War of the Supermen #3 is the penultimate chapter of the mini-series and the story continues to rumble along at breakneck speed. What a daunting task the creators set up for themselves! Two years worth of plot needed to be settled in 4 issues. That can't be easy. As a result of the sheer volume of story needed to be covered in fairly limited pages, some of the scenes have felt a little short ... some of the action has happened 'off-screen'.
But I give James Robinson and Sterling Gates a lot of credit for pulling it off so far. This has been a wild ride. More importantly, despite the story moving quickly in this issue, for me it didn't have that rushed feeling that War of the Supermen #2 did.
Add to that some seriously beautiful art by Cafu, and this was a great issue. I have been eager to see just how fantastic Cafu would draw Supergirl and trust me, he did not disappoint. This whole book is just beautiful.
But a lot got settled in this issue. So let's get to it!
While General Lane gloats over his red sun missile attack and the subsequent deaths of countless Kryptonian soldiers, the Superman Family is busy breaking down his back door. The super-squad breaks into Project 7734's Mount Rushmore headquarters and successfully rescue Natasha Irons. Irons has information that can take down General Lane, showing him as the insane war monger he is. The heroes overrun the Human Defense Corps. We barely see any of this fight. This is one of those off-screen scenes.
This one didn't bother me much as the Irons subplot was one that really is background story. It's not like I was sitting on the edge of my seat wondering about Natasha's fate.
With Irons free, Jimmy 'downloads' her brain of it's incriminating General Lane information and turns it into streaming information. Olsen then hacks the whole internet, sending Irons' evidence to all the major on-line news outlets. It seems the revolution will be televised.
While this device seemed as 'out of the blue' as Luthor's red sun missile, I didn't mind it much. Maybe it is because I really want to see General Lane get his comeuppance. Or maybe it is because no exposition is necessary for something like this. Or maybe, and most likely, it is because I got a big kick out of Jimmy's group of hackers being called the Newsboy Legion, a nice tip of the cap to Jack Kirby's group of the same name. I like small touches like that.
But there is no time for the super-team to rest on their laurels.
Somehow Thara/Flamebird "senses a disturbance in the force". She suddenyl gets flooded with visions of Luthor's Rao-missile and the Kryptonians dying in space. Hmmm ... shouldn't they have noticed that the sun is now red and they are powerless?
Of course, Thara is also powered by the Flamebird entity. The use of even a false Rao as part of a weapon must be particularly egregious for someone as devout as Thara. There is something sacrilegious about a god-bomb.
While it may have made better sense for the 'all-seeing' Nightwing to have had these visions, we have seen Thara have visions before as well. And the response to the red sun threat is better suited for Flamebird.
Flamebird and Nightwing take off into space (presumably with the demi-god based powers since under the red sun they are devoid of their genetic Kryptonian power) and dive into the sun, determined to save their people and be together to the end. I have really come to enjoy these 'star-crossed lovers' and their attempts to maintain this doomed relationship.
Before either can do much of anything, the Nightwing entity takes Chris away, saying that his final fate lies elsewhere. Since the original Nightwing spirit became the Phantom Zone, my guess is Chris somehow 'becomes' the zone. And since I think Zod and his flunkies are going to end up back in the zone, Chris will become Zod's jailer and tormentor. That would be ironic.
Now alone, although secure in Chris' love for her, Thara pushes her body to the limit, destroying the Rao-bomb, returning the sun to yellow, but immolating herself in the process. And there is no doubt about it ... we see what is left of her body.
If Thara needed to be killed, I liked that she went out heroically like this. Also, as this Rao was made by Jax-Ur/Vohc and Thara/Flamebird's role was to destroy all Vohc created, there was some internal Kryptonian mythology logic here.
But I have to say I am saddened by Thara's death. I had really come to like her character quite a bit. She seemed tortured in many ways. Her life was tumultuous and horrifying and yet she kept her faith and eventually found love. I was hoping she would somehow survive this war. Her death also is another blow to Kara's psyche. She had finally reconciled her friendship with Thara and now she is gone too.
