Thursday, April 16, 2009

Action Comics #876 Review

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Eddy Barrows and Ruy Jose

Again, Greg Rucka and Eddy Barrows impress me with their World Without Superman offering of Action Comics, but, again, the Chris Kent/Lor-Zod/Nightwing "aging" plot leaves me apprehensive and a bit tentative about my continued support of the book.

For those unawares, Superman left Earth to go live with his fellow Kryptonians on the recently created planet, New Krypton. In his stead, several new characters were given the focus in each of the Superman titles. Action Comics was given yet another new version of the Silver Age Kandor team of Nightwing and Flamebird, who were revealed to be Chris Kent, Zod and Ursa's Phantom Zone born son who was later adopted by Superman and Lois, and Thara Ak-Var, the Kryptonian best friend of Supergirl.

However, the problem I had with this reveal was that Chris Kent was a mere child the last time we saw him and was now a teenager as Nightwing. It was revealed, but not explained, at the end of the last issue that he ages every so often and we saw him age even further, this time possibly to his mid-20's. The whole 'magic aging' explaination always bugs me and was the only real detractor to the first issue, but a big one at that.

I was hoping for more answers this time around, but, sadly, we were given very few. Ursa, who narrates this issue, explains to us that Chris is a "Phantom Zone mutant" and "not even a true Kryptonian". He even claims he's not as strong as a Kryptonian nor as susceptible to Kryptonite. He also has some form of telekinetic powers that he displayed by blasting Ursa away and destroying her goggles (the goggles, they do nothing!). Based on the Last Son story that introduced Chris, I was under the impression she and Zod conceived him naturally in some kind of time bubble in the Phantom Zone that allowed him to be born and age. Not sure I like the retcon of something so new and relatively straight forward as that, but I'm willing to give Rucka a little leeway here to convince me it's worth the trouble.

As for the actual contents of this issue, it consisted of Ursa sadistically torturing / fighting Thara and Chris. As I mentioned earlier, Ursa narrates the issue and Rucka does a great job fleshing out her rather two dimensional character. She's broken and twisted up inside and he does a good job expressing her personality, motivation and general train of thought.

However, as we saw last issue, Nightwing and Flamebird were tracking down escaped Phantom Zone criminals that Zod had stationed on Earth as spies/sleeper cells and this focus on Ursa and an issue long fight sequence sidelined any plot progression for that story. In all honesty, I think it would have been better served to put this fight scene off for another issue or two so as to establish the two relatively new characters, explain Chris' mystery aging and properly setup the premise of the first issue before dismantling the would-be Superman replacements for this title.

Verdict - Check It. No answers to the rapidly aging Chris subplot and a quickly derailed plot, which opted for a fight oriented character focus on Ursa, keeps this otherwise entertaining issue from being a Must Read.

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