With Superman:Last Stand of New Krypton on the shelves and War of the Superman 2 months away, it is time for Greg Rucka and Pere Perez to put the pedal down and finish off their Nightwing and Flamebird opus in Action Comics.
The storyline for these characters has gone far afield from where I thought it would way back in Action Comics #875. Back then I thought this would be a simple action tale of two heroes tracking down and beating up the bad guys. Since those early issues, the plot has veered to a much more religious story looking at Kryptonian deities and their avatars. It is a bit heavier than I was expecting in this book ... but fascinating.
As far as I know, there are only 2 issues on this run after this issue, so a lot of stuff needs to be wrapped up. So off we go to Action Comics #887.
Much of this issue's action is played out before our eyes with the added point of view of Lois Lane. Lois has called in some markers to get to the Middle East and cover the Nightwing/Flamebird/Rao storyline first hand. With her there, we are privy to her streaking coverage of the story. It complemented the 'Book of Rao' similar text boxes from last issue.
One thing I did like was the more personal op/ed feel Lois' reporting. She pulls no punches here, throwing General Lane under the bus, calling him a war monger and a liar. She is also openly sympathetic to Thara and Chris. I wonder if she will feel some ramifications in the public arena?
As we saw at the end of last issue, Jax-Ur is the manifestation of the Kryptonian god Vohc the creator. In myths, Vohc and Flamebird had a tumultuous relationship which ended with Nightwing being cast into (or turned into) the Phantom Zone.
That story is being played out once again ... except now on Earth. Only this time, Vohc/Jax-Ur has created a simulacrum of the All-Father Kryptonian God Rao. When Rao awakens, he simply goes on a rampage in the desert of Iraq.
And while he plods through the desert, all methods of slowing him down are shown to be ineffective. The Iraqi and Earth forces artillery and missile attacks are useless. In fact "Rao" seems to absorb the attacks and grow stronger.
And Chris and Thara are also unable to slow him down. They also appear vulnerable to some more Kryptonian-specific attacks. Here "Rao" 'sings' incapacitating the two. I guess hearing the word of God would be more than any mind to comprehend.
One thing that was a bit of a let down was the lack of internal consistency with Chris' body. We see in earlier panels that he has huge chunks of crystal growing from his body and face. Here he looks much cleaner.
As I said before, this story really has been an interesting look at Krypton's religious culture.
And it appears that the emergence of this false Rao has not gone unnoticed on New Krypton. For the first time (I think) we hear the Religious Guild members speak. It seems that the crystals they each carry have somehow been effected by "Rao". They seem to burn out ... a sign the Rao has returned.
All along I have hoped to get a closer look at the Religious Guild and their inner workings. So even this little glimpse was appreciated.
While in the desert, Rao begins to emanate some of the energy that he has absorbed. Jax-Ur tells Thara and Chris that this is the energy of creation.
With a 'Rao' under his control, Vohc plans to rewrite creating, making a universe in his image, to his liking. Talk about a grandiose plan.
And Kryptonian mythology gets replayed before our eyes.
Once again, Vohc blasts Nightwing ....
Casting him back into the Phantom Zone.
Does this mean that the Phantom Zone is once again there? Remember it was destroyed before World of New Krypton, prompting Mon-El's escape.
All along we knew the Nightwing/Flamebird romance was going to end in tragedy. I don't think this is the final blow. I still believe one of these characters is going to die.
With Nigthwing banished and nothing able to slow down Rao, Lois again picks up her phone and decides to call in the cavalry. Here comes the JLA!
While I have enjoyed this run more than I expected to, I have to say I feel wrung out a bit. After the heady brew that was Last Stand, where we saw Superman in the blue tights breaking into Brainiac's ship, this issue felt a bit flat.
I am interested in seeing how this all plays out. And I think I am going to miss Thara as a character. I really think Rucka has done a very good job of making me care about characters I was unsure I would like. (Who knew I would ever get over the fact that Flamebird wasn't Linda Danvers! That is no small feat.)
And Pere Perez art continues to be smooth and slick.
But I am looking forward to seeing Superman back in this book.
Overall grade: B