It’s part two of the Brainiac storyline and Supergirl is on hand to guest – she even gets her own logo and backstory caption on the splash page. In a nice touch, she’s described as ‘fighting for truth, justice and the Kryptonian way’. Kara is further contrasted with cousin Kal as we see that she has memories of Brainiac taking Kandor in the days before Krypton died – and she’s terrified. And the horror was personal, as her best friend, one Thora Ak-Var (in the Silver Age she was Kandorian scientist Van Zee’s niece), was in the city.
I like that the people of Krypton, in this version, never knew that Brainiac stole the city and shrunk it, along with its inhabitants, down into a bottle; it adds to the mystery, and tragedy of Kandor. I also like Supergirl explaining to Superman that in all the ‘Brainiacs’ he’s met, he’s likely never encountered the real one – it’s about time the current Supergirl was occasionally shown being the one with specific knowledge, not Superman. Most of all I like Kara absent-mindedly frying the Brainiac drone Superman has captured with her heat vision – this reminds us that Supergirl’s powers are still new to her, and shows the fear, and anger, elicited by Brainiac.
Family is an important theme this month. We move from Superman comforting Kara to telling his parents about Brainiac – he knows his parents will worry, but their closeness won’t allow him to lie to them, even for their own peace of mind. Pa and Clark share a few father/son memories, and while I could have done without the couple of pages they took up (surely everyone knows the back story?), it piles on the poignancy if a sad inevitability many suspect is on its way does indeed occur sooner rather than later.
Then it’s over to Metropolis, where Mrs Kent is hoping to prevent recently returned gossip girl Cat Grant from running a piece slagging off Kara. Gary Frank and Jon Sibal demonstrate their Lois and Clark gets better by the month – they’re not photo-realistic, they’re comics realistic, and that’s what I like. The husband and wife reporting team are attractive, and they look intelligent, something very few artists can convey.
Memo to Geoff Johns: ‘That’s enough Steve Lombard. Ed.’ Seriously, while I’m glad to see a familiar face from the Bronze Age (perhaps even Golden Age, if we factor in Steve Bard), a little Lombard goes a long way. We don’t need to see him harassing Planet colleagues with crap gags every issue; that way lies boredom for the reader, and dismissal for Lombard.(There’s an idea, get rid of the big bum and bring back WGBS chat show host Steve Nevada!)
The action this issue comes when Superman finds Brainiac’s drones attacking another planet and, finally, encounters his ship. It’s a hard scrap, and not one Superman wins. It’s also one that’s not as clear as it might be – Frank’s pencils are gorgeous, but I had to study the panels a few times to work out what (I think) was going on towards the end of the issue. I think a rocket from Brainiac’s drone ship shoots off the planet, into the sun, and blows back towards the world, exploding it and killing those inhabitants not already taken and (presumably) shrunk. But I was put off by a panel of Superman (apparently) randomly looking back at the alien city in between shots of the rocket bomb. If I have the wrong interpretation, please share! Honestly, I’m not great with silent panels, and much prefer someone giving me expository dialogue – Superman should take Krypto everywhere,to have someone to explain things to. Heck, I’d settle for Johnny Nevada.
The final page is powerful, and bodes well for next issue. Despite my quibbles, the creatives are firing on all cylinders – a special shout-out this month to colourist Brad Anderson, whose unashamedly bright colours are perfect for a Superman book.
Now, bring on Brainiac – the real one.