Saturday, October 11, 2008

Action Comics #870 Review

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Inkers: Jon Sibal and Bit
Colorist: Brad Anderson

Issue Rating
Story: 8.3/10
Art: 8.8/10
Overall: 8.55/10

Issue Summary
With finally capturing Metropolis in a bottle Braniac continues his plan with destroying the Earth with Superman looking on helplessly. As soon as Superman hears Lois screams for Superman to help, and that she loves him, he breaks free from Brainiac's machine and kicking Brainiac ass by fighting "dirty." Superman is able to KO Braniac and he grabs the bottles containing Metropolis and Kandor. He then frees Supergirl before Braniac's robot start "experimenting" on her and tells her she must stop Braniac's rocket before it reaches the sun and causes it to explode. Even though she doubts she can stop the rocket Supergirl gains the confidence to do it after some words of wisdom from her cousin.

As Supergirl goes to stop the rocket Braniac regains consciousness and he and Superman begin round 2. After trading punches and kicks Superman is able to kick Braniac hard enough to send Brainiac through his ship landing on Earth. When Brainiac lands on Earth he lands on a swamp and is exposed to all the bacteria of Earth which causes all of his systems to shutdown. To make things worse for Brainiac, Superman comes down and stomps Brainiac's head. Superman then flies of and releases Metropolis back to its original location and then goes to find a safe place to release Kandor.

In outer space Supergirl is able to reach the rocket before it reaches the sun. With all her strength Supergirl is able able to divert the rocket and it explodes in a safe distance from her and the sun.

Meanwhile, in a final act to destroy Superman Brainiac activates one of his rockets from his ship to destroy Superman's parents at Kent Farm. Before the rocket can hit Marta, Johnathan notices the rocket heading towards her and quickly moves her out of the way so the rocket only destroys their house. But as Johnathan and Marta embrace Johnathan starts having a heart attack which causes Marta to scream out to Clark for help.

On the other side of the world in Antarctica Superman arrives at the Fortress of Solitude were he releases Kandor from its bottle. Once Kandor is released it destroys the Fortress of Solitude and Kandor is now located were the Fortress of Solitude use to be. As Superman admires Kandor he hears his mom screaming his name. Superman flies of to Kent Farm at max speed and once he arrives at the farm he sees his mom cradling his dead fathers body in her arms. Clark breaks down and he and his mom hug morning Johnathan's death. End of issue.

Highlights of the Issue
"Superman makes Brainiac eat the dirt."

"This is the first heroic thing Supergirl has done since Crisis on Infinite Earths"

"Just when it looks like Clark is going to get a happy ending......"

"...Clark with all his superpowers is unable to use them to save his father's life."


Action Comics #870 was a strong conclusion to one of the best Superman stories I have ever read. I know that may seem like I being over dramatic statement but the truth is I have never been a big fan of Superman to begin since I have always viewed Superman the end all, be all of stories in the DC Universe. The only real version of Superman I have actually liked was the version from Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League/JLU cartoons. So for Geoff Johns and Gary Frank to make me enjoy a Superman in comic book form this much speaks volumes to how great of story this creative are telling in Action Comics. There was only two things that I did not like about this issue, one is specifically about this issue and the other is about the story in general, and I will go into depth later in my review.

The thing that has always annoyed about Superman comics or any comic were Superman appears is that writers will always resort to try to weaken Superman's powers to fit the story due to how powerful Superman is. And in the case DC crossovers take Superman out of the equation until the end, if your reading Final Crisis you know what I mean. I would like to see Johns or someone in DC would go back to making kryptonite back to being a rare object with in the DC Universe. With the return of Kandor and more Kryptonians than just Superman, Supergirl, and Powergirl I don't think this will happen anytime soon.

But Johns seemed to know de-powering Superman is just an unoriginal idea. The beauty about this story is that at no point in this story did I think that Superman was holding back when fighting the villain (Brainiac). I actually thought the opposite and that even with Superman throwing everything he had at Brainiac he still could not beat him at the beginning. Seeing how useless Superman looked when he was captured in that machine at the beginning of the issue made me question how Superman would beat Brainiac. It was a nice touch that it was Lois screams for help that woke Superman out of his trance and gave him the power to kick Brainiac's ass.

