Of note, I didn't get a chance to write up a proper X-Factor review. Just know it was a Must Read and the book is back on track and it's safe to start buying it again. The final panel of the issue was easily one of my favourite moments this week.
Anyways, hit the jump for the reviews.
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.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #49
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Luke Ross
I actually made fun of the solicit for this issue when it made the usually outrageous claims of "the most important issue of Captain America since issue 25". I'm going to have to apologize for my incredulous remarks in the previews as, well, this was the most important issue since Cap died and easily one of the best issues of the consistently stellar title since Bucky took over as Cap.
The issue actually takes a break from the Bucky oriented stories and focuses on Sharon Carter and, to a lesser extent, Falcon. We haven't seen Sharon in any real capacity since she was rescued from the Red Skull and Arnim Zola and this marks the first time we really get to see what's going on inside her head and how the realization that she killed Steve Rogers affects her.
As such, the issue is a true character piece, which are typically my favourite stories, and Brubaker goes the extra mile in helping us get inside Sharon's head. I really enjoyed the subtle parallel drawn between her and her Alzheimer's riddled aunt - both are trapped in their own memories, unable to escape save the few lucid moments afforded them. The difference, however, is that Sharon's memories are filled with nothing but guilt and anguish while her aunt's are of her better years, such as her short lived love with Captain America.
I was tempted to say that Sharon's reaction to finally realizing she had been pregnant with Steve Roger's child and that it was killed during her abduction by the Red Skull was the biggest moment of the issue, but, then, I'd be lying to you. The biggest moment came in the final pages as Sharon wakes from a dream from the time the Red Skull and Arnim Zola attempted to open Doom's time platform during her captivity. We glimpse the shaded form of man that is heavily implied to be Steve Rogers to the point even Sharon is questioning if she saw Steve again.
I'm not sure what to make of this final sequence. On the one hand, this is comics and resurrections are, sadly, to be expected, especially when the character has a movie in development. On the other hand, Cap's death and Bucky's seamless return and taking over of the Captain America role has literally made for the best comic on the stands for the past several years. I don't think I'm willing to accept a contrived resurrection at this point in time. However, this is still being written by Ed Brubaker, the man responsible for everything good that I've liked about the book since he relaunched it. I'm just going to have to have faith that this is all part of his plan and not some editorial mandate possibly forcing Steve Rogers back into the book, if that is, in fact, what this is setting up.
One thing that disappointed me with the issue was Luke Ross' artwork. He's a much better artist than this and I think the problem with it stems from his attempt at mimicking Steve Epting's linework. He does an admirable job, but I think I would have preferred he use his own style as opposed to this obvious imitation.
Verdict - Must Read. Brilliant character piece that is potentially setting up some major bombshells for the back to back anniversary issues / renumberings.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #35
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Rebecca Buchman
I'm not sure when it happened (maybe the 8 months or so spent on Secret Origin?), but Green Lantern Corps has actually become a better title than the Geoff Johns-written main Green Lantern title. While Johns has been great on GL, he's also very prone to tunnelvision in regards to Hal Jordan, often times to the detriment of the story.
Peter Tomasi, in contrast, has taken the Blackest Night ball and run with it, effectively weaving in and out of several different subplots while simultaneously introducing or following up on new bits of information every month. All while handling a huge cast of characters, consisting of a dozen or more Green Lantern Corps members and spilling over into the various other Corps, such as this storyline's Sinestro Corps-focused cast.
Speaking of which, this issue cranks up the action by continuing the three separate stories that began last month - 1) the Red Lantern, Vice, escape and riot in the Sciencells, 2) Sinestro's search for his daughter on Korugan and 3) the Sinestro Corps occupation of Daxam. Each storyline is given just enough pages to shine and Tomasi and Gleason don't waste any of them.
In fact, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite of the three as each is equally entertaining in their own ways. The riot in the sciencells was great for the simple fact we get to see Vice cutting loose, killing his Green Lantern jailor, Voz, and Sinestro Corps prisoners alike. Another great part was the reintroduction of Lyssa Drak, the Sinestro Corps member that kept the Book of Parallax and was responsible for narrating the delightful Tales of the Sinestro Corps shorts that predated the Sinestro Corps War and introduced us to so many of the great characters that sprung out of that storyline.
While I said I enjoyed all three parts of this issue, the Sinestro's daughter subplot actually left me a little disappointed. Not because it was bad or anything - I actually loved the follow up on Sinestro's escape and how the Korugan's react to not being able to execute the Hitler of their world - but because of the reveal of who his daughter actually is - Soranik Natu. She's met Sinestro before in the Sinestro Corps War and neither indicated in any way that they were related and it just feels really forced that his eventual replacement in that sector and the only Korugan Green Lantern ends up being his daughter. It's like some comic book trope that everyone has to be related to everyone else or no one will care and it just annoys me for some reason. I'm still willing to hold off passing judgement until we find out next month though.
The final part of this issue I want to talk about dealt with the occupation of Daxam by the Mongul-led Sinestro Corps. It's mostly setup for the next issue with Sodam Yat and Arisia making their way to Daxam and showing the fallout of the Mongul vs Arkillo fight, but there's still some great action here and some amazing visuals, such as a giant Jörmungandr/World Snake-like Sinestro Corps member encircling Daxam as a first line of defense or Sodam Yat using the last of his yellow sun Superman-like abilities (Daxam is under a red star, so his powers were drained) to take out a platoon of Sinestro Corps members. One thing that disappointed me here was that Arkillo didn't use a yellow ring construct to form a new tongue so he could speak. Just seemed like an obvious thing to do to me.
Verdict - Must Read. While Johns deals with the more dubious aspects of the multiple corps, such as wearing multiple rings, Tomasi is content to give us non-stop action and Sinestro Corps War-like moments month in, month out and this issue, and storyline, is the equivilent of a Battle of Mogo-like mini-event building up to the Blackest Night.