Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Action Comics #879

Greg Rucka's run on Action Comics remains a surprise in my mind. I have to admit that I thought that this Nightwing and Flamebird run would be a standard four color superhero punch-em-up. Yes the Chris Kent story would have some interesting elements. But I really thought this would be a simple 'take out the sleeper agents' arc.

Instead Rucka has built on that simple theme, weaving Kryptonian lore and religious elements into the plot. I have to say I have been impressed. I have enjoyed this arc enough that I haven't missed Superman and I haven't been as irked as I usually am about rotating artists. (Although I still miss Eddy Barrow.)

Action Comics #879 does have the standard fight sequences but it takes a huge and shocking step forward in plot. Something unexpected ... and I like being surprised in comics.

The comic opens up with a three-way standoff. Thara and Chris have tracked down Az-Rel and Nadira and were a hair away from capturing them when Agent Assassin showed up with some trollish goons.

Assassin could care less about the noble intentions of Nightwing and Flamebird. To him, all four combatants are Kryptonians and that means they are the enemy. He lets loose the hounds.

In the skirmish, Az-Rel and Nadira are able escape. While Thara gets surrounded, she advises Chris to take off after the two fugitives.

Once captured, Agent Assassin is able to use his telepathy on Thara to try to get a sense of who she is and what she is trying to do.

I have become a fan of this 'wide-screen' panel layout so popular in comics these days. When used appropriately (as it is here) it can lead to impressive visuals. When used wrongly, I feel like I am being robbed of valuable space for story-telling.

How interesting that her mind's eye image of Supergirl is an angry looking Kara. But it is also intriguing how the iconic imagery of the Flamebird and Nightwing legendary beings are also taking a dominant space in her mind. Throughout this arc we have learned that Thara has a religious fervor and a belief that she may be the living embodiment of the Flamebird being.

In this instance it works as we see all the things cluttering up Thara's mind with Assassin an imposing figure in the middle.

And then comes the giant leap forward for the story.

Thara suddenly 'manifests' the Flamebird persona, bursting into flames with flame wings. In another voice she yells 'get out of our mind' throwing Agent Assassin and his men to the ground. This isn't a delusion by Thara. This is very real. And it adds a compelling angle to this story.

We have heard some of the Flamebird/Nightwing myth ... how they come in times of crisis, how one of them always dies. Now we get a sense of fatality. Either Thara or Chris is going to die.

Nightwing is unable to capture Az-Rel and Nadira. In fact, Flamebird needs to come to help him save some civilians the criminals have placed in peril.

Each time one of them is injured, the other seems almost panicked. It may be they realize that their time together is short since it has been foretold that either Flamebird or Nightwing always dies.

And maybe it is that sense of destiny that is keeping Thara and Chris from verbalizing their feelings for each other. This is the third time (I think) that they have stared at each other while smoldering only to shake it off and get on to the mission at hand. Perhaps they are thinking that if they deny themselves the love that Nightwing/Flamebird share that they won't share their fate either.

In the meantime Lois is doing some tracking down of her own. With the help of Mon-El and a quick peek at the body in General Lane's coffin she realizes that her father is still alive.

It must be a tough time for Lois. She knows her father faked his death. She knows Lucy was Superwoman. And Clark is off on another planet. With that little support, I wonder if we will see Lois crack a bit or if it will only make her stronger.

And then we get a long look at General Lane in the Project 7734 headquarters.

First he learns that Thara had an otherworldly presence in her mind.

Then the Lane's mystic operative (finally named ... he calls her Mirabai) decides to take matters in her own hands.

Someone on this blog wondered if she was a Native American and I think that is a good guess given her dialogue. She says she knows the price of waiting while an enemy proceeds ... how the cost is the lives of civilians.

One thing that is obvious is that she is pretty powerful.

She's captured two Kryptonians on her own in the span of seconds! Suddenly this Mirabai is a very real power.

Diego Olmos art here was pretty good but I look forward to Julian Lopez becoming the regular artist.

The revelation of the Flamebird entity in this issue was a huge plot point. Finding out the name Mirabai and seeing her strength was another part I liked. And seeing Lois unravel the General Lane mystery was another part I liked. These moments lifted this issue since the surrounding fights were pretty standard comics fare.

Overall grade: B/B+


TalOs said...

I too am enjoying this title with out Superman as the main star and think Rucka seems to have Nightwing and Flamebird's voices down to a fine art as well as his handling of Lois and Sam Lane it seems.

Just hoping that neither Thara Ak-Var or Lor-Zod/Chris Kent are destined to die within this saga at hand is all though.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand the name Mirabai is Hindu

Mira means peace


and Bai

is a popular Mandarin Chinese surname found in the Mongolia region.


dunno what it means, though...


TalOs said...

Anj, you might want to know that DC have officially released their full solicitations for Oct which can be found at the following Newsarama link:


Saranga said...

I thought this issue was so so. I'm a little bored with the current plots to be honest.
Am I the only one wondering why Lois doesn't seem to be wearing any clothes under that coat?

Anj said...

From what I understand the name Mirabai is Hindu

Thanks for the post and research.

Interesting. I suppose that someone from India could say the same things given the British experience there. That would be fresher than a Native American.

Thanks again.

Anj said...

I thought this issue was so so. I'm a little bored with the current plots to be honest.
Am I the only one wondering why Lois doesn't seem to be wearing any clothes under that coat?

Thanks for the post.

I am enjoying the unveiling of the religious aspects more than the hunting of the sleepers I will admit. And I was hoping Ursa would be a more active part of the strip.

I also noticed Lois' ... ahem ... dramatic presentation in the graveyard but decided not to comment.

Anj said...

Just hoping that neither Thara Ak-Var or Lor-Zod/Chris Kent are destined to die within this saga at hand is all though.

Thanks for the post.

Rucka is certainly foreshadowing one of their deaths. He would need to rewrite the legends as presented if they both survive. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I finally got this!

The art Is wonderfull and the background story is well done....

Just hoping that either of them are getting the axe.


Anonymous said...

Then again, by looking at the previews of why Kara's angry....

I'm thinking Thara might be getting the axe...