Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: Adventure Comics #10

As an amateur comic historian, I have really loved how Adventure Comics has felt the last couple of months, how it has been rolled into the super-family of books. The last two issues have starred Superboy, the Legion, and Supergirl. The last several issues have had multiple stories.

And the original Adventure Comics? Well there were long and storied runs for Superboy, the Legion, and Supergirl. The original Adventure was often an anthology series with multiple stories in every issue. So the current make-up of the book is a nice (even if unintentional) homage.

The current book continues to flesh out the entertaining Last Stand of New Krypton storyline. As with the last two issues, this issue pushes the main storyline forward while adding some depth to the ancillary characters.

Top it off with another great cover by Joe Quinones and you have another satisfying issue.

Now I have been effusive in my praise of the Eric Trautmann/Pier Gallo Car-Vex story and this issue's chapter gives us a phenomenal conclusion. So much of this review will focus on that story, the strongest part of the book.

The first half of the book concentrates on the main storyline of Last Stand, the battle for Kandoe on Brainiac's ship. It is something of a creative hodge-podge ... written by James Robinson and Sterling Gates and drawn by Eduardo Pansica and Travis Moore. They all have been on the prior Last Stand issues of Adventure albeit on seperate story segments. But with all the plots converging onto Brainiac's ship, the creative teams have merged into one segment.
Remember, the last Last Stand chapter ended with two cliffhangers. One was Superman, powerless after a blast of red sun energy, plummeting to his presumed death. The other was the rebottling of Kandor and General Zod's enigmatic 'he's lost' comment about Brainiac.

The first cliffhanger is answered pretty quickly.

Superman is grabbed before he splatters by a flying Brainiac drone. Of course, it really isn't Brainiac. It's Quislet controlling the robot.

And in classic Quislet fashion, the device cannot tolerate his presence for too long. Rather than simply disintegrating the object as he did during the Levitz years, the drone explodes.

With the red sun effect ended, Superman races to re-enter the fight.

Meanwhile on Brainiac's ship. Superboy continues to fight with the Legion. During the fight however, Conner gets separated and ends up face to face with his nemesis Lex Luthor.

In a nice nod to continuity, I like how Conner angrily brings up the recent Smallville events as yet another reason to pound Luthor. What Lex did to Lena in this very title was unbelievably cruel. And he did it right in front of Conner. That memory should be fresh ... should evoke rage in Superboy.

Anger only gets you so far though. After a healthy slug of Green K, Superboy is struck by the weapon Lex is carrying.

When Conner awakens ...

He finds himself in Kandor. Nice perspective shot in this splash page. Life in that bottle must be terrifying. Imagine always seeing giant robot heads looming over you.

But giant Brainiac drones isn't the only thing Conner sees.

Unfortunately, he also sees Mon-El, trussed up and captured by Brainiac. We do get a peek into the fevered dreams of Mon-El who seems tormented by his xenophobic Daxamite heritage and his time in the Phantom Zone. Alas, we know he is probably headed back there.

Unsure of what to do next, Conner seeks out General Zod.

Zod initially brushes Conner off. This forces Conner to show the General that he has more in his arsenal than just his inherent Kryptonian powers (which are somehow negated in the bottle). Conner still has his tactile telekinesis which he uses to toss Zod around.

Zod then shows why he is the military leader he is. Now aware of Conner's abilities, he adapts his fighting style and makes short work of Superboy, besting him easily.

One thing I didn't like in this scene was Zod seizing military control of the city from Alura ... accomplished in one panel. This happened after such a big deal was made of Alura's standing up to Zod in the last issue, her maintaining control of the city.

And we finally learn why Zod seemed pleased when Brainiac bottled Kandor and took it on board. Turns out Zod has a handful of devices which can counteract the Brainiac shrinking technology. (Okay, it comes a bit out of left field but it has been said many times that Zod was obsessed with besting Brainiac. Developing this tech would be part of that obsession. So I was okay with it.)

When Brainiac brought the city on board, it was like bringing the Trojan Horse into the city. Now Zod and his hand-picked elite soldiers are enlarged and free on board. This 'Brainiac Revenge Squad' is ready to fight. Yet another nice turn of events, another enticing cliffhanger.

