Comic Book Review: Action Comics #866

The Revolution has been looking forward to the Brainiac story arc for a while. Brainiac has always been one of my favorite Superman villains. I am excited to see if Johns performs a little bit of a make-over of Brainiac’s character. I fell pretty confident that the Brainiac story arc should be a quality read. Of course, since this is a Johns title I fully understand that this set-up issue will be slowly paced and that Johns will be writing the Brainiac story arc with a trade format in mind. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Action Comics #866.

Creative Team
Writers: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene thirty-five years ago with Brainiac attacking Krypton. We see Brainiac in his silver metal robot form approaching a young Kryptonian and using his hand spike to kill the Kryptonian. General Zod and Ursa are on the scene. Zod does not know how what Brainiac is or how to stop him. Zod’s army attacks Brainiac, but has no success against the alien invader.

We then see Brainiac’s metal head shaped spaceship hover above the city of Kandor. The ship then creates a giant shield around Kandor that scoops the city out of the ground and transports it away. We see Zod and Ursa standing there stunned while looking at the crater where Kandor used to be.

We cut to the present where we see Perry White holding a staff meeting with Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Catherine “Cat” Grant, Steve Lombard and Ron Troupe. Jimmy Olsen then comes stumbling into the meeting with the coffee and doughnuts for everyone. Jimmy whispers to Clark that he just found a new lead on the story that he has been working on entitles “The Secret under Metropolis.”

White states that Cat will be heading the Arts and Leisure section of the Daily Planet. Cat acts like her usual bitchy self and tells White to be honest with what she is here to do. Cat says that she is back and looking forward dishing plenty of dirt and gossip.

White says that Lombard is the new sports editor. Lombard leans back in his chair with his feet on the table and acts like a jerk. Clark introduces himself to Lombard and says that he along with his wife are the Senior Correspondents for the Daily Planet. Lombard doesn’t respond to Clark’s offered hand shake and proceeds to make a pass at Lois.

Clark responds by using his heat vision to break the back legs of Lombard’s chair so that he falls to the ground. Lois says that Clark should have warned Lombard about the chairs. Clark sheepishly comments that if you lean back too far the chairs tip. Clark then welcomes Lombard to the Daily Planet.

Cat then comes around and sits right in front of Clark and comments how Clark would be so hot if he ditched his glasses. Cat says that Clark should look into getting Lasik. Cat says that surgery did wonders for her. We see that Cat has clearly had a boob job as her bra and shirt are barely able to restrain them from busting loose.

Clark responds that he didn’t know that Cat wore glasses. Cat responds that she didn’t. Clark just stares at Cat with no reaction to her bountiful breasts. Cat then storms off commenting that Clark is from another planet. Clark responds “That’s what they tell me.”

Clark and Lois leave the meeting and Lois comments that she doesn’t know how she is going to survive the “cowboy” and the “cougar.” Clark responds that it will be fun. That Lombard is harmless enough. Clark says that it is obvious that Cat is trying to cover up her pain and grief over her son’s death with her “Cat” persona.

Suddenly, Clark hears a report from NASA about an object from space that has broken through the atmosphere. Clark takes off his glasses and tells Lois that he has to go to his other job.

We cut to Smallville where Jonathan Kent is working away in the fields. Martha Kent tells Jonathon that breakfast is ready. We see the weather vain suddenly spin around in the opposite direction as the wind changes from the east to the west.

We shift to flying up into the air to intercept the foreign object from space. We see the foreign object hurtling toward Superman. It turns out to be Brainiac in his silver metal robot form. Brainiac attempts to use his hand spike to penetrate Superman’s head. The spike manages to scrape Superman’s skin and cause him some pain, but it cannot fully puncture his skin. Superman comments that Brainiac never learns.

The two arch rivals begin brawling with each other. We see a tiny bit of blood dripping from the small wound that Brainiac gave Superman. We then see the video display from Brainiac reading “Kryptonian encountered/Blood analysis complete/Confirmation/Sending.” Brainiac then powers down and shuts off. Brainiac then falls lifelessly to the ground.

