Comic Book Review: Action Comics #868

The Revolution has enjoyed Johns’ take on Brainiac. Johns has a talent for taking DC’s fractured continuity and various versions of the same character and able to blend it together into something cohesive and interesting. I expect that we will get another quality read with Action Comics #868. Let’s hit this review.

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 the men at the Daily Planet’s office fawning all over Cat Grant and offering to get her a coffee or something to eat. At least until Supergirl enters the office and all the men start drooling over a girl who clearly is nothing but jailbait. Cat is less than pleased with the younger competition stealing all of her attention.

Supergirl asks for Clark Kent. Cat tells Supergirl that Clark is off on assignment. Supergirl looks at Cat with her x-ray vision and says “That’s strange.” Cat asks Supergirl what is strange. Before Supergirl can answers, Lois Lane quickly swoops in and grabs Supergirl and states that Clark had arranged an interview with Supergirl and that Lois will handle the interview instead.

Supergirl states that Cat should see a doctor. Lois tells Supergirl not to antagonize Cat and simply to wave to everyone and say “bye.” Supergirl complies and waves to everyone and says “bye.”

We cut to Lois and Supergirl heading to the roof of the Daily Planet. Supergirl asks Lois if she knows where Clark is. We slide over to Superman hooked up to an operating table as Brainiac’s machines hook themselves into Superman’s head and down his throat.

Superman suddenly wakes up and rips the machine probes from his head. He then pulls the machine’s tube out of his throat. Superman then demolishes Brainiac’s androids that were performing the tests on Superman.

Superman then looks around him and sees he is in a chamber full of various specimens from various planets that Brainiac is stock piling. Suddenly, Superman is attacked by a white ape named Koko. Superman quickly takes down Koko.

Superman then enters another huge room where Brainiac is storing his massive collection of bottled cities. Superman’s super hearing picks up the sounds of the Kryptonian language being spoken. Superman follows the sounds and comes across the bottled city of Kandor.

Superman then spies Brainiac asleep inside of his bio-shell. Suddenly, the bio-shell clicks and whirrs and then opens up. Brainiac wakes up and steps out of the bio-shell. Brainiac is huge. Much bigger than Superman. (Clearly Brainiac has the same personal trainer as Barry Bonds.)

Brainiac states that Superman belongs to him. Brainiac tosses Superman around like a rag doll. Brainiac’s machines then reach out and grab a hold of Superman and bind him. Brainiac states that he will be everything there has ever been. That he will be evolved into perfection.

We cut to Jonathan Kent working outside. Martha comes outside and tells Jonathan that she is worried about Clark. Jonathan states that their boy will be just fine. That Clark doesn’t want them to worry about him and they cannot spend their entire lives worrying about Clark. Jonathan says that they have to have faith in their son and hope for the best. Jonathan states that their bird left the nest a long time ago.

Suddenly, a bird comes crashing to the ground next to the Kents. (Real subtle.) The sky turns gray as the wind picks up and a storm begins to brew as the Kents look up into the air.

We hop back to Brainiac telling Superman that he cannot allow his knowledge of Kryptonian science and culture to be shared with anyone. Therefore, Brainiac will keep Superman as pat of his collection.

Superman exclaims that while he was on Brainiac’s operating table that he saw images of what Brainiac has done to the various bottled cities in his collection. Superman states that Brainiac takes a piece of the culture from each planet and then incinerates everything else.

Brainiac replies that his spinal station can process and sort the knowledge of over seven octodecillion beings. And that his Coluan brain can do seventy times that. Brainiac states that knowledge is power.

Superman asks Brainiac did Brainiac do to Krypton’s sun after Brainiac stole Kandor. Brainiac avoids the question and says that he has been looking for Superman for decades. Brainiac says that he has not ventured outside of his bio-shell in five centuries. Brainiac says that he had to see the last Kryptonian with his own eyes.

Brainiac states that he is unimpressed with what he sees. That Superman’s intellect is deficient and that Superman’s bio-suit serves no purpose. Superman answers that his uniform is designed after the Kryptonian flag and his father’s family crest. Superman then breaks free from Brainiac’s machine and punches Brainiac. Brainiac shrugs off the punch and levels Superman with one punch.

Brainiac says that with every new planet he grows stronger. That soon he will be capable of stripping an entire galaxy of its intelligent life in a matter of hours. Brainiac states that Superman’s downloads have provided him with vital knowledge. Brainiac is surprised to learn that Superman is not the last of his kind. That there is another still on Earth. Brainiac states that Superman’s cousin will belong to him.

We shift back to Lois and Supergirl talking on the roof of the Daily Planet. Supergirl is upset that Clark went looking for Brainiac. Supergirl exclaims that she was sent to Earth to protect Clark. Suddenly, Brainiac’s ship appears above the Daily Planet. Lois and Supergirl are stunned. We see inside of the Daily Planet where Clark’s co-workers are shocked by the sight of Brainiac’s ship. Steve asks “Where the hell’s Superman?” End of issue.

The Good: Action Comics #868 was another good read. Johns turns in another strongly plotted issue. Action Comics #868 presented a nicely focused story that builds well off of the last issue. Johns is a talented plotter and it is evident in how well constructed this story arc has been.

