By Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann (writers), and Pere Perez (artists), Javier Mena (colorist) and Travis Lanham (letterer)
The Story: Flamebird continues the fight against false Rao, alone since Nightwing is incapacitated. Luckily the cavalry arrives in the form of the JSA and Wonder Woman to even the odds.
What’s Good: I love the way Rucka delves into Kryptonian mythology; and then allows it to play out again before our eyes. It gives the whole arc a very Joseph Campbell Hero With A Thousand Faces vibe that I really, really like. Flamebird and Nightwing continue to be two of my favorite characters (although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the return of Superman in the book too.) Not only do Flamebird and Nightwing have interesting histories, Rucka does a great job of characterizing them here. Flamebird takes center stage as she did in the last issue, but Nightwing isn’t short-shifted by any means—and if the cliffhanger is any indication, he’ll be coming back strong for #889.
Perez does quite well on art. The scenes in the Phantom Zone are just awesome. The very creative panel layouts look very J.H. Williams-esque, which is about the highest compliment I could give. The biggest problem is that it feels very inconsistent. It has moments that it reaches great heights, and on the very next page will slip into “just okay” (although, it’s worth noting that the art is never bad.)
There is a backup feature, and its serviceable enough. Captain Atom has never been one of my favorite characters, but this kept me entertained in spite of that. The writing was decent, if clichéd in places, and the artwork was quite enjoyable. It didn’t add a whole lot of value to the book for me personally, but I think someone who likes the character more would get much more out of it.
What’s Not So Good: I really just didn’t buy Rao’s whole plan— stand on the border between India and Pakistan and get them to launch nuclear missiles at each other? That just didn’t ring true as a practical and realistic way of achieving his goal. The way the missiles are (technical spoiler alert) finally disarmed is quite interesting, but that plot as a whole just didn’t grab me. I was far more interested in the interaction between Rao, Flamebird ,and Nightwing, than I was in the threat of nuclear war.
Conclusion: For what it is, this book is a decent read. The mythology of Krypton and the way it plays out is very interesting, but the main physical plot and conflict fall rather flat. Still, especially with how this one ended I think the arc is really at a tipping point. The next issue will either make or break it. I’m hoping for the best.