We cut to Brainiac’s silver head-shaped ship in space. We see the eye sockets of the space ship suddenly glow with a green light. Inside the ship we see a massive room with all these various cities shrunk and kept inside of bottles just like the city of Kandor. We see Brainiac in his green form hooked up to the ship’s computer system. Brainiac is drooling.

The computer then says “Kryptonian Encountered. Locate. Attempt #242 in progress.” End of issue.

The Good: Action Comics #866 was a good read. Johns crafts a great set-up issue as he lays the foundation for what should be a rather interesting story arc. Johns moves the story along at his typical controlled and deliberate pace. Action Comics #866 fulfills its task as the set-up issue by building tension in the reader and piquing the reader’s interest in this story arc.

Action Comics #866 was a well plotted issue. Johns always impresses with his ability to create a well constructed and complex multiple issue story arc. The reader clearly understands that Johns has a definite purpose and plan in mind with this story arc. While Johns may not move the story with a blistering pace, he rarely loses his focus on where he wants to go.

Johns opened Action Comics #866 with an attention grabbing scene with Brainiac stealing Kandor from Krypton. This scene did a nice job of re-telling how Kandor was “stolen” by Brainiac and working it into Johns’ new spin on Krypton post-Infinite Crisis. Johns continues to impress me with his freshening up of Superman’s continuity in the wake of Infinite Crisis.

Without a doubt, my favorite scene is the one in the Daily Planet. This scene was straight from the original Superman movie and served to put a huge smile on my face. I felt like I was watching the original Superman movie. I could actually hear Christopher Reeves’ voice in head when Clark spoke and Margot Kidder’s voice when Lois spoke. Considering that Johns worked for Richard Donner before breaking into comic books, it is of no surprise that Johns is considerably influenced by Donner’s vision of Superman from the original Superman movie.

This was a great assembling of the supporting cast that also served to set the same tone as the original Superman move. Johns also did an excellent job introducing each character and giving the reader a nice sense of each character’s personality with just a couple of panels. This economical and effective approach made this scene very new reader friendly. The reader didn’t have to have seen the original Superman movie or be a long-time reader in order to get a great feel for each of the supporting cast members.

I loved the character work that Johns pulls off in this scene. Each character had their own unique external voice and nicely developed distinct personalities. The dialogue had a great flow. Between the dialogue and quality character work, Johns was able to generate some excellent chemistry between all the characters at this meeting. The exchange between Cat and Clark scene was a nice humorous touch.

A strong supporting cast is crucial to the success of any title and Superman is blessed with a great supporting cast. I am thrilled that Johns smartly understands this fact and is working to once again establish this core supporting cast on Action Comics. I also appears that Johns knows that the Daily Planet plays an important role in Superman’s world. The Daily Planet should serve as the spine of Action Comics much like the Legion headquarters must always serve as the spine of the Legion’s comic book.

Johns cooks up a fantastic hook ending. We see Brainiac in his green form in a room full of various captured and shrunken cities. Brainiac appears to be in a comatose state as he is drooling all over himself. I am interested in learning why the Brainiac robot needed to scan a blood sample from Superman. I am curious to see what Brainiac is up to and what Johns has in store for this classic villain.

Gary Frank and Jon Sibal absolutely rocked the artwork in Action Comics #866. Frank completely and totally nailed the look of the original Superman movie. Frank drew a Superman that was identical to Christopher Reeves and a Lois Lane that was the spitting image of Margot Kidder. I mean all the way down to the smallest mannerisms and facial expressions. Just amazing. Plus, this is by far the best Lois has looked in years.

The Bad: As much as I enjoyed Action Comics #866, there is no denying that this was a slow issue. However, it is a set-up issue so I am willing to tolerate a slow issue. Plus, this is a Johns title and the reader simply must expect and accept that Johns loves decompression and writing for the trade format rather than the monthly format.

I will also admit that even though I adored the blatant homage to the original Superman movie that newer readers may not be so impressed by it. For me, Christopher Reeves is Superman. However, I would imagine and understand if some newer readers do not feel the same way.