Action Comics #868 was also well paced. Johns moves the story along at a steady pace. The reader never gets the feeling that the story is lacking in direction. This issue offers the reader an enjoyable blend of action and drama.

Johns crafts plenty of solid dialogue. Johns continues to pull off quality character work on this title. I am especially enjoying how Johns is developing the supporting cast on this title. A strong supporting cast always lends additional depth and substance to a title. And that is something that has been missing from Action Comics for a while.

Johns also sprinkles a little humor into the story with the scene between Cat and Supergirl. The reader chuckles at the men at the Daily Planet fawning all over Cat as she struts through the office like royalty. Supergirl’s reaction to Cat’s breast implants was also well handled. This humorous scene helps to give a little balance to what is otherwise a rather serious and grim story arc.

Johns delivers a great brawl scene between Superman and Brainiac. It is not a particularly big fight scene, but it serves the important role of keeping Action Comics #868 from being too slow and uneventful.

Johns is simply brilliant at cleaning up DC’s continuity messes in a pleasant and logical fashion. And in this story arc, Johns is attempting to streamline Brainiac’s continuity into a more cohesive story. Johns is wise to go back to the original source in attempting to soft retcon Brainiac’s character. Brainiac first appeared in Action Comics #242 when he arrived on Earth and attempted to steal various major cities in order to add them to his collection of bottled cities. This is also the issue where we first saw the city of Kandor.

Since Johns had already cleaned up and explained the various physical appearances of Brainiac in the past two issues, it was time to turn his attention to Brainiac’s origin and motivation. And to achieve those goals, Johns goes back to the basic essence of Brainiac’s character and takes this Silver Age story from Action Comics #242 and morphs it into a more complex and modern story. This is an excellent move that helps to give Brainiac a unified purpose and background.

I also liked the neat touch of having Koko appear in this issue that unveils the newly re-imagined Brainiac. Koko was Brainiac’s pet monkey who also appeared back in Action Comics #242. Of course, this modern version of Koko is far more menacing than the version we got back in 1958.

I dig that Johns has Brainiac’s true form looks similar to the traditional Silver Age version of Brainiac. That was always my favorite version. I always found the metal skeleton Brainiac to be pretty cheesy. I also liked the little twist that Johns makes Brainiac an incredibly large and strong person. Brainiac dwarfs Superman in this issue. This was a nice way to show to the reader that Brainiac is the personification of the theory that knowledge is power.

I loved the plot teaser that Johns delivers in this issue that Brainiac may have been the source of Krypton’s destruction after he took Kandor. That certainly would be a huge change in the Superman mythos and immediately elevate Brainiac to the status of Superman’s most hated foe.

Johns gives us more ominous foreshadowing with the scene with the Kents. I have to admit that at this point I have no idea where Johns is going with this plotline.

Johns ends Action Comics #868 with a solid hook ending as Brainiac learns the existence of Supergirl and then we see his ship appear over the Daily Planet. There is no doubt that next issue of Action Comics should provide the reader with an action packed story.

Gary Frank and Jon Sibal continue to provide plenty of excellent artwork on this title. I am a big fan of the Superman movie styled look that Frank gives the various characters.

The Bad: Some reader may find Action Comics #868 a bit too slow for their taste. Many readers will feel that Johns is dragging his feet in order to stretch this story arc with the trade format in mind. There is no doubt that one of Johns’ greatest weaknesses is that he continually writes with the trade format in mind rather than the monthly format.

Overall: Action Comics #868 was another quality installment in this Brainiac story arc. Johns is doing a fine job updated Brainiac’s character and smoothing out the various continuity issues that have surfaced between Brainiac’s various incarnations over the years. Johns is taking his time and giving plenty of back-ground information that should enable newer readers to enjoy this story arc just as easily as long-time readers.

4 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Action Comics #868

  1. Lots if goodness here. Supergirl is becoming a believable character, instead of an outlet for male writers dealing with their high school neurosis by imagining themselves as a super-powered anorexic blond girl.

    I have one concern. Johns might get too specific with the Superman back stories. Some mystery and wiggle room should be left. DC has not benefited from Marvel style tight-continuity. A lighter touch is needed here.

  2. So in the cases of ‘specimens from other planets’ were Ultraa (obviously) and the entire contingent of Creature Commandos (the originals last seen rocketing into space 25 years ago in Weird War Tales 124 – pretty cool, maybe Johns has plans). Also a blonde woman that could be Matrix (the protoplasm part of Byrne’s Supergirl that merged and unmerged with Peter David’s Supergirl), possibly a plant-person from J586 (Green Lantern Medphyll’s world) and some others I don’t know but would be interested in hearing about any characters in the cases.

  3. I would have to disagree with you on one point: I thought the photorealistic depiction of Superman to be distracting. It completely took me out of the story to have him look so much like Christopher Reeves. I get that this is intentionally done, but I don’t like it, Reeves is the definitive Superman for many including myself, but I don’t want Superman to look like a real person, I want Superman to look like Superman. This marred a fine comic for me, because otherwise this comic was great.

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