Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Action Comics #883

Action Comics #883 was released last Wednesday and picked up the main storyline of Nightwing and Flamebird tracking down General Zod's sleeper agents on Earth. Frankly, I welcomed the re-focus.

After Codename:Patriot and The Hunt For Reactron, it was good to see Greg Rucka and new co-writer Eric Trautmann go back to some of this arc's original ideas. While Codename and Reactron were key to the characters for many reasons, I can remember how impressed I was with the first few issues of this run ... the Ursa issues where we first learned of Thara's mission ... so I am glad to see the title return to that plot and hopefully some of that momentum.


The issue starts out by introducing us to the current incarnation of Jax-Ur in the DCU. He is perhaps the most evil and frightening of the Zod sleepers. Tor-An was acting like a media mogul. Nadira and Az-Rel were playing Bonnie and Clyde.

But Jax-Ur? He is playing mad scientist on Earth. And worse, he is using humans as either lab rats or 'growth medium' for his experiments. We see him intervene in a crime in Iraq but not to save the victims. Instead, he chillingly lobotomizes the people with a heat vision beam through the eye, bringing them back to his lab. That is more frightening and creepy to me than seeing him simply kill them. The main technology he is working on is some sort of gene sequencer.

As always, it is the small details in comics that I enjoy. I liked seeing Jax-Ur wearing the Science Guild 'Byrne-ish' Kryptonian garb while in his lair. He is a scientist after all.



In the mean time, Nightwing and Flamebird are fighting some mini-Brimstones in Toronto. Thara defeats the last one with some up close super-breath. When Chris tells her it looked like she kissed it, she decides to lay a super-kiss on him.

As I said before in the preview post, I love this kiss panel. The sun-like art-deco symbol in the back just adds to the feel of the panel. I love that Chris' response afterwards is a mix of being stunned and dumb-founded. He looks like he is in love.

Unfortunately, this moment is broken up by the military who are still guning for the two. Chris seems surprised since they have changed their costumes and have been 'saving innocents'. That seems a little naive. These are two of the 'Metropolis Three', the 'villains' who crippled Metropolis. Some new clothes aren't going to change that. And Kryptonians are still banned from Earth as well. I would have enjoyed a scene where the two discuss changing uniforms and going more public but I guess I just have to roll with it.

I will say that I find the new costumes spiffy. I especially like the S-shield belt buckles. Chris considers himself a son of the house of El. And Thara is, in essence, the step-daughter of Zor-El and Alura. They both have the right to wear the family crest.


One of the better parts of this issue was Rucka's portrayal of Perry White.

When Jimmy Olsen's current girlfriend goes to the Planet to let the staff know that Jimmy has gone missing, Perry is the only one who actually listens. Not only that, you can tell that a reporter's blood still courses through his veins. He starts asking the right questions and looking for the right answers.

I was a bit surprised that Lois gave her such a curt response. But I guess she has a lot on her plate right now.


While Perry starts nosing around, we head to STAR labs and Dr. Light.

And there we see Jax-Ur in his 'sleeper' identity of Dr. Pillings. Reading his internal monologue, you can hear how he has been able to influence Dr. Light into following some of his agenda. I can see how this would be a strategic mole for General Zod. You would have access to cutting edge technology as well as learn of any potential anti-Kryptonian weapons being developed.

Look at that smile on him ... how can people not see he is evil? He looks like a cross between Dr. Hugo Strange and Dr. Sivana.


Perry is able to talk his way into Jimmy's apartment by posing as his uncle.

Showing how savvy a reporter he is, Perry notices that amongst all the photos of super-heroes on the wall is one of a camera factory. The 'odd man out' is the hiding place of Jimmy's notes.

Again, it was refreshing to see Perry do some legwork like this. On top of that, the 'Jimmy is dead' storyline hasn't been touched since the Jimmy Olsen special back in August! It is about time we had someone notice.