Johns gives us some ominous foreshadowing with the scene at the Kent Farm. It certainly felt to me like something bad is about to happen. And I hope that the something bad isn’t Jonathan Kent’s death. I would definitely prefer that Johns not go down the predictable route of killing Jonathan Kent. Superman has already lost his biological parents. I think it would be nice for him to keep his adopted ones.

Also, it is a such a refreshing change of pace to have a super hero who actually has a stable family with both parents still alive. That immediately makes Superman highly unique since most heroes seem to either no parents, only one parent or both parents but they are both terrible people.

Overall: Action Comics #866 was a fantastic set-up issue. Johns turns in an issue that is a balanced read with great dialogue and character work as well as some action. Johns does his job of stimulating the reader’s interest and setting the stage for what should be a rather entertaining story arc. I would certainly recommend giving Action Comics #866 a try. This story arc should be worth your hard earned money.

7 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Action Comics #866

  1. I remember when the first Reeve/Superman movie came out, and it was entertaining, but I never thought Reeve was that great as Superman. He seemed a little too goofy to me, not “solid” enough somehow. I liked him better in “DeathTrap” and some other things he’s done. He still makes a fine visual model for Superman, though. And I think that a few years and a few pounds could turn Brandon Routh into the best onscreen Superman ever.

    I have never, ever bought the idea that Lois Lane would be a bad speller, so that memory will always bother me. Still, Margot Kidder seemed easy to like. It just seems like a distraction when the comic book people look so very much like real life actors.
    Matter of taste, of course.

  2. My favourite comic of the week, no doubt about that. I’m very much looking forward to the next issue.

    And yes – Christopher Reeve is Superman!

  3. I felt as if the majority of the issue was the Daily Planet scene, which made me wonder why it was in there, at all. Yes, I am a fan who started reading in the early 90’s and while Christopher Reeves did an amazing job with the movies he was in, that’s not my Superman or my Clark Kent.

    My main problem with this issue is that I was more interested in Brainiac than anything else and it seemed the majority of the story focused on the Planet. That scene felt, to me, like Johns saying, “here is more of my melding of the Silver Age with the Modern Age. I could not see any other reason to put Perry, Jimmy, Steve Lombard, and Cat Grant in a room with Clark and Lois.

    I trust Johns enough to give him some slack in that he is probably building towards something, but I couldnt’ see it. Yes, last issue did set up why Cat was back, but Steve Lombard? There was nothing in the issue that explained why Perry would hire him. Why was he hired? Why put those particular people in a room (newspaper-wise, at least). In a regular newspaper, would the two top reporters ever meet with the sports and gossip reporters? What’s the point other than, “hey, look everybody, I’m adding Steve Lombard and Cat Grant to the Planet.”

    And to get really picky…three out of the past four major story arcs in Action Comics started the same way…with a scene at the Planet which seems to be there just to show how Johns is reverting to the Silver Age/Donner Superman movies era (bumbling Clark, inept coffee boy Jimmy Olsen, Steve Lombard, etc.) when something falls from the sky or a robot attacks (or both). Then Superman investigates and gets involved.

    Sorry to be harsh, but “Up, Up, and Away” was the best Superman I’ve read in a regular Superman comic. The following story arcs were all of a lesser quality, but even still, overall “Last Son” was strong, “Camelot Falls” was very good, “Superman and the Legion” was great, and it hurts to see a mediocre issue at the start of a major storyline.

  4. I liked how you worded that last comment “johns is dcs answer to marvels brubaker” i think that that would make bendis marvels answer to morrisson. Think about it.

  5. What i meant to say was that i feel brubakers more talented than johns and that morrrison is more talented than bendis. Although i think bendis gets a bad rap for a lot of stuff (avengers) i think that his good stuff (Ultimate spider-man, powers, his Daredevil work) outweighs his bad stuff. Even though i compared bendis to morrison, i think that if you were to compare someone from marvel to morrisson, the best comparison would be Millar. (of whom i am a big fan)

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