Now if only someone could explain to me my odd infatuation with Ursa.

But the winner of this book the last few issues has been the Trautmann/Gallo look at sleeper agent Car-Vex and the slow erosion of her morality.

We have seen how she went from overworked drug-addicted laborer to repentant accidental killer to soldier in Zod's army. I have talked about how she has traded one form of slavery for another when she began to blindly follow Zod's orders.

What is interesting for me is watching her lose her moral compass. Back in the zone, she truly grieved the loss of the children's lives in her care. And now she is willing to sacrifice her friend Quex-Ul to advance her mission.

But it is easy to see how Zod could bring her into the field. Her life on Krypton had no meaning. Her life in the zone was literally intangible. Here he asks her if she wants purpose ... if she wants to be something bigger. Her answer ... of course ... is yes.

For those who questioned how Car-Vex could sneak into Project 7734, how General Lane could let her get so close , the answer is easy. He knew she was Kryptonian! He did it on purpose. And now that she has led them to Quex-Ul, she is expendable. Lane turns the tables.

Pumped with the same power-sapping bacteria that Quex-Ul was, Car-Vex knows she has a short amount of time with powers left. Realizing this isn't going to end well, she decides to make it as messy as possible.

This is an absolutely brutal sequence of her wading through the Project's troops. It also shows what one Kryptonian, actively depowering, can do against the best Earth troops. If one Kryptonian like Car-Vex can slaughter this many men so quickly ... how the heck is Earth going to challenge them all in a war?

But some part of the old Car-Vex is still in her. Her internal monologue betrays her. She needs to continue to convince herself that she is an unfeeling stone, that she is not murdering. I think she protests too much.

Just a beautifully brutal scene.

As she descends deeper in to the Project, she discovers Nadira and Az-Rel captured, powerless, and tortured. It was Nadira who tipped off Lane on who 'Officer Romundi' really was.

The ultimate fate of Nadira and Az-Rel was something of a loose end for me so I was glad to see that wrapped up.

But in the end, it is over for Car-Vex. Completely depleted, she gets eliminated up close by Lane himself. Executed.

This story was so great ... tragic really. Congratulations to Trautmann for giving such depth to a minor character in such a short time. We have seen Car-Vex's journey from slave to zealot to war statistic.

Pier Gallo's art meshes so nicely with the story. His Phantom Zone scenes are so clean, with no shading or rough edges. Compare that to the grittier look of the Earth scenes, maybe channeling the grimy nature of war? Ironic that the wraith-like relam of the Phantom Zone has more concrete linework. Regardless of the whys, the slight difference in styles works wonderfully.

This story is one of the high points of 2010 so far.

And this was another entertaining issue in the Last Stand arc.

Overall grade: B+
Overall grade (Car-Vex three-parter): A+


Eric Trautmann said...

Glad you liked it; I was a little worried that poor Car-Vex would be lost amidst the thunder of Last Stand.



Anj said...

Glad you liked it; I was a little worried that poor Car-Vex would be lost amidst the thunder of Last Stand.

Thanks so much for the post and stopping by!

I thought that the story was powerful. Car-Vex just seemed like a tortured persona. Hope my reviews were on the money with what you were trying to say.

Bubbly Bunny said...

Since Supergirl 52 is coming out soon and this will be the first time this Kara meets him will you be reviewing the Justice League Episode Far From Home, Brainy and Kara's first meeting?

Anj said...

Since Supergirl 52 is coming out soon and this will be the first time this Kara meets him will you be reviewing the Justice League Episode Far From Home, Brainy and Kara's first meeting?

Thanks for the post.

I probably won't get to it before Wednesday when #52 comes out ... but I promise I will review it soon!

Vic | Brochures said...

Cara's role is definitely the heaviest for me. She represented real people in war.

TalOs said...

@Vic : Brochures: do you mean Kara or Car-Vex? :-/

I just KNEW General Lane knew about Car-Vex's very Kryptonian existence amongst him and his fellow US army men but I didn't expect him to have detained Az-Rel and his evil Kryptonian girlfriend so quickly and how he went about keeping them imprisoned like though.