But for me the best part of the issue was this conversation between Thara and Chris. They might be in love but it is clear they don't quite understand each other.

We start off with a nice little recap of the list of sleeper agents and who has been dealt with. I think it is a little premature of Thara to simply write off Nadira and Az-Rel as being captured or killed by Project 7734. Weren't Thara and Chris similarly captured by the military as well only to be released? Wouldn't she, as a security officer, want more concrete proof that the two aren't simply lying low for now?



That leads the Chris asking about the Flamebird aspect of Thara. Doesn't it tell her things, talk to her?

Thara says that she is merely the vessel for Flamebird. Chris reminds Thara that it was Flamebird that kissed him at the end of the Hunt For Reactron, a kiss that healed him. Was that kiss from Flamebird? Or Thara?

Ahhh ... and here is the big reveal.

Thara says that was Flamebird kissing Nightwing. But Chris isn't a believer. He doesn't think he is Nightwing.

Thara's religious fervor has been one of the more intriguing aspects of this whole arc. Who believes her? Who thinks she is crazy? Where does the Flamebird entity end and where does Thara begin? It is all rich material to be mined and Rucka has done a good job of showing the different reactions that people have had to Thara's faith.

I can only imagine how Thara feels right now. She probably thought that Chris had been walking in step with her, that he felt he was Nightwing as much as she knows she is Flamebird. Does she feel betrayed? Or saddened that he doesn't believe?



Instead she shows faith. He might not believe he is Nightwing. He might think he is a 'freak'. But she thinks he is perfect.

Unfortunately, this tender moment is cut short by another of Chris' growth spurts.



Back at STAR Labs, Jax-Ur shows us just what he is hoping his gene sequencer will map ... Flamebird and Nightwing!

Cloning a god? Interesting. And how will Thara and Chris respond if they have to face their test tube doppelgangers?


But Jax-Ur must feel he is incredibly lucky when more DNA material is brought to him ... the actual genes of Flamebird and Nightwing.

That's Chris, now wizened and old. I wonder if this is some chrysalis cycle for Nightwing. Chris has never manifested Nightwing like Thara has with Flamebird. I wonder if this 'shell' body needs to die for Chris/Nightwing to be reborn, phoenix-like. I hope more and more of the mystical aspect of this storyline continues to be explored.

Overall, I thought this was a good issue to bring Action Comics back on track of its overarching arc in this 'year without Superman'. Sleeper agents. Flamebird and Nightwing. Chris aging. It is all upfront and center again.

And I have come to really appreciate Pere Perez' smooth art on the title. After the revolving door on pencilling here, I am glad that he has settled in.

Overall grade: B+

7 comments:

Saranga said...

I reckon Thara is saddened that Chris doesn't believe. I also think that she has faith that he will believe.
Interesting theory about Chris'ageing. It would make sense.

Gene said...

Glad to see Perry actually doing something constructive, instead of yelling at everyone from behind his desk.

TalOs said...

As always, it is the small details in comics that I enjoy. I liked seeing Jax-Ur wearing the Science Guild 'Byrne-ish' Kryptonian garb while in his lair. He is a scientist after all.

Totally. I can't believe we actually have Jax-Ur back in Post-FC DCU main Earth continuity now! So cool! BD

Mart said...

Top review - I never thought of the growth spurts being Nightwing-related . . . bet you're right.

Did you not bother with Captain Atom?

Anj said...

Interesting theory about Chris'ageing. It would make sense.

Thanks. I am just trying to figure out why Nightwing hasn't manifested yet.

Anj said...

Glad to see Perry actually doing something constructive, instead of yelling at everyone from behind his desk.

Yeah! Good to see him act the reporter.

Anj said...

Top review - I never thought of the growth spurts being Nightwing-related . . . bet you're right.

Did you not bother with Captain Atom?


I just haven't been able to embrace Captain Atom yet ... although it seems like it will have a big impact on the overall Superman story.