Epic may be too heady a word for the story that has run through the past six issues of “Action Comics,” but it fits. If this story had been told through the lens of a movie camera, it would have been epic. Epic in budget, effects, and, more importantly, box office receipts.
This story served two purposes. It provided Superman with an updated version of his second most well-known foe: Brainiac. Additionally, it served notice that not every Superman story has to be touched by Lex Luthor, a lesson other media seem to have forgotten when translating the Man of Steel.
I jumped on board with the Brainiac story which started in #866, after not reading “Action Comics” regularly for nearly a decade. Gary Frank’s work brought me in, but the overall story made me stay. During this arc, I tracked down the preceding story (in hardcover format, “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes”) and got completely caught up on the goings-on and derring-do provided by the tandem of Johns and Frank. While that was not necessary, it definitely added a little more flavor to this story, and made the ending a little more relevant. (A quick aside: the Kubert-supplied variant cover doesn’t feature Clark, like Frank’s does, but rather focuses on Supergirl.)
As was spoiled earlier, Superman loses someone very close to him in this issue. The method of this character’s demise is not the Earth-shattering kaboom that writers of late have driven into cliché, but is rather a sad fade away that Superman could have helped stave off, had he just been a little more, well, super.
And therein lies the pathos. Johns set out to show how Brainiac and Superman differed as aliens. Both are from far-flung worlds seeking cause from other planets, but that’s where it stops. Nurture comes into play and Superman is shown here as equal parts Super and Man. At the end of the story, Clark is delayed in reacting to stop a single death as he stands in awe of a myriad of returned lives.
This issue puts a nice bow on the Brainiac story, but truly does not wrap things up so much as advance them. We do not see a final fate of Brainiac, nor do we learn what Superman did with the dozens of other bottled cities. What we do see, however, is the close of one book in Superman’s supporting cast and the opening of the long-awaited “New Krypton” story set to dominate the Supertitles in the next few months.
In this issue, this comic lives up to its title, “Action Comics.” Now if Hollywood would just learn a thing or two, borrow a page or twenty-two, and realize what a great Superman movie could truly be.