Nightwing and Flamebird are tracking down sleeper agents, and their paths cross the path of General Samuel L. Lane and his band of merry men bent on eliminating Kyptonians from Earth. Caught in the crossfire, Nightwing and Flamebird soon find themselves targeted while their targets — Nadira and Az-Rel — escape. While I expected this issue to hinge more on the developments of last week’s “World of New Krypton” #5, I am pleasantly surprised that it doesn’t.
That said, the Superman corner of the DC Universe is not an area to be visited lightly. While this issue, in and of itself, establishes General Sam Lane as a behind-the-scenes manipulator, it doesn’t define Codename: Assassin much beyond his abilities. Of course, given that this issue is the fifth segment of this storyline, most new readers are probably hesitant to jump right in anyway. In this issue, an important development occurs that will challenge the ability of General Lane to be effective or to remain hidden. At this point, however, Lane definitely has an agenda and is pressing his troops to achieve it.
Rucka is well-suited to writing such a master manipulator, especially one that isn’t Lex Luthor. While I question the overall decision to make General Lane one of the rogues to battle the Man of Steel, there is no arguing with the additional story dynamics and the potential ramifications such a tussle could have on Superman’s own personal life. Superman, however, is nowhere to be found. Nightwing and Flamebird are still the stars of this book, adequately drawn by Diego Olmos.
This is not the most beautiful issue of “Action Comics” in the series history, nor is it the worst. Olmos’ style is minimalist, like a more conservative Pat Oliffe, relying upon Rod Reis’ colors to add depth to the imagery. The overall combination makes the book feel uneven in parts, as most of the figures have strong shadows or heavy distinctions of color to define their features, without subtle gradients. Some of the figures are drawn in awkward poses, while others seem not completely assembled. (Lois looks like she’s hitting the cemetery in a flasher’s outfit…) Olmos certainly has talent, but he needs to focus it in a little tighter. Rucka’s writing needs a tight, gritty artist to capture the spirit of the story.
The Captain Atom “second feature” is magnificently drawn by Cafu, and colored by Santiago Arcas, the duo who most recently visualized the adventures of Vixen in her limited series. The story doesn’t give us much to work with, save for the fact that Captain Atom is charging into combat against an army of medieval-like warriors bent on his destruction. Robinson and Rucka do a great job setting up this storyline for future issues, as it seems to me that Captain Atom might be just as confused as we are with regards to where he is and what he is doing.
Captain Atom’s expulsion of power is rendered in such a manner that sound effects would only cripple its message. The white-hot power of his blasts is undeniable and seems to be more than his foes can handle. Who these foes are remains to be seen, but as someone who has been reading the Robinson-penned adventures in “Superman” for over a year now, I think I have a guess as to who these folks are, or at least maybe where they are.
While I am not keen on over-paying for my comics, the Captain Atom adventure given to us here is almost enough for me to consider buying the next issue — just for that. The main story of “Action Comics” seems on a course to intersect with the events in other Superman titles, so Captain Atom may not have to lure me back all by himself. We’ll see what Rucka and Robinson (together on “World of New Krypton,” Robinson writing solo on “Superman”) have in store for us and how engaging that story might be.