Best Shots Extra: Action Comics #870

Best Shots Extra: Action Comics #870

Action Comics #870

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Gary Frank with Jon Sibal & Bit

Published by DC Comics

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I don't know why I was so mournful about the recent conclusion of the Man of Steel's best series, All Star Superman. Everything I look for in a quality Superman book can be found in Action Comics. Without a doubt, since Geoff Johns took over this book, and especially since the art assignment was handed to Gary Frank, Action Comics has more than lived up to its name month in, month out.

A testament to the solid work found in Action Comics #870 is that the outcome has been preordained for a while now ("New Krypton," anyone?) but the journey there is no less compelling, moving and enjoyable to follow. Fans for the last couple of years have debated how a Superman epic could best be depicted for the big screen after the arguably ponderous, navel-gazing Superman Returns failed to blow everyone's mind. I would offer this issue alone as Exhibit A to Warner Bros. in taking a good, hard look for how to introduce an interesting new villain to the live-action arena while giving Superman something to punch. Johns & Frank's multi-part "Brainiac" is superheroic storytelling at its apex. If nothing else, Johns can add Brainiac to his impressive résumé of villains for whom he has restored their relevance in the DC Universe. The ruthless Coluan conqueror has not kicked so much ass since Marv Wolfman & Gil Kane breathed new metallic life into him 25 years ago (in this very title, by the way!).

Not that there's a lack of precedence, but one thing I gleaned from this issue is that Superman is capable of delivering street-level justice to an opponent just as easily as Batman or Hawkman (the latter, not coincidentally reinvented by Johns). Clark doesn't even play nice, offering Brainiac some particularly vicious blows during the course of this final chapter. Gary Frank is an artist with a deft hand for this sort of no-holds-barred violence, his intense pencils getting clean finishes by the duo of Jon Sibal and Bit. The Daily Planet staff takes a back seat to other supporting cast this time around, Supergirl and the Kents getting more attention, but needless to say what transpires over the last half-dozen pages will resonate for years to come. Oddly enough the covers for the "Brainiac" storyline seemed to be one step ahead of the tale told inside, but anyone that's paid attention to certain nuances over the last few months has likely braced themselves for an epic change in the status quo suggested in Action Comics #870's last page.

For a story that's really all over the place for 22 pages -- Earth, the sun, Metropolis, Smallville, the Fotress of Solitude -- it's an action-packed romp with nary a wasted page while nothing feels too rushed. The Supergirl restoration project here, and now in her own book (loads of potential there as evidenced by Supergirl #34), is going full speed ahead as Kal-El offers just the right advice to his cousin before she has to save the imperiled Earth in riveting fashion. Even when the Daily Planet gets one choice panel just to show how the characters are faring there, it's a worthy culmintation of the scenes there dating back to the first chapter of "Brainiac." For the story's titular character, it's a grand return to form for one one Superman's most notorious yet underappreciated villains, and they definitely need to hold on to this iteration for a good long time. The creative team for Action Comics is 2-for-2 in story arcs that have resuscitated dormant characters (the Legion of Super-Heroes before this). Has anyone considered taking another look at Terra Man?

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