Brainiac definitely gave Superman a run for his money. I love how even when he was knocked out he came back with blood in his eyes ready for round 3. Brainiac being defeated by being exposed to all the bacteria on Earth was a pretty clever way for Johns to end the fight between Superman and Brainiac. I actually smirked as I was watching Brainiac being killed by all the bacteria because it reminded me of all the old alien movies and how the aliens were killed by being exposed to the Earth's air.

Other than this I thought it was nice to see one of Superman's least used superpower: the power to motivate others. It has been a while since I have actually heard Superman motivate someone, in this case Supergirl, with his words instead of his fist. Superman is what every superhero in the DC Universe strives to be and he is not the leader of the Justice League because of he has the strongest but because he can motivate the rest of the heroes to continue fighting. So it was nice to see that even though Supergirl was scared to do anything it was Superman that got her to overcome her fears with his little speech.

Speaking of Supergirl, this is the first time I did not find her annoying since her re-introduction into the DC Universe a few years ago. Her actions in this issue is the first heroic thing I have seen her do since Crisis on Infinite Earths. And since in the current DC Universe no one remebers it anyways it is her first heroic act. What made her saving Earth from being destroyed much more heroic is that she did it even though she was afraid of Brainiac. By saving the Earth you can see her smiling that she even realizes she is a hero.

What is going to be interesting from this point foward is who she chooses to aling herself with since her only real connection to Earth is Clark and Lois.Which is different from Clark since Earth and the people of this planet are the only ones he has known but for Kara she grew up in Krypton and has only been on Earth for two years.

Now my favorite part of this story is also one of the two things that I did not like about this story: Brainiac. The reason I say this is that even though I liked that Brainiac presented both a physical and metal challange for Superman it seemed that the ending to the Brainiac conflict was rushed. Throughout this story Brainiac was shown to outmatch Superman in everyway outside of Superman's heart which lead to Superman's victory. And the way it ended did not sit right with me since all Superman was able to defeat was Brainiac's organic body and not Brainiac himself. Because unless I missed something it was said in previous issues that Brainiac was the ship and not the organic body Superman was facing. So unless Superman destroyed Brainiac's ship it seems that Superman just let him go.

Another thing that that irked me about Brainiac is that even though in the previous issues we saw that Brainiac is one of the smartess being in the DC Universe I just did not get a sense throughout this story that he was one. It seems that Johns focused more on Brainiac being a physical presence instead of the mental presence that his character should be. With that said for Johns was trying to do with this story I understand why he changed some of Brainiac's character. I just hope the next time we see Brainiac he returns to being the mental threat he should be.

The other part of the issue that I really did not like was the death of Johnathan Kent. Having Clark's dad die does not do anything for Clark's character development. Unlike with the deaths of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben and Bruce Wayne's parents which helped motivate, and continues to motivate, both characters to be the heroes they currently are but Clark's father's death happens in a point were he has been Superman for a good while and his belief system is already set. So story wise this development only helps to make maybe one or two stories out of it since Johnathan's death could be considered out of old age and not out some great tragedy.

Outside of character development the true reason that I did not like Johnathan's death is because with this death the character of Clark/Superman loses the most unique and relatable aspect of his character. In comics today it is hard to find a character were he or she has both of their parents still alive since most creators think that it makes a character much more relatable if that character has only one or neither of their parents alive or around. In truth outside of a characters husband or wife it seems that most characters in comics don't have much of a family to begin with. So now Superman is just like the hundreds of comic book characters in that his only real family is his wife, mother, and cousin (close family anyways). And personally as someone who has both my parents still married and both my parents playing a big role in shaping who I am as a person it is harder for me to relate to Clark/Superman now.

With all that said I have to give props to Gary Frank and Jon Sibal for giving this issue, and story in general, some great artwork. Frank showed that he has great range in drawing both some furious action scenes as well as the quiet character moments. The only real problem I had with Frank's artwork is that he made Brainiac's organic body look like a cross between Lex Luthor and Barry Bonds. But this is only a minor complaint since I can understand Frank trying to make Brainiac look more like a physical presence than previous incarnations.