Action Comics #881 review

(Setting aside the flattened cardboard box advertising some Star Wars nonsense that made my comic fall apart when I tried to remove it so I could, you know, actually READ the book . . .)

I've not warmed to Thara Ak-Var and Chris Kent, the latest in a long line of Flamebirds and Nightwings. Thara's a grimacing religious nut, Chris is one of those prematurely grown comics kids whose naivety will get them killed, and their utilitarian outfits are dull as dishwater. Adding Supergirl to the mix for the Hunt for Reactron storyline that begins here makes their strip a tad more tolerable, though being around Thara - whom Kara reckons indirectly responsible for her father's death - sees Supergirl revert to the punch-first mode that was her default before Sterling Gates began writing her.

Which is surprising, as Gates co-writes here with regular Action man Greg Rucka. Then again, heated emotions are everywhere - the usually calm Guardian shows up and gets as shouty punchy as Supergirl because he believes Supergirl killed Mon-El. I actually began feeling better towards Chris, as his cow-like docility made him seem the sanest on the scene.

All the intense emotion - the apparent unwillingness of experienced heroes to take a breath and consider that the obvious isn't necessarily the truth - makes for some decent fight scenes, though. The amped-up Science Police take on our heroes in the streets of Metropolis, annoying Flamebird gets blasted with energy hot enough to take a Kryptonian aback, and Supergirl grabs Nightwing and hurries him to Paris . . .

. . . ah, Paris, City of Light and, it turns out, a cheaply decorated mini-Fortress of Solitude maintained by Supergirl. Inspired by Batman's Batcavettes around Gotham, she maintains hidey holes around the globe. And Supergirls love Paris (see December 1965's classic Brave and Bold #63, Supergirl and Wonder Woman in Revolt of the Super-Chicks). Thara's followed, and an excellent couple of pages shows her perched atop a building, using super-hearing to listen to people across the world knocking Kryptonians, and finally focusing on Kara slagging her off to Chris. Artist Pere Perez nails Thara's changing mood in the sequence, and the Paris cityscape. It's wonderful to see someone draw Europe in a comic and have it approximate reality - no tiny cottages, no chateaus, no gargoyles apart from Thara (me, i live in a thatched cottage with a beefeater at the gate), but a city as vibrant in its own way as Metropolis.

The art's impressive throughout, Perez gets better every outing, using a variety of angles to keep the interest going even in the talkier scenes. Speaking of which, there was very little in the way of subtitled Kryptonian this time out. Hoo-rah.

Reactron himself appears on only a couple of pages, having a nice buddy chat with fellow General Lane lackey Metallo. I'm not sure he deserves having an arc titled for him, Reactron's a crappy name, how powers are nothing amazing and his look is awful, but already this storyline is more entertaining than last month's Codename: Patriot crossover, which 'boasted' the worst cover concept you'll see in a long while. The cover here is pretty funny, with Thara pushing Kara backwards as Chris looks on uselessly (surprise). When Teens Fall Out, wot?

The issue ends on a dramatic note, though one that's becoming something of a refrain in the Superman books - anti-Kryptonian government grunts show up for a fight that will no doubt prove inconclusive and inconsequential. Still, it brings the illusion of a cliffhanger, and Perez provides a choice shot of the Eiffel Tower.

In back-up land there's another one-minute read with Captain Atom, but at least the story's moving forward as we meet some of the people who have been manipulating him. Three episodes in, though, impressive as the fight scenes have been, I'm ready for some exposition from writers Rucka and James Robinson. There's no denying that artist Cafu gives us a polished Captain Atom, but it's not enough to justify the strip.

So, not a bad issue, even if it has dropped to bits. We're one more issue closer to Flamebird and Nightwing buggering off, that's the main thing.