, knocking her unconscious.  (This panel is pretty vaguely drawn and the dialogue won't make it any easier to understand in this issue or the next.)

In the last page, someone--we can't see who--enters Hector Librado's hospital room and attempts to kill him, either by strangulation or smothering.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

"Bitter Fruit" Part 3 is better than the last chapter inasmuch as I kind of know what's going on this time around.  Dinah's part of the story is pretty straightforward.  Given the limited page space for the story, I like Sharon Wright's decision to let Black Canary find her prey by drawing them in with her looks.  Sex appeal is a weapon that Black Canary should always be ready to use for her benefit.

That someone came up behind her unnoticed not once but twice in four panels, however, isn't the most flattering moment in her career.  It reminds me of her original appearances in Flash Comics by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, when Dinah Drake would be knocked unconscious every issue.

Where this story really stumbles, though, is with the supporting characters.  Everyone but Dinah and Rita is so thinly drawn by the script as to be interchangeable, and Randy Duburke's art doesn't help because so many of them look identical and the colors don't distinguish between caucasian characters and Latinos.  It's hard to follow the story when everyone looks the same and speaks cryptically.

The other problem is I still don't know what this story is about.  It begins with an image of the Librado family (I think) being stopped by the INS while trying to enter America years ago, but I'm no longer sure this story is about illegal immigration.  There seems to be some mystery surrounding Hector Librado, but he's a non-character.  There are so many unknown background characters flitting around with their own agendas, spying on other characters, that it's impossible to find out what's going on.  As a mystery, there is nothing for us to try to solve; we can only let this play out before us.

The Rest

Green Lantern gets the lead feature once again this week.  The story, written by Peter David and drawn by Tod Smith, continues to explore what it means for Hal Jordan to be "fearless".  Picking up from last week's cliffhanger, Arisia is attacked by the room service bellhop, who is on of many people around the city to be brainwashed.  Though she fights frantically and ultimately defeats her crazed attacker, Hal is a lot more preoccupied by the fact that he was never afraid for her safety, not even for an instant.  The chapter ends with the still unknown villain beaming a mind-control ray from his secret hideout that happens to strike Hal, turning him crazy.  David's script is typical for him; light-hearted dialogue over heavy themes.  This is a far cry from the Geoff Johns Hal we've had for the last ten years; I can kind of understand why so many people don't like Hal based on this representation.

In Deadman's chapter by Mike Baron, Dan Jurgens, and Tony DiZuniga, we learn that the Devil looks like D.B. Cooper and always has.  Or maybe Cooper looks like the Devil.  Or Cooper was the Devil.  Either way, Satan banishes the minor demon Yakin back to Hell, and terrifies an old man into having a stroke.  Then a space ship arrives with a big Native American.   This was... confusing.  The story concludes next week.

Once again, Marty Pasko and Dan Spiegle's Secret Six feels like an engrossing soap opera whose plot is just barely out of reach.  This issue clarifies a few questions while raising more.  I get that the team is infiltrating a hog factory to discover whether the food product coming out has been tainted, I'm just not sure why these characters care.  Are their motives righteous or selfish?

The two-page Superman strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan finds Clark Kent and Perry White still in Perry's office at The Daily Planet, except to them the office has been transformed to a California community where everyone worships Superman like a god.  The mysterious Galt, who is projecting the images and sounds for Clark and Perry, shows them how his community came under attack from stormtroopers while the Followers of Superman began developing their own powers.

Finally, Catwoman kicks off a new feature in this issue.  Written by Mindy Newell and drawn by Barry Kitson, the story finds Selina Kyle operating a nightclub called The Tin Roof Club.  Catwoman has stolen an ancient Egyptian brooch and means to hide the evidence with her former street friend, Holly.  The cops and the mob anticipate her moves, though, and the issue ends with her being ambushed by mob goons and possibly shot by her own bartender.  It's an interesting story as Selina seems to be working different angles, but her plans seem really obvious, which is a deviation from the more guarded Selina I'm used to reading.  And I love Kitson's work, but he doesn't capture the pure sensuality of Selina/Catwoman in these pages.

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #612, which concludes the current Deadman story, as well as continuing the sagas of Black Canary, Superman, Green Lantern, Catwoman, and the Secret Six.

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