Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back in Action: ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #612

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 fourth appearance in ACW was issue #612.  This time, the Secret Six get the showcase treatment in a nice, atmospheric piece by Paul Gulacy.  The costume designs, the Tron-like influence of the background and floor makes this image very evocative of video games I used to play on my original Nintendo in the '90s.  The costume designs are sleek and befitting the cover design, but this doesn't look like the Secret Six I've been reading for the last couple issues.

Black Canary

"Bitter Fruit" 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 Mike Gold.  Once again, the Black Canary feature is the last story in the issue.

The fourth part of "Bitter Fruit" opens with a homeless woman finding the gun that Black Canary took off of one of the thugs last issue.  That part of the story ended with Canary--calling herself Bonnie Cardinal--meeting a guy dressed like a cowboy calling himself Doug Vallines, and then being knocked out by... someone... maybe Doug... bad art...?

After the bag lady walks off with a gun, Dinah wakes up in a dumpster.  Doug Vallines helps her out, claiming that he was knocked out, too, and dumped in a dumpster down the alley.  Vallines says the two thugs that he scared away doubled back and cold cocked him and Dinah, which is stupid and sounds like a horrible lie, but the art from last issue was so ambiguous that who knows?  He also refers to himself as a gringo, suggesting the two assailants were also Latino, but nothing about the art or coloring in the previous parts of this story would corroborate that.

Vallines is looking for Hector Librado and knows that "Bonnie" is associated with him.  Vallines gives "Bonnie" his card so Hector can contact him.  Then there is another one of those pages that just wastes space and time; it's mostly black and a guy named Vincent Scales (I think) answers the phone. He's talking to someone named Gary (I think) about something we don't know.  This cryptic dialogue and unknown characters is really getting on my nerves.  Are we to assume this guy is a major villain like the Kingpin, because this page looks like something out of Frank Miller's Daredevil, but the writing and art fail to reach that standard.

The next page, however, makes up for that as we catch Dinah Lance naked in the shower.  There's a weird kind of POV panel effect that suggests someone is sneaking up on her--are we supposed to be scared for her?  Is this Psycho?  Whatever, it turns out to be exactly who you'd think: Oliver Queen, come to towel her off and ask how her mission is going.  As Dinah recaps her day, she is interrupted by a phone call from Rita telling Dinah that someone attacked Hector in his hospital room last issue.

The last page cuts to sunny Hollywood, California, where yet another stranger pops up in the story.  This guy calls someone named "Barry" and identifies himself as Doug Vallines--but hold up, it's not the cowboy Dinah met earlier!  Woo-oo-ooh, mystery!

Click on the images below to enlarge.

We're halfway through "Bitter Fruit" and I still don't know what the story is about or who the bad guy is.  What mystery is Dinah investigating?  Does she even know?  Who are all these supporting characters?

Sharon Wright's script has a lot of value, but it is not conducive to these short eight-page installments.  This story clearly needs room to breathe and that takes a longer format, if not a graphic novel.  I'm not even sure her story is appropriate for a comic; this feels like a story that would work in prose, where the narrative could flesh out some of these characters and locations that aren't being served by the art.  Maybe that's a fault of editor Mike Gold for not recognizing these problems and having Wright bulk up the script with captions and exposition.  I like comics that allow the art to tell the story instead of text, but the art isn't doing that effectively in this case, so the script needs to pick up its game.

Since most of Dinah's part of this story involves crawling out of a dumpster and recovering from being pistol-whipped, the highlight is clearly the shower scene.  Here again, though, the art hinders what could at least be a good cheesecake moment.  There's little sex appeal to this moment, as Pablo Marcos' inks over Duburke's pencils make Dinah look boney, wrinkly, almost sickly.  It's also worth noting that in this scene, Dinah Lance looks more Latino than any Mexican character we've been introduced to so far.

The Rest

Green Lantern continues as lead feature for this issue with the story written by Peter David and drawn by Tod Smith.  Last week, Hal Jordan was struck by Mind Games' mind-control ray, driving him insane.  This chapter picks up with Green Lantern attacking the Chicago police detective he has partnered with.  The problem is, Hal's ring is powered by his will, and under the control of Mind Games, the ring won't work.  This leaves Hal nothing but a crazy man at normal strength, and the detective kicks the crap out of him until he snaps out of it.  Meanwhile, Hal's alien girlfriend Arisia is propositioned to model by the same agency that apparently represents Starfire.  They must have a market for "sexy" non-humans cornered.  Hal eventually finds Mind Games' hideout, discovering that the villain is really short.  I was kind of hoping for a more dramatic, more original villain reveal.

Marty Pasko and Dan Spiegle's Secret Six gets more complicated this chapter, with some new twists adding to confusion and new revelations clarifying the direction the story seems to be going.  The arrival of a former agent clues the team into the danger presented them by their mysterious employer, Mockingbird, who was probably one of the original Secret Six team, long thought dead.  The current team must now investigate the old team, discover the identity of their boss, all without tipping him to the fact that they're coming for him.  Meanwhile, the Six appears to have all the facts regarding their mini pig case, and that signals the end of the first story arc.  The Six will return in issue #619.

Deadman's story by Mike Baron, Dan Jurgens, and Tony DiZuniga takes a strange, preposterous turn considering the first part of the story that I read had Deadman and Satan possessing the bodies of President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev.  A group of aliens who look like Native Americans have returned to Earth, which is bad news for Satan because, as Deadman says, it jeopardizes the belief in Judeo/Christian theology.  Satan possesses a military woman and tries to incite a war to destroy the aliens with their own weapons, but Deadman stops her/him.  All is more-or-less resolved, and this concludes the Deadman feature for a couple months.

In the Superman two-page strip by Roger Stern and Curt Swan, the enigmatic Bob Galt concludes his story of the Fellowship's plight to Daily Planet reporter and editor Clark Kent and Perry White.  Perry wants Clark to find hard evidence to support Galt's story of the cult that worships Superman and died for it.  Meanwhile, in a corporate boardroom somewhere in California, an organization has come together to destroy Superman and his followers.

In Catwoman's story by Mindy Newell and Barry Kitson, Selina is saved by the last person she wants to see, Detective George Flannery.  He finds the unconscious mob hoods in her office, along with her Catwoman costume and whip.  He's ready to take her into custody, but she knocks him out and bolts from the Tin Roof Club in her costume.  She goes to Jersey to see her friend Holly, who she gave the stolen Egyptian brooch to last issue.  Holly gave the gift to her husband, who deposited it in the bank, drawing all kinds of unwanted attention.  The chapter ends with Holly's townhouse blowing up, with Catwoman and Holly presumably still inside.

Next week, I'll look at Action Comics Weekly #613, which begins a new feature starring Nightwing, a new Phantom Stranger story, as well as continuing the sagas of Black Canary, Superman, Green Lantern, and Catwoman.

1 comment:

  1. You're right there is little sex appeal in the shower scene. Actually, Dinah looks like prettier while she's s crawling out of the dumpster!!!! Besides that, the art is decent, isn't it?