Thursday, June 25, 2009

Action Comics Annual #12

I know this isn't the popular feeling among many comic fans, but I've really been enjoying both "Action Comics", which has been starring Nightwing and Flamebird and "Superman", which has been featuring Mon-El. Don't get me wrong, I still like Superman and have been enjoying the New World of Krypton series(or whatever the hell it's called!), but I like the fact that DC is trying to establish some new stars in two of its premier books. I'm especially looking forward to this annual to find out what happened to Chris Kent after he returned to the Phantom Zone at the conclusion of the stellar Last Son storyarc. This issue was written by Action's regular writer, Greg Rucka. Well, with the introduction out of the way, let's get on with the review.

-This issue jumps around a bit as it details the lives of both Chris and Thara, so for the sake of keeping this review somewhat readable, I'm going to focus on Thara's story before moving on to Chris'.

-This comic begins with Brainiac conquering and bottling the Kryptonian city of Kandor. Thara was living in Kandor at the time of the attack and her parents were soldiers serving under Gen. Zod's future lover, Ursa. The Krypyonian army attacks the forces of Brainiac, but fail miserably, with many soldiers getting killed and Ursa turning tail and running away.

-From there Thara joins the military guild of Kandor, as her parents did, and she eventually meets with citizens of Argo City, another Kryptonian city Brainiac had conquered and bottled. Among the newcomers are Alura and Zor-El, the parents of Thara's childhood friend, Supergirl. Alura and Zor-El are soon named the leaders of the bottled Kryptonian cities and they name Thara as the head of security.

-Thara begins to have bad dreams revolving around images of a flaming bird, and Zor-El sends her to the religious guild to find some answers. Upon meeting with the religious guild, Thara has a vision of the Flamebird, a Kryptonian legend, and she and the Flamebird have a telepathic meeting(or something along those lines...)

-After the vision, Thara joins the religious guild, but feels that there is something missing in her life.

-On that happy thought, I'll move on to Chris' story. After returning to the Phantom Zone, Chris experiences one of those strange growth spurts he seems to get on occasion, and decides to sneak into Fort Roz, the Kryptonian prison his parents and their lackeys are living, in order to get out of the unforgiving Phantom Zone atmosphere.

-Chris sneaks around in the ventalation shafts of Fort Roz, avoiding his parents and the other inmates, but becomes stuck in the vents, thanks to the growth spurt from earlier. Chris screams for help, but nobody comes, leaving Chris trapped for quite some time. Eventually Non, the simple-minded bruiser of Zod's group, discovers Chris and takes him to safety, making sure Zod, Ursa and the other inmates never find the youngster.

-Eventually, Chris finds Zod's secret workshop where the General was studying his two most hated foes, Superman and Brainiac. Zod had managed to collect many pieces of Brainiac's technology that had happened to enter the Phantom Zone, and Chris began to fiddle with the tech in the hope that it may be the answer to getting him out of his Phantom Zone prison.

-Chris dons some kind of strange headwear and winds up linking minds with Thara, who was still a member of the religious guild in Kandor. The two wind up sharing experiences and emotions with each other until Zod and Ursa enter the workshop and discover Chris hooked up to Brainiac's tech. Ursa violently disconnects Chris from the machines and Chris undergoes another growth spurt. Chris' parents chain him to the wall and beat the hell out of him in an effort to figure out what exactly he was doing in the workshop.

-Back on Kandor, Thara tells Alura and Zor-El that there was an innocent boy trapped in the Phantom Zone, but Zor-El says there really isn't much that can be done to help. He does reveal that he had been working on a project that would allow the citizens of Kandor to escape the bottled city and enter the Phantom Zone. Thara quits the religious guild, reclaims her former position as head of security, steals Zor-El's work and enters the Phantom Zone to find Chris.

-After entering the Phantom Zone, Thara prays and is rewarded with a trail of fire which leads her straight to Fort Roz and Chris. After battling through the inmates, Thara manages to get near Chris and puts up a forcefield which surrounds her, Chris and Non, while keeping the rest of the inmates at bay. Upon spotting the Phantom Zone projector on Thara's belt, Zod orders Non to attack and take the projector away. Non obeys and begins to strangle to life out of Thara, until Chris pleads with Non to stop. While Zod looks on in disbelief, Non takes the projector, sends Thara and Chris back to Kandor and the proceeds to crush the projector in his hands, freeing Chris, trapping Zod and ending this comic.

I'm kind of conflicted about this comic. I enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt with Chris and his exploits in the Phantom Zone, but I have to admit that I really wasn't thrilled with the parts involving Thara. I couldn't make heads or tails of her story! Is she the reincarnated spirit of the Kryptonian god Flamebird? Is she just crazy? When the hell did she decide Chris was Nightwing, and exactly who/what IS Nightwing? Like I said, Thara's story confused me more than anything else.

While I was glad to find out what happened to Chris after the Last Son storyline, I was a bit vexed by the cop out explanation Greg gave for Chris' sudden growth spurts. Basically the explanation given for Chris' weird condition was that nobody knows why it happens. I was hoping for a little better than THAT! For a score, I'll give this comic a 7 out of 10. While I did enjoy the first half of this book, the second half just went all kinds of strange places.


  1. Hopefully Chris won't get whacked by the end of this. I was sort of hoping for more of an explanation about the rapid aging and Christopher Kent's previously seen Telekinesis but I guess they didn't want to give everything away.

    Also I do like how Rucka has subtly left room in the story for Thara to just be suffering from PTSD and not have really seen some magic bird...

    I might regularly pick this book up if the Captain Atom backup is any good.

  2. You said exactly what I was thinking GL. After logging off last night, I started to think about this comic some more, and with the way Greg kept harping on the fact that the Flamebird/Nightwing relationship always ends in tragedy, I began to fear for poor Chris. I don't think anything would happen to Thara, but with Chris being weaker than Thara plus having to deal with the rapid aging deal, I could easily see him kicking the bucket at the conclusion of Flamebird/Nightwing's run in Action.

    I also liked the fact that Greg left the door open regarding Thara's mental state. Along with your points, there's also whatever the religious guild did to her with those sunstones. That too could have effected her mental state in some way. The only thing that is kind of tough to rationalize is her mental link with Chris. If not for some kind of magic, how did she manage to link up with Chris...

  3. I got nothing for the mental link. Maybe Brainiac's tech that Zod had coopted had a weird link with both Argo and Kandor and specifically Thara Ak-Var.

    Or maybe Thara isn't crazy and saying Great Rao has more meaning than I usually give it. (Old religious holdover like many atheist will say GOD! or JESUS F'ING CHRIST! Doesn't mean they believe in those...