Action Comics #867 (2008)

Action Comics #867 (September, 2008)
“Brainiac, Part 2: Hide and Seek”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Gary Frank
Inker – Jon Sibal
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Colorist – Brad Anderson
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99

I hate it when I have to use a “stock” image of a cover.  When I pulled this issue out of the longbox I discovered that it looks like one of my dogs used the bottom corner of it as a chew toy.  Whoops.  Guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one at the cheap-o bins!

Thankfully, the nibbles haven’t affected the Johnsian goodness on the inside… and so, we get to continue our trek into the Brainiac saga!

Let’s go!

We pick up right where we left off yesterday, with Brainiac still seeking a Kryptonian.  Looks like the attack on Superman didn’t provide the proper amount of data required after all!  We shift scenes to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman and Supergirl are examining the body of his robot assailant.  It’s here that Supergirl reveals that this isn’t Brainiac at all!

Superman is confused… and kinda dismisses the notion.  He tells her that nearly every time Brainiac returns, he has a different “look” to him.  He is chilled when Supergirl informs him that… he’s never actually met Brainiac.  The weirdos he’d fought over the years were only part of Brainiac’s programming.  What’s more, nobody has ever seen the real Brainiac!

From here the discussion gets a bit… uncomfortable.  Ya see, Supergirl actually grew up on Krypton… despite the fact that she appears far younger than Superman.  Ya see, she was sent to Earth… as a young adult, to keep an eye on her baby cousin Kal.  The thing of it is, she got stuck in a stasis… and only came out of it recently… when the baby she was sent to protect had already grown into a man.  Now, Brainiac… from the attack on Krypton and taking of Kandor (which we saw last issue), had become something of a Boogeyman… someone Kara grew up to fear intensely.  She wishes she could trade her time on Krypton… be just like her cousin without any memories of the place.

We shift scenes to Smallville, where Clark is having dinner with the folks.  He tries to explain the Brainiac bits to them… and, bless their hearts, they play along best they can.  After dinner, Pa takes Clark out to the barn to show him some of his mementos… including a baseball Clark hit clear across town, and a pair of burnt out shoes.

The scene wraps up with Clark using his heat vision to inscribe “World’s Greatest Dad” on a horseshoe.  You get the feeling all this might be leading somewhere?

Back at the Daily Planet, Clark chats up Lois about what’s going down, including some concern he has for his cousin.  Their discussion is interrupted by… Steve Lombard, who appears to have gone to the Guy Gardner School of Manners.  He chucks a football at Clark’s back… then right at poor Jimmy Olsen as he’s carrying in the Dream Team’s coffees.

We next follow Superman back to the Fortress of Solitude, where he checks over some Kryptonian files in hopes of uncovering a bit more of the Brainiac mystery.  He comes across one file in particular… which refuses to continue playing.

This… somehow… tells him where he needs to be.  And so, he heads for some planet that is being overrun by Brainiac bots… which he fights off while they attempt to capture another city.

At this point… and here’s where it gets weird-er.  The Brainiac Skull ship fires a projectile into this planet’s Sun… exploding it… and the rest of the planet as well.  Is this supposed to signify that he might have had something to do with what happened to Krypton?!

We wrap up with Superman’s body floating right into the path of the Skull ship… and it looks as though the Brainiac inside has finally found his Kryptonian!

Well… a lot to unpack here, right?

Let’s start with the easy stuff… it’s pretty clear that Pa Kent just ain’t long for this world, right?  I mean, they’re telegraphing this pretty hard here.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing… or a good thing.  It’s just something that’s definitely on its way… and it feels like we’re cramming about ten pounds of sentiment into a five pound jar.  Again… not a bad thing.  If you’re going to do something this drastic, it’s best to make it feel as though it matters… and that’s what they’re doing.

Now, the idea that Superman has never actually met the real-deal Brainiac… I like it!  Johns has always had a knack for making everything fit into place… we saw him pretty much single-handedly make sense out of Hawkman just a few years prior.  This was a quick and easy way to explain away the various Brainiacs, while still keeping them all in continuity.

In making him a sort of Kryptonian boogeyman, Johns really upped the creep-factor on him.  Seeing Supergirl shiver at the thought of confronting this character she’d been raised to fear really raised the stakes.  It made a character who, perhaps many, dismissed as a relic into a scary force to be reckoned with.  Really awesome work here!

Now, I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into this (and it’s been a decade since I last read this)… but, after Brainiac’s probe-bots domed that city at the end… the planet was “doomed” into oblivion.  Was this to suggest that he might’ve done the same to Krypton post-taking Kandor?  It’s an intriguing thought… and one that might only be in my head… or, might be completely obvious to those who memory of this arc is a bit fresher.

If I had to nitpick… my only question has to do with Superman somehow knowing where he needed to go from the Fortress.  Maybe it’s my density, but I just don’t know how he concluded where he needed to go.  Did he have other monitors up while going through the files?  Maybe it’s obvious… but I missed it!

Overall… a great chapter that introduces a lot of “food for thought”.  I’m looking forward to working my way through this arc… it really has that “modern classic” feel to it!

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