While the big announcement about War of the Supermen seems to mark the eventual end of the New Krypton storyline, we still need to get there. With that finish line is now in sight, as readers we know that the current plots in the Superman titles need to begin to move towards some sort of closure.
Action Comics #884 was released yesterday and took a couple of baby steps towards the conclusion of the Nightwing/Flamebird arc within this title.
We continue to learn more and more about the true nature of the Flamebird and Thara relationship. This is my favorite part of part of the title's current storyline. Chris' rapid aging was also dealt with this issue albeit in a quick and under defined manner.
But it is clear that Greg Rucka and Pere Perez feel very comfortable with these characters as the dialogue and art really mesh nicely.
Last issue ended with Chris's aging problem reaching a critical point. He was rushed to STAR labs in hopes of finding a cure and much to the delight of sleeper agent Jax-Ur.
While acting as Dr.Pillings, Jax-Ur begins to experiment Chris in hopes of finding that cure. He states that he needs to obtain a DNA sample in order to analyze Chris's condition. Unfortunately, the most expedient way of doing that is with an experimental laser. Now why that laser needs to be fired into Chris's eyes and mouth only Jax-Ur knows.
It is clear early on that Jax-Ur is aware that Thara houses the Flamebird entity. And in an effort to have it manifest, Jax-Ur's therapy with Chris seems to near sadism.
Jax-Ur is such a vile individual. He is the perfect villain for comic books. His actions all seem to be pure evil. But he has a very dispassionate demeanor about him with an easy "all in the name of science" excuse for his horrific acts. Unlike Nadira and Az-Rel, I can understand why General Zod would have him on Earth as a sleeper agent.
In the meantime, Lois has returned to the Daily Planet after witnessing Supergirl and Thara defeat Reactron. In that battle, Reactron reveals that Gen. Lane was behind the Metropolis sewer system disaster and the apparent murder of Mon-El. Being the good reporter she is, Lois immediately writes an exposé to share this information with the general public.
Unfortunately, her only source is herself. It's difficult for a newspaper to print such a story as news. On top of that, the story was leaked to the Department of Defense. Between this report and her aiding and abetting Flamebird in the recent past, they are accusing Lois of treason.
The situation is all the more rich given the father-daughter relationship between General and Lois Lane.
Almost incredibly, the Department of Defense sends a squad of at least four men to the Daily Planet to bring Lois in for questioning. Even more incredibly when she attempts to run away, they taser her in a stairwell.
This certainly seems like an invasion of Lois's rights and makes you realize just how powerful Gen. Lane is.
One thing that I have enjoyed in the entire New Krypton storyline is the General Zod and General Lane comparisons. Their methods are similar. They're both, in essence, the villains of the story. They both are pushing their world towards war.
Meanwhile, over in STAR labs, Jax-Ur continues to drill into Chris's face.
It is clear that he is doing this to evoke a reaction out of Thara. What he really wants to do is study the Flamebird being in hopes of discovering a way to harness all that power. He clearly knows the mythology of these creatures. And he knows that the love between Flamebird and Nightwing is what defines them. He knows that Flamebird will rush to save Nightwing from harm. And so by subjecting Chris to this laser torture, Jax-Ur knows he will stoke the passionate fire within Thara.
As I said, he understands the mythology behind Nightwing and Flamebird. He knows just the right buttons to push.
Flamebird does manifest to protect Chris and attempts to kill Jax-Ur for hurting him. However, since he is Kryptonian, Jax-Ur survives her attack, revealing himself to her.
Moreover, he understands her all encompassing love for Chris. He makes her a deal. He will save Chris if she will give him what he wants.
In many ways, this was a turning point for me and my understanding of the Flamebird entity. Would she give in to these villainous demands to save Chris? Or would she bring Jax-Ur to justice? To be honest, I wasn't sure which way she was leaning. We know that this relationship is doomed. Would Thara/Flamebird's ideals make her deal with Jax-Ur thus dooming Chris or would her emotions overwhelm her morals?
I did not have a long time to ponder.
She gives in to Jax-Ur's demands on the next page. I lost a little bit of respect for the Flamebird being here.
But the most interesting thing here is that Jax-Ur states that Thara won't remember what Flamebird has done. So it seems that they truly are two beings in one body. It seems that Thara is not in control when Flamebird has manifested. That duality should make for some interesting plot points further on down the line. Would Thara have made the same decision?
Knowing what Jax-Ur is hoping to achieve, my guess is he wants a DNA sample from Flamebird.
The next scene is when I have been looking forward to reading since the beginning of the entire arc. At last we have seen Sam and Lois Lane facing each other.
Both are strong characters who don't easily back down. And both believe the other is doing the wrong thing.
Unfortunately the meeting is short and far from sweet. Lois opens the conversation with "go to Hell dad". Not exactly what I would expect her first statement to be when she faces her "deceased" father for the first time.
What is clear is that for the General the mission is more important than family. He tells Lois that if any other reporter was planning her story that they would "disappear". Moreover, he is very intimidating to her brandishing his service revolver and eventually firing it into her laptop computer.
Another part of the scene that I very much enjoyed with seeing Lois come to the realization that Lucy was indeed working for her father. I wonder if this means an apology to Supergirl is going to be coming soon.
I would not have minded if there was an entire issue of Lois and her father talking to each other. I think that their relationship is something that could and should be explored in detail. So I was sad to see that this scene was only two pages long.
Lois is released and returns to the Daily Planet. Unfortunately, she is told by Perry that he cannot run her story. That to run her story would endanger the entire newspaper and its staff. He tells her that she needs to tell the story but that it can't be in the newspaper.
Realizing that there is no way to reconcile her need to tell the truth and her job, Lois quits.
It is such a wonderful contrast to what Flamebird did. Here, Lois does not compromise.
And Lois quitting the Daily Planet! Incredible!
Back at STAR, a cure for Chris is cobbled together all too quickly.
It turns out that he is "unique radiation signature" has been destroying his body from the inside out, destroying it faster than his Kryptonian physiology can repair under a yellow sun.
Jax-Ur realizes that Dr. Light can overpower this decay if her powers are channeled through a Sunstone. She can provide enough yellow sun energy to eradicate that damage.
I know ... seems all too easy. This was the one part of the issue that I found lacking.
And not surprisingly, it works! Chris is suddenly young and full of vitality again.
But at what cost? The issue ends with Jax-Ur gloating over his new genetic samples.
I thought this was a good issue overall. The interplay between Flamebird and Jax-Ur as well as Sam and Lois Lane were the high points. I especially thought the scenes worked well when the conflict and outcomes of both pairs are compared to one another.
I also am very intrigued to learn more about how the Flamebird entity actually exists within Thara. Is it possessing her? And will we ever see Nightwing manifest?
I do think that the rapid aging storyline was swept under the rock a bit too easily. If Chris is cured by this, why didn't he completely revert to his 10-year-old body rather than stopping at the 20-year-old version? And another "superpowerful yellow sun ray bath" as a cure? Seems a bit predictable.
Still, there were more ups than downs here. And I really appreciate Pere Perez' clean style.
Overall grade: B+/B