Action Comics #868 (October, 2008)
“Brainiac, Part 3: Greetings”
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
Hey everyone, today we’re going to be discussing a “key” issue… lemme tell ya what, it’s the first-appearance of Brainiac!
Wait, whattaya mean he’s been around since 1958? No, that was just a robot probe! This is Brainiac’s first appearance! Get this bugger bagged and boarded… Hell, get it slabbed!
I, uh… appear to be the only one excited about this. Hmm…
Okay, enough of that… of course this isn’t the first-appearance of Brainiac… buuuuut, it’s the first time (in the canon of the Nebulous Interim) that Superman is actually meeting the green-skinned geek. Boy, I’m glad I don’t write for the DC Wikia… this kind of stuff would drive me nuts!
Let’s get to it!
We open in Metropolis where the male employees of The Daily Planet are positively falling all over each other in order to be drafted as an errand boy for Cat Grant. I really don’t get it… are we supposed to think she’s like drop-dead gorgeous here? I’m really not getting that. Anyhoo, at this point everyone’s attention is directed to a nearby window where… Supergirl has popped her head in looking for her cous… er, Mr. Kent. Using her x-ray vision (with a dash of naivete) she notices some odd plastics in Cat’s boob-al region. Lois is able to diffuse the situation… and pulls Kara into a stairwell for a chat.
Supergirl is desperately seeking her cousin… which is our cue to transition spaceward, where we can see him being probed and tubed by some leathery-lookin’ Brainiac drones.
While “under” Superman has visions of what Brainiac did to that planet last issue. This causes him to spring awake. He noggin’ knocks his captors… and in a pretty gross scene, pulls this… sort of organic-looking… tube out of his throat. He then vomits all over the floor.
He gets a hold of himself and begins to wander through his new environment… finding pods containing various forms of alien life. A disembodied voice calls for “Koko”… which triggers a white beast (which is likely named “Koko”) to launch itself in Superman’s direction. It doesn’t take much for the Man of Steel to kayo the thing… he even knocks out a few of its teeth for good measure.
And so, Superman continues… finally coming across a room full of the miniaturized stolen cities. Picking up on a bit of (untranslated, natch) Kryptonese, he follows his ears to… Kandor!
“Do you see that?”
“A shadow of the sky”
“There has never been a shadow of the sky”
“What is it?”
Kandor is pulled away right before Superman’s eyes… and then, finally… he (and we) meets the real-deal Brainiac.
Annnnnd, they fight. Brainiac claims that Superman now “belongs” to him. He captures these cities… before destroying their home planets… in order to be the only entity with the knowledge… with which, he will “be evolved into perfection”.
Back in Smallville, Pa Kent is mendin’ fence… when he is joined by Ma. Together, they see a blue bird falling from the sky… and an ominous wind begins to pick up.
Back at Brainiac’s, Superman has been tied up in some more organic tentacle-things. Here it is definitely alluded to that Brainiac had something to do with what happened to Krypton’s Red Sun. Also that he’d been hunting for that escaped child… Kal-El himself, for quite a long time.
After some more fighting, Brainiac threatens Superman’s new home planet… and his cousin. And so, we wrap up with the ominous sight of Brainiac’s skull ship in the skies over Metropolis.
Ya know… I usually give “decompressed” stories a lot of grief… but this is really very good! The pacing just feels right… and even though it very much is decompressed, I don’t feel like I’m being robbed of story reading this in single-issue form. Though, to be fair… I’m not exactly waiting a month for the next installment either. I can’t remember how I felt about this back in 2008… I know I was still buying it, perhaps I just wasn’t as engaged.
It’s here that we finally meet Brainiac, and the crux of our threat is introduced. We learn that Brainiac was very likely the reason Krypton’s Red Sun went kaput… and boy oh boy, does he come across as a creep! Johns (and Frank) really upped the scare-factor on this dude, transforming him from an arguably less-serious character into a cold, calculating “means to an end” truly frightening villain.
The concept that Brainiac wants to be the only person with various bits of knowledge is intriguing… and really plays in to his compulsive hunt for Superman over the past few decades. This was all really well done.
The Earthbound bits were also quite good… providing some much-needed comedy between the more serious Superman scenes. I still think the new-look Cat is pretty creepy though… but, I’ll bet I’m supposed to.
Overall… this bugger is decompressed, but still just so good. It’s not often I can wholeheartedly recommend something this stretched out… only other thing that comes to mind is the early arcs of Ultimate Spider-Man! I’ve said it before… but this feels like a “modern classic”, and I’d certainly urge anyone interested to check it out.