With the sun now yellow, the Kryptonians in deep-space regain their powers. Some thankfully survive ... including Superman and Supergirl. I wonder if those Kryptonians who have absorbed more yellow sun energy were able to hold out for a longer period of time. Since the cousins have been absorbing energy for years, they should survive for a short period of time.
Unfortunately, many Kryptonians die. Included in that is Superman's Red Shard friend Lieutenant Asha Del-Nar (I assume this is her). While I am sure that all the deaths bother Superman, this one is a little personal and right in front of him (unlike Alura). He is both saddened and angry. He takes off for Earth.
Again, I really feel for Supergirl and hope that we see her dealing with the horrors of war. After watching her mother disintegrate in front of her eyes, she now has to soak hundreds ... thousands ... of dead Kryptonians floating around her. I know that sight would bother me.
The Kryptonian race, which had been 100,000 strong at the beginning of the day, is down suddenly to a mere 7,000 people. You would think that Zod would consider ... at least for a second ... a tactical retreat. But that isn't Zod's way. And besides, 7000 Kryptonians can do a lot of damage ... and we see it.
This is what I expected to see in this war. Page after page, we see Kryptonians laying waste to the Earth. Chief among them is Ursa who seems to be everywhere at once. Here we see her destroying London (reminiscent of Miracleman #15?).
We also see the Kryptonian army over-running Earth's heroes, slaughtering armies, and causing major property damage to famous landmarks throughout.
Interesting enough, Lane's men seem to be the only group holding their own. Here Metallo is leading some Project 7734 troops.
I am sure that just as Zod thought this would be a bloodless war, Lane probably thought this would be an easier war to win as well. Did he really think that there wouldn't be this much devastation? Lane is a madman.
As I have mentioned before, I have some sort of twisted admiration for Ursa. I know ... it isn't right. But it was great to see her cut loose ... destroying London, smashing the Sphinx, killing Argentinian leaders, and here hold the next dead Agent Liberty as she looks for the President.
This assassination won't be easy. A determined Supergirl is there to stop here. Wonderful!
I think most Supergirl fans have been spoiling for this fight for some time. The two fly towards each other. We'll have to wait a week to see the outcome.
I hope Kara wipes the floor with her.
I also have to say how much I love Cafu's take on Supergirl. It reminded me of Gary Frank's early Supergirl issues with Peter David with a healthy hit of Kevin Nowlan. And I love that the S-shield is so huge. It should always be that big.
Thanks to the Gates and Robinson for making Supergirl such a big part of this major mini-series.
While Ursa and Kara duke it out in Washington D.C., Zod mobilizes a large group of his remaining troops and heads towards Metropolis for a showdown with Superman. Yet another nice cliffhanger.
I am glad we finally got to see the war hit Earth. I think we all knew that any amount of Kryptonians was going to mean carnage and tremendous collateral damage. It was great to see just how massive the destruction was. While there were a number of those pages, I thought as readers we needed to see the devastation the Kryptonians are capable off. You needed to see that both up close in personal combat and written large on city landscapes. Personally, I loved seeing Ursa in so many pages wreaking havoc. She is like a wild animal that is loosed from a cage.
And, it may sound peculiar, but I felt more for the loss of Thara than I did from the death of Alura. Maybe that is because the Alura death was so fast with little time to wring out my emotions whereas Thara has several pages to be ripped from Chris and then sacrifice herself. It may also be that I like Thara as a character.
As I mentioned, the art throughout here was top-notch. Cafu can certainly handle action scenes both big and small. And his Supergirl is really slick.
So was there a downside here? Just one. Where was Superman in this issue? We see him mourn Asha. And we see him in Metropolis. That's it. He doesn't even have any dialogue here. In fact, throughout this series, Superman has been sort of a bystander. Outside of his discussion with Supergirl in last issue, he hasn't had much to say or do. In many ways, this is a Superman Family series. But it also is a Superman series, closing off the last year of his stories and setting him up to be back in his main titles.
Now I may be getting ahead of myself. Maybe the last issue is almost exclusively a Superman book and he gets the big action in the finale. I hope so. We need Superman to again rise above it all and be the ultimate super-hero.
All that said, don't get me wrong. I love how much face time Supergirl is getting here. She has been a major player here.
One more week to go. Hard to believe!
Overall grade: A-
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