Cover date: May 2009
"The Sleepers" - Part One
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Eddie Barrows
Inker: Ruy Jose & Julio Ferreira
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Reviewed by: Adam Dechanel
...only the plot is cut short as through the sky flies an armor clad teenager that punches the conspirator clear through ten floors. The teenager is Nightwing, and his tardy partner is Flamebird.
Flamebird is not impressed with Nightwing's impetuous nature of attacking first and asking questions later and he pays for his eagerness with a burst of heat vision to the face! It seems that Carter is really a Kryptonian in hiding!
Carter is aggressive and dishes out a heavy beating on the pair under the assumption that they wear armor and fly with boosters because they are mere humans. They reveal knowledge of his real identity Tor-An, a Phantom Zone escapee!
Tor-An is bewildered - his mission has been discovered! And as it turns out by two other Kryptonians! Combining their attack, Flamebird and Nightwing blindside Tor-An and using a containment unit gun - capture the villain!
During the fight Flamebird was unmasked and we learn she is Thara Ak-Var and no sooner is the capture of the rogue complete than authorities arrive. Due to the anti-Kryptonian law recently passed it's vital they not be discovered and off they dash.
Back in America, Lois Lane is watching the news report on the television, her instincts on the armored duo kick in when she notices the extent of damage their attack and apparent kidnap of the Executive...something very familiar about it.
Elsewhere in Project 7734 General Lane and his cohorts are trying the decipher a grainy image of Flamebird's face without much luck. Lane suspects the two heroes are Kryptonian and initiates a directive to discover all their secrets.
Meanwhile we are privy to a conversation between Zod and Alura. Thara Ak-Var has been acting oddly ever since Argo and Kandor was expanded. Odd talk of a boy in the Phantom Zone trying to warn her of treachery from Zod and Ursa.
Zod recognizes the family name Ak-Var but brushes off Thara's neglect of duties and dream-like messages as nothing that Alura should be concerned with.
When Zod arrives to meet Ursa, she is watching a Sunstone screen recording of a beaten and tortured Chris crying and begging for aid. Ursa is disgusted with his weakness of resolve and is crushed further to discover Thara helped liberate him and that their son Lor/Chris had given the former head of security knowledge of Sleepers.
Ursa swears to stop the two rebels before their plan to crush earth is jeopardized. His coldness to his lover is as harsh as their treatment of their son sending chills though the air.
Zod asks Ursa if she remembers the Ak-Var family and Ursa sneers she knows exactly how they died.
Nightwing and Flamebird have arrived in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman's family home. Nightwing cringes at their robo look but Flamebird, aka Thara explains the necessity again - especially as they have a secret mission.
Though the Phantom Zone is gone Thara locks Tor-An inside a cell in a phantom state.
Thara is trying hard to fit in, just as her best friend Kara did when she first arrived though the language has proven hard to master. Nightwing reiterates his name, Christopher Kent, and points out that not all humanity hates them.
Thara instructs Chris to remove his armor for repair and activates the Sunstone console to unlock data on the other Sleepers Zod and Ursa have planted.
Tor-An, Jax-Ur, Nadira Va-Dim, Az-Rel, Quex-Ul and Car-Vex.
Updating the events log Thara is startled by a scream and rushes to her friend's aid.
Chris has undergone a metamorphosis. One that continually seems to affect him since being tortured in the Zone. When he first met Thara he was a small boy, when he escaped he was a teenager and now suddenly he is a man.
The strain of the aging has weakened Chris and he faints but just as he does, mommy dearest arrives to execute them both!
To Be Continued...
Story - 5: Greg Rucka didn't pull any punches with his first issue in the Nightwing and Flamebird saga. We have knocked Thara out of the Superwoman race and oddly I care far more for this pair than I do for her - especially after this issue. I love that Chris is out of the Zone and continuing his adopted father's legacy. Odd that he didn't try to make contact with Lois, though the secret mission status made sense as a reason. I absolutely loved this issue and it's quickly given New Krypton another exciting turn.
No dodgy dialogue, no name dropping, and the story seemed to move along at a much faster pace than some recent issues. With their extremely limited 'screen time' prior to this issue, it takes a remarkable writer to make some unremarkable characters worthy of carrying the mantle of a Superman-less Superman book.
I really want to knock off a point for the awful robo suits but they made sense story-wise dagnammit...
Art - 5: The art was breathtaking in some sequences and a little hard to decipher in others but over all, a fantastic effort. The only gripe is the VR Trooper outfits - UGH! But again though I absolutely hated them I understood the need and so I'll let it go (this time! hehehe)
Cover Art - 4: Andrew Robertson's cover is a real mixed bag... it's refreshing to NOT be slapped in the face be another Alex Ross painting so I'm happy with that. It's just that, as evil and menacing as Zod, Ursa and Non are... the VR Troopers (Yes they are mentioned twice - YouTube them) just don't have the wow factor I had hoped for in their 'debut' issue.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.