Comic reviews- Action Comics #870

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This issue of this comic has gotten quite a bit of attention, even making mainstream media news; that’s how my sister accidentally spoiled the ending to this issue for me. So perhaps it’s fitting that the ending happens to be the main problem I have with an otherwise great comic.

Let’s start with the good: Action Comics #870 is the conclusion to the “Brainiac” storyline, in which Geoff Johns has created an intriguing reinterpretation of one of Superman’s most enduring villains. There have been many different takes on Brainiac over the years, which over time have led the character to develop a bit of an identity crisis. Is Brainiac an alien with a computer-like mind who shrinks bottle cities? Is he a robot with a real computer mind? Or is he an alien possessing the body of a human with telepathic and telekinetic powers?

Johns has taken all of these different versions of Brainiac (even borrowing a bit from the Superman Animated Series’ version of the character) and tied them together, while simultaneously leaving his own stamp on the character. We now have a clear take on Brainiac’s appearance, motivations, modus operandi… and in this issue, his fears.

Speaking of fears, we see Supergirl conquer a few of her own this issue. Johns goes out of his way to rehabilitate the Girl of Steel into a likeable character, something her own series had been struggling with before new writer Sterling Gates came on board this month. Clark Kent’s supporting cast, which has also been redefined (and expanded) throughout the “Brainiac” story, are sadly absent this issue (except Lois), although to be fair, they probably would have been an awkward fit.

Two major status quo changes take place this issue, and it’s going to be hard to talk about them without spoiling them. But I will tell you this: someone close to Superman doesn’t make it out of this storyline. I’ll admit it was well-executed (even if it was very similar to an issue of All-Star Superman), but conceptually, it kind of dragged down the issue for me. I was rather fond of the character and the mentor role he/she/it played in Superman’s life. I’ve heard people give reasons for why this particular character shouldn’t be around in Superman’s life anymore, but a lot of them either aren’t valid these days or could be easily fixed. For example, if a writer thought Superman relied too much on this character for advice, then he or she could have simply not have Superman go to this character for advice.

I did like the other status quo change, however. It takes an old, Brainiac-related element of the Superman mythos, one that was pretty much taboo in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths era (hint: people said this part of the mythos robbed Superman of his “uniqueness”) and brings it back in a new, surprising way. If you haven’t figured out what it is, I won’t spoil it, but it will be the focus of the big Superman crossover coming up next month.

I can’t go without mentioning how amazing Gary Frank’s art was this issue, as well as throughout this storyline. He has this great, cinematic approach to story pacing (aided by Geoff Johns’ decision to avoid narrative captions and thought balloons) and draws absolutely jaw-dropping renditions of Brainiac’s skull ship and robot drones. He also has a great gift for facial expressions; you can practically feel Lois’ fear, Superman’s anger and Brainiac’s smugness. Then there are the fight scenes, which are dynamic and even brutal sometimes, but never excessively so.

So while the ending to this comic was a turn-off conceptually, the rest is pretty much gold. Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and co. have brought their A-Game to this series.

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2 Responses to “Comic reviews- Action Comics #870”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    Great review Goki-O! I kinda want to know the two status quo changes now (perhaps a topic of discussion on AIM). Sound intriguing, even if I have little interest in Supes.

    Very informative stuff as always (especially the tidbits on Brainiac and his identity crisis), and while I’ve never really read anything with him, I’ve always liked Brainiac, so this something I may have to look into in 2017.

  2. Gokitalo Says:

    Right after the return of Comics Castle in 2010!

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