Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Action Comics #870 Review

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal

The shock death I spoke about in the previews this week turned out to be a character I had placed on the 'can't be killed' list, much to my surprise. For those watching for spoilers, you might want to skip this review, as I'll be naming who it is later on, but it looks like an attempt to bring the comics in line with the movies with no, at this point in time, rhyme or reason behind the killing.

As the concluding chapter of the Brainiac storyline and big lead-in to the New Krypton storyline, this issue had a lot of things it had to accomplish, from freeing the Kryptonians and Metropolis from their bottled state to the defeat of Brainiac to the solicited big death and, finally, saving the Earth from a potential supernova and it only had 22 pages to work with to accomplish it.

For the sheer amount of stuff going on in this issue, I think Johns and Frank did an amazing job wrapping up so many subplots. However, I think, if you take the time to nitpick, there are quite a few plotholes that can be picked apart in the story that give me the impression this could have been stretched out over another issue or two for a more satisfying conclusion, something I don't usually say about comics in these decompression laddened times.

Despite some minor quibbles with the pacing, I really enjoyed everything with Brainiac in it and I hope this isn't the last we see of him (is he dead? In another body somewhere? "Deactivated"?). My favourite scene had to be after Superman lashed out at Brainiac with the heat vision and freed Supergirl.

As Brainiac comes back on panel, his face haggard and bleeding, his dialogue is just perfect in that cold and menacing way and I just keep picturing the JLA/JLU cartoon voice doing all the speech bubbles for him. Another great scene was when Superman takes him out of the ship and he's thrashing about in the swamp water, clearly suffering from some fear of germs and the lack of control he had in his ship. It just seemed like a perfect fit for his character and a fitting reaction with what we've seen of this new version.

I was, as I said, confused as to how Brainiac was defeated. He just stops moving and his glowing lights on his head go dark. Was he killed? Did he deactivate after being removed from his ship? Is this even Brainiac or a fake body like all the random robot versions Superman has defeated? He seemed so much stronger in previous issues, but just gets a couple of hits from Superman and then falls over "dead" at the end of this.

Speaking of dead, here's the big spoiler on who dies. In his final moments before passing out / dying, Brainiac reveals he knows where Superman lives and fires a missile at Ma and Pa Kent's home. This is all happening as Superman is freeing Metropolis and Kandor, which only requires they be removed from Brainiac's ship in order to be restored to full size (just a bit too convenient for my tastes). Jonathan sees the missile heading towards them and rushes to move Martha out of the way just in time.

However, the exertion took too much out of him and he has a stroke or heart attack while Superman places Kandor near the Fortress of Solitude. I was a little shocked that such a tiny missle, which didn't even destroy the house, just caused a fire, was sent to kill Superman's parents when he fired a supernova rocket at the Sun last issue. Think he could have splurged for a final attack on Superman's parents and maybe nuked Smallville or something? He did make fun of Earthlings weaponry earlier and than released the equivilent of a small gas fire on the house...

On the art side of things, Frank did an amazing job with the facial expressions for Superman as he rushed back to his dying father. In fact, he did an incredible job with everyone this issue, specifically with Brainiac and Superman's chat with Supergirl as she went off to stop the supernova missile.

Verdict - Must Read. There are a few minor quibbles and nitpicks that could be made about this issue, but it was just too good to really dwell on them for any length of time. Great story that has me genuinely excited for the Superman titles for the first time since, well, since he died, I suppose.

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