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Action Comics #869

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2008
By: Erik Norris

Geoff Johns
Gary Frank, Jon Sibal (i), Brad Anderson (c)
DC Comics
“Brainiac” (part 4)

What a great week to be a Superman fan. Not only does the final issue of Morrison and Quitely’s All Star Superman release but we also get another chapter in the Brainiac epic from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Two amazing visions of the greatest superhero conceived by two of the best writers in the industry. My head nearly exploded when I got to my shop.

Even though this isn’t a review for All Star Superman I do want to point out it had an impact on my score. I know; as a reviewer it’s a major “no-no” to have something completely unrelated impact my score but I really can’t help it. That final issue of All Star was one of the most inspirational, heart-warming finales to an already phenomenal setup making it one of the greatest pieces of entertainment ever conceived, period. So it only makes sense that reading another Superman book right after will have high standards to meet. Well don’t worry, Action Comics #869 is able to stand side-by-side with the classic All Star Superman. Meaning, it’s pretty damn good. However, it isn’t as entertaining as previous chapters in this story-line. Therefore, what does that mean for Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s work on Action Comics? Well, it means they have been pretty freakin’ great!

Part 4 of “Brainiac” picks up directly where part 3 left off: Brainiac’s ship has arrived to Earth, has sent down its probes to terrorize Earth’s civilians and get them ready for the harvesting of information, and Superman lies in the clutches of the Neanderthal Brainiac while he continues to monologue. Right from the offset of #869 the scope is staggering, giving an apocalyptic feel and making you almost believe this is the last moments of Earth. Since Supergirl’s appearance in part 2 of this story I have fallen in love with her as a character. It’s mostly because of the writing chops of one Geoff Johns, who can turn any ass-hole into a compelling character. His Supergirl is sweet, wholesome, a bit naive, but still head-strong and courageous and a character I want to learn more about. This pitch perfect characterization continues here in #869 with a scene shared between Lois and Kara as the panic in Metropolis beings to transpire. It’s just good to know the entire Superman family is being handled with care and being rebuilt stronger which will make for a much more compelling Super-verse.

Gary Frank also continues to be as reliable as having morning wood with his work on Action Comics. I continue to love his depictions of a Superman that resembles Chris Reeve, his Lois who has that hint of Margot Kidder, and his Supergirl who just doesn’t look like the standard sixteen year old hussy. I’ve stated before that his new vision for the “true” Brainiac should have been inspired with more horror elements in mind instead of another hulking Superman nemesis but I’m willing to accect this one slight misstep because his panel layouts and transitions are so easy on the eyes that I never come away disappointed by a Gary Frank drawn Superman comic.

I mentioned before that this is the weakest of the “Brainiac” issues and that’s because of the moment of soap opera campiness that happens when Superman has time to locate the bottle city of Kandor. Now I’m fully aware that comics are soap operas with tights, but it still seemed kind of hard to believe this wasn’t just a plot development shoe-horned into the story to increase tension. I’m usually all for Geoff Johns doing this retroactive continuity in his comics, in fact I usually love it, but here it kind of made he step back from the book and say, “…really?”

But for this one misfire in story-telling, Action Comics #869 does a lot right. It nails the scope needed for the situation and even gives an interesting cliffhanger to suck you back in for next month’s installment. But seriously, who wasn’t going to see this through? This is one of the biggest Superman stories in years. Its repercussions will be felt for months to come throughout the entire line of Super-verse books. On this point alone Action Comics #869 is worth the price of admission.



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