Over the past couple of years, Geoff Johns has re-established “Action Comics” as one of the premiere books in the DC Universe, and rightfully so. Though not every issue of his ongoing Superman saga was top-notch, every story was worth reading, and the cumulative effect was a lot of fun. Johns’s take on the Superman mythos was consistently good.
But now Superman is gone — off playing hero on New Krypton, on the other side of the sun — and so is Geoff Johns. So what we get in “Action Comics” #875 is a fresh beginning: Greg Rucka doing stories with the mysterious new Nightwing and Flamebird.
In this issue, the two armored superhumans fly around and capture a Kryptonian-in-hiding, sending him back from the Phantom Zone from whence he came. This Nightwing has some knowledge of the Phantom Zone, by the way, and although I won’t spoil his identity by revealing it here, a regular reader of Johns’s “Action Comics” would be able to take an educated guess. It’s certainly a character we’ve seen before in the Superman universe, though his adoption of the Nightwing identity may surprise you.
It’s a decent first issue, establishing who these two new heroes are, and setting up conflict between the Kryptonian militants, the human populace, and Nightwing and Flamebird. The protagonists may want to protect the Earth, but they have to hide their identities and hide behind suits of armor which would somehow justify their extraordinary powers. As part of the overall Superman mega-story which has been brewing since Johns injected new life in this series, the Nightwing and Flamebird stuff is just fine. As a single issue, though, it’s just another story about costumed heroes rounding up a bad guy.
Rucka doesn’t do much to make this issue rise above the average. There’s nothing about the dialogue, the pacing, or the characterization that would make anyone want to come back for more if they weren’t interested in how these events relate to the larger New Krypton story in the other comics.
And Eddy Barrows art isn’t much of a selling point, either. It, too, is fine, but nothing special. Barrows uses the same style here that he used on his recent “Teen Titans” run. His art looks like a stretched-out version of Ivan Reis’s work, his characters look slightly more elastic. It’s perfectly appropriate for the story here, but it’s no more than a typical-looking DC book.
“Action Comics” #875 tells a story clearly based on the narrative machine set in motion by Geoff Johns, but unless Greg Rucka does something special with it — takes it in a surprising direction — then this comic will lose its status as a central book in the DCU. It will be that lesser series about which everyone will say, “yeah, it’s fine, but when is that Superman guy coming back?”