Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Back-Issue Alphabet - A is for “Action Comics #607”

A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon a treasure trove of old comics at Edmonton’s Pop Culture Fair. I had been toying with the idea of reviewing random single issues for a while, but couldn’t quite think up a system for it. It finally hit me when I found one seller that had boxes upon boxes of comics for sale sorted alphabetically. From there, I decided to randomly pick one from each letter of the alphabet to review for my blog. 

I’m going to read these books with the notion that I had pulled them from the stands the day they hit comic books stores, and determine if they would persuade me to continue buying the series (or seek it out in trade). The criteria that I’ll be judging each issue on are it’s cover, story value, artwork, and new reader compatibility.

The plan right now is to make this a weekly series, updating on Mondays. Also I reserve the right to change the name of this series of posts from “The Back-Issue Alphabet” to something better if I can think it.

Anyhoodles, let’s get on to to the first installment, starting with the letter A.

Action Comics 607 (1988, various contributors)

My first dive into the random back issue bin is Action Comics #607, a weekly anthology by DC comics featuring six chapters from six different creative teams on six different stories.

The cover is certainly intriguing. I’m not familiar with the Secret Six, but there’s a cool murder mystery vibe going on there. Onto the individual stories!

The first stars Green Lantern in Guilty (James Owsley, Todd Smith). Hal Jordan spends three pages of this eight page story summarizing past events while flying around the world. But heavy is the head that bears the green domino mask, because a whole ton of crap happened and he feels guilty about it, and hlaf the world hates him for something he didn’t do. It’s a long three pages. While touring the planet, he spots a riot in a “middle Eastern Country” and decides not to get involved because both sides of the riot have equal claim to the territory. Geez, how exactly does Lantern Corps authority work? “Meh, you’ve both got a good argument. Fight it out, kids.” He sees a woman with a baby caught in the crossfire, and decides to get involved because “this is much easier! No right or wrong... no moral debate... that woman’s life is at stake! This riot stops now!” Well, he had spent a good bit of time in the previous decade driving around in a truck with that hippie Green Arrow, so he’s probably sick of making judgement calls like that. The story ends with him deciding to go on Oprah to clear up his P.R. problem. Seriously, that’s how it ends. I can only hope that next week Jordan appears on Oprah on a “favorite things” episode. Maybe a new pair of “Ugg” boots and an all-edges lasagna pan will cheer him up.

Next up is Deadman in Escape From Hell (Mike Baron, Dan Jurgens). So Deadman and D.B. Cooper (which I’m guessing is the hijacker of legend) are scaling a bare cliff face in the pits of Hell, with the intention of escaping. They don’t spend any time explaining the situation, it’s just Deadman and D.B. Cooper, climbing a mountain in Hell and avoiding diabolical Kool-Aid jugs.


Next up is Wild Dog in Moral Stand Chapter 7: Legionnaire’s Disease (Max Collins, Terry Beatty). Buckle up: the title isn’t the only thing that doesn’t make sense in this chapter.

Mad Dog is essentially DC’s Punisher. He’s a dude with no powers that’s fed up, buys a bunch of guns, and fights injustice. But instead of fighting the mob, Wild Dog fights terrorists. Not religiously/racially charged modern-era terrorists, but jumpsuit wearing Cobra Commander style terrorists. Wild Dog’s costume is also pretty amazing, as it’s a hockey mask, a long sleeve black t-shirt under a jersey with a cartoon dog on it tucked into camouflage pants. Minus the hockey mask, you could easily spot this guy walking around Wal-Mart in Minnesota. With the hockey mask he’s probably robbing a Wal-Mart in Minnesota. In Legionnaire’s Disease Wild Dog kills a bunch of terrorists, except for one, who he then handcuffs to a machine and delivers a baffling sassy remark to:

Anti-porn? As in, he’s against porn, or he’s made up of a substance that produces violent particle reactions when exposed to regular porn? Maybe that’s a topical 1988 topic? Either way, I like this guy. He’s crazy.

After that is Superman in Familiar Face? (Roger Stern, Curt Swan). It’s only two pages long, and a third of one page is recap of the last story. It’s not enough to make me interested in Superman, but I did like this panel:

If there was a First Church of Superman, who would be the Pope?

That theological debate aside, we’ve got The Secret Six in Gino (Martin Pasko, Dan Spiegle). An intruder has infiltrated the base of the Secret Six, and he non-fatally incapacitates several members before it turns out it was Just A Big Misunderstanding (TM). He’s there to join the team and help them fight against the man who heads their organization. Meh.

Finally we’ve got Blackhawk in Another Fine War (Mike Grell, Rick Burchett). Remember when I said that part of the ranking would be new readership friendly? I have no idea what is going on in this segment. I don’t even know if “Blackhawk” is the name of the main character or if it’s the name of his organization. They never call him by name. Didn’t grab me at all.

Thoughts overall: The Green Lantern story was interesting, mostly because I really want to see Hal Jordan on Oprah. But the anthology format is really irritating because to follow one story I have to buy six comics to get one that I wanted. Here’s why: This issue is more expensive than normal comics of its time. I’m just going to ball park it and say that it’s twice as much for twice as many pages. That means every week you’re buying two books. In two months, long enough to complete eight “chapters,” you’ve bought sixteen comic books, and if only one or two of the books are interesting to you. That means you’ve got a stack of pages that you didn’t want that you’re forced to pay for just to see the Green Lantern punch a guy with a giant green boxing glove (I love it when that happens) or see Wild Dog knee a pre-9/11 Saturday morning terrorist in the chest from. The anthology format is fun for short, one-off contained stories, but to release five to eight pages of a single story a week and charge more for the inconvenience is infuriating. I wouldn’t keep buying Action Comics, but I would probably look up more Green Lantern stories.

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