Action Comics #888 is the penultimate chapter of this title's Year Without Superman. Are we speeding towards the end of the Flamebird/Nightwing story arc? Or like the ersatz Rao in the desert, are we plodding along.
I have been as big a proponent of this long storyline as anyone, mostly because I have come to like the complexity of the Thara/Flamebird character. But the truth is with the amazing action happening in Last Stand, this story feel disconnected right now. And as a result, my enthusiasm for it has waned a bit.
My fear is that the resolution of these characters' stories will fall flat and color how I ultimately perceive the whole arc.
With the fake Rao strolling through the desert and with Chris transported into the Phantom Zone, Jax-Ur/Vohc gloats over his presumed victory.
It seems like the Kryptonian gods have the same feel as the Greek gods of myth, motivated by mundane human issues rather than being above them. The motivation for this devastation? Vohc's jealousy and unrequited love.
I did like that the narrator here is Vohc the Breaker ... not Jax-Ur. We are hearing straight from the demigod himself.
Conventional weapons and Flamebird's attacks seem to feed Rao rather than hurt him. And with India and Pakistan poised to fire their nukes at him, Flamebird is thrilled to see the JSA arrive to help.
But even their combined attacks don't seem to produce any results. If anything Rao seems to get stronger.
In the meantime, Chris wonders through the Phantom Zone until he finally comes face to face with the Nightwing entity.
The Nightwing implies that he has not been active, has not manifested in Chris, because of his separation from Flamebird. Let's face the true Nightwing has been a non-entity in this story so far.
I sincerely hope that we get a little exposition about this Phantom Zone. Remember, the original Zone crumbled at the beginning of New Krypton. (That event has never been explained.) I hope the creation of this "new" Phantom Zone (or the re-establishment of the old Phantom Zone) is explained.
Finally, Rao takes some damage when Wonder Woman shows up and takes a few whacks at Rao's eye with her axe. Combine that with some Alan Scott power and Rao finally falls.
It is enough to shock Vohc, appearing in his natural form.
Chris is able to look on and realizes that he needs to get back and help Thara.
The connection between Chris and Nightwing has always been there it seems; Chris has always been 'more than Kryptonian'.
Now what does that mean? That Chris, conceived in the Zone, is different and therefore a suitable vessel for Nightwing? Or that Nightwing has always been part of Chris.
With Thara in trouble, Chris makes the decision to merge with Nightwing and truly become his avatar.
And it is a good thing. Rao gets back on his feet and India and Pakistan decide not to wait any longer. They fire their nuclear missiles at the false god, a move that would only fuel Rao more.
The warheads disarm before they can hit ... disarmed by the suddenly present and fully manifested Nightwing.
So where are we?
Well we are one issue away from a conclusion. And we have a lot to get through.
We need to see Jax-Ur and Rao defeated.
We need some explanation on Chris' condition.
We need some explanation about the Phantom Zone.
And we need the ultimate resolution of the Nightwing/Flamebird relationship ... both the gods and Thara/Chris. One of them is destined to die right?
It seems like a lot to get through in one issue. Frankly, I'm worried.
One thing I know already is that I have come to really appreciate Pere Perez' art. I feel his stuff has improved, become more polished over his time on Action. I hope he finds work somewhere else soon.
I know I have basically ignored reviewing the Captain Atom second feature in this book.
The short version is Captain Atom battles Mirabai and it looks like he has won. Cafu's art is stunning.
Overall grade: B/B-