Action Comics Annual #12

22nd June 2009 | by | No Comments

I’ve covered the Action Comics strand of “New Krypton” less than the other two main titles so far, primarily because… well, it’s not been hugely interesting, frankly. I like the idea behind the new Nightwing and Flamebird, but they’ve singularly failed to convince as characters. Can this annual, shedding light on their backgrounds and origins, improve matters?

Well, yes and no. On its own merits, and as a self-contained story, this is quite an entertaining read. And yet it still doesn’t really make me desperate to read much more about Christopher and Thara, because despite giving them some amount of background, it’s not really about either of their character at all. Instead, it’s about the mythological figures that have come to dominate their lives, and a shared connection that isn’t really to do with either of them as people at all. Thara is at least given something of a story – and there’s still definitely potential in her as a character, particularly if her relationship with the Zor-Els is played upon – but the religious angle it swings into, following the story of her parents, isn’t hugely fascinating. And Chris, meanwhile, simply remains all kind of wet.

Despite this, though, what’s admirable about the book is its attempt to expand the mythology of Krypton with a fable. One of the things that’s stood out about World of New Krypton is the work that’s been put into defining (New) Krypton as a place and a culture – for too long it’s hovered vaguely in the background without anyone pinning down what the place was meant to be like, but Robinson and Rucka are clearly relishing the opportunity to build an entire alien world and culture, cherrypicking elements from the various interpretations over the decades. Giving even greater significance to the “Nightwing and Flamebird” legend (for the uninitiated, the characters were originally Batman and Robin-esque masked identities that Superman and Jimmy Olsen took on, later to inspire Dick Grayson when looking for a new identity) works well, and seems like the sort of thing that was planned all along – although the justification for setting up Chris (still kind of, technically, a child) and Thara as being a mythologically-linked “couple” doesn’t quite come off.

It’s a fairly decent-looking book, too – DC seem to have been building a team of similar-looking artists to hop on and off the Super-titles, and I suppose if you can’t get Renato Guedes to draw everything, you might as well get some lookalikes – in this case Pere Perez. It’s not spectacular, but it does the job, and features a fairly pretty colouring job – even if the early pages look perhaps a little too much like a Marvel book (and that’s not just because of the way Ursa is made to look so much like Maria Hill). Speaking of the Superman II lot, there’s an intriguing development with Non – I’m not sure if it’ll get followed up on, but it at least shows a bit of movement away from the cut-and-paste job that was done when sticking the characters in Action in the first place.

I can’t say this necessarily justifies a whopping $4.99 price tag (even at 40-odd pages), nor does it really make Action Comics anything other than the third-tier strand (along with Supergirl) of the current story. But if you’re sufficiently interested in Superman background mythology, it’s worth a look.