Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Action Comics Weekly #642

Sorry for the lax posting of late, but helping the wife sell her art at Oddmall over the weekend took precedence. Then couple that with a 24 hour flu virus that came and went like the Juggernaut, and that had me paying more attention to the porcelain bowl than to the posting of what I'm sure would have been some nonsense blog ramblings.

What I really need is a nice little inspirational story about Green Lantern finding the willpower to get back up and fight the good fight, so without further ado...

TITLE: Action Comics Weekly #642


COVER DATE: March 1989


38 pages


When this title went weekly, I was knee deep in my Marvel zombie phase and it would still be a couple of years before I started reading Superman on a regular basis. That means that I don't recall much about this title originally. Even after I completed my collection, most of these stories remain unread. I went through and read the entirety of the two-page Superman strips, but I can't recall if I read this one or not. I guess we'll find out.

One of the things I did find interesting in doing a little research was that Neil Gaiman was originally solicited to write this issue, but was unwilling to change some key story points that didn't match up to the current status quo. It would appear his story had Superman and Green Lantern knowing each other's secret identities, but this didn't quite line up with the Byrne relaunch and it would later go on to be released out of continuity. This would have been right around the time that Sandman was starting up, and hindsight being twenty/twenty I'm so glad he took the path he did. Whether or not the problem with this issue had anything to do with it, I couldn't say.

We may have lost out on a nice little Neil Gaiman story, but we do have an excellent consolation prize with the artists that are featured in this story. I think it's time to dig in and give our eyes a treat.

"Where There Is A Will...!"
  • Writer: Elliot S. Maggin
  • Art: Gil Kane, Steve Ditko and Art Thibert, Jim Aparo and John Nyberg, Curt Swan and Ty Templeton, Jim Mooney and Akin and Garvey, Carmine Infantino and Kevin Nowlan
  • Colors: Glenn Whitmore
  • Letters: John E. Workman, Jr.
  • Editor: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn
The first page in and I'm getting a big sense of deja vu. Isn't this the same opening that was used on the last issue of Action Comics Weekly that we reviewed here? So we're back to the death of Abin Sur and the selection of the next Green Lantern of sector 2814 about to begin.

This particular version has Abin Sur's ring bringing Clark Kent to the crashed ship. There, Abin Sur asks Clark to look at several candidates to help him decide who should bear the ring next. This seems like a ham-handed attempt to tie Clark Kent and Hal Jordan together from the very beginning. This also flies in the face of the origin story that was told in this title not one year ago.

Come to think of it, how this re-imagining of Clark and Hal's relationship was more palatable than Clark and Hal knowing each other's secret identity seems strange to me. But it's early in the story, so let's see where things go next.

The opening scene is drawn by Gil Kane, but it's relatively short and he never does get much of a chance to show off his storytelling skills. Steve Ditko gets the next chapter, which has a bit more action as we catch up with Hal Jordan in present day returning to the salt flats of Utah to track down nuclear smugglers.

Hal tracks down where the fissionable nuclear material is being smuggled from and attempts to shut it down. It turns out that it's in the middle of a federal base. The nerve of these smugglers, stealing our good nuclear stuff right under our very noses.

Luckily for Hal, Major Easterly is soon on the scene.

Unluckily for Hal, he is placed under arrest for violations of security clearances too many to mention. In a very un-Hal Jordan-like move, he decides to play along for now and let himself be taken into custody.

While being escorted off base, he notices the very same soldiers that have detained him are the same ones loading the smuggled nuclear material onto the helicopter.

I think someone's seen Casablanca one too many times, not including me!

Hal has finally seen too much and takes it upon himself to end this charade. While attempting to stop the helicopter from taking off with the nuclear material, he gets shot point blank in the chest. Falling to the same desert sands where Abin Sur died, the ring begins the process of find a new successor.

Over the next eight pages we are shown the ring in the process of finding men without fear to take over the for the gravely injured Hal Jordan.

Among the collection of everyday heroes are Clark Kent, Guy Gardner, Nightwing, and Deadman in the body of a mugger. While Jordan lies unconscious, straggling the line between life and death, he weighs his different options. He can refuse a successor and finish his fight, or he can let go and just be done with it all.

Deadman takes the roll of devil, while Clark takes on the roll of angel. Both try their best to convince Hal on the most honorable path to take, but it's only after a third entity appears that Jordan finds the will to do what is right.

And who was that third entity?

It was none other than the ghost of Abin Sur made manifest by his ring. He goes on to tell Hal that his self-doubt is a gift and should be embraced as it makes him all the more powerful. I'm assuming that the core of Green Lantern's storyarc in this title has been one of self doubt, as we haven't really seen that displayed in this issue but everyone seems to be making a big deal of it now.

Realizing that Abin Sur was right, Hal fires up the battery and recites the oath that powers the Green Lanterns. The Green Lantern is back!

With his new found willpower back in action, he dismisses all of the candidates for his replacement that the ring had summoned and starts to track down the officer who was trafficking in smuggled nuclear material.

Hal Jordan is not the only one who has benefited from his realization, as each of the people once considered for his replacement are imbued with a small amount of the green light. When they are returned to the moment from when they were taken, they each use the green light in their own fashion to help the downtrodden and fight the good fight.

It doesn't take Green Lantern long to catch up to the major, and it takes him even less time to bring the helicopter down and stop the smuggling ring. Determined to play this one by the books, Jordan's next stop is to the Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court. There he lays his belief in the law on the line. With Jordan's backing, the judge decides that he might just be able to put this crooked officer away for good.

Finally, we get an epilogue of sorts with Clark Kent and Deadman. It seems that Deadman is unhappy that he was not able to convince Clark on the benefits of the afterlife. He's still got some convincing to do however, as Clark blows him off. Deadman finally gives up, and leaves "Action" to Superman. Wink, wink!


For some reason, I've always kind of associated Green Lantern and Iron Man together. I'm not really sure why, but it could have something to do with this. Or maybe it was the fact that they both went bad about the same time.

So what does my analogy have to do with the issue we just reviewed?

It turns out that I have another reason to believe they were separated at birth...the always changing origin story. Every 5 or 10 years or so, we seem to get another updated Iron Man origin, taking him from Viet Nam to whatever military conflict that happened in the recent past.

With Green Lantern, it now seems that the how and why of Abin's death and Hal Jordan birth as Green Lantern seems to change almost as much. Different characters and motivations seem to be weaved through the story to suit whatever angle a particular writer wished to explore. Although with the depth of work that Geoff Johns has recently done on that part of the Green Lantern mythos, I'd be surprised if it changed again anytime soon.

With that being said, I can see what Maggin was trying to do here, but it never quite came together in one cohesive package. For one thing, it was just way too long. I was merciful and recapped about 20 pages of story in just a couple of lines. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can read the whole issue and get exposed to at least a couple of pages of each character that the ring chose as a successor both before and after they were brought to the salt flats. For everyone else, Superman and Deadman make the case for Green Lanterns crisis of conscience more succinctly and entertaining than seeing the same thing happen eight times in a row.

The different vignettes did allow for some interesting artistic style to interplay with each other, which ended up being the high point of this issue. My personal favorite being the Steve Ditko/Art Thibert pairing. I was also looking forward to the Carmine Infantino/Kevin Nowlan pairing, but it ended up being a combination that sounded better than it ended up looking.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

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