Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review: Action Comics 868


I don’t know if words can easily say how much I am enjoying Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. Sure the Superman stories are great as they slowly but surely bring back some Silver Age elements but giving them a 21st century makeover.

But it is clear that he has a love of Supergirl. The scenes she has been in show an understanding of her character: strong and determined but also innocent. One might say she is even a bit naive of Earth culture still. The Johns’ Kara is instantly likeable.

This issue continues that trend. The issue opens with what is most likely the prologue to the Cat Grant/Supergirl feud. We see Cat strolling around the Planet talking about how much she loves to ruin the lives of young not-so-morally-sound starlets. The fact that Cat is also parading around in the questionable attire she condemns in the young stars is great irony. Following her around are a bunch of admiring men all willing to do Cat’s bidding. That is … they are until they see something else which makes them say ‘wow’.


What they see is Supergirl, who has flown to the Planet to ostensibly find Clark, but really she is looking for Superman who last issue flew into space to find Braniac.


Look at how Frank contrasts the clearly provocative allure of Cat to the ‘girl next door’ beauty of Kara here. There is nothing ‘sexy’ about Supergirl here. She is just pretty in a natural way, without the anatomic exaggeration we often see in comics.

The men turning their attention to Supergirl irks Cat to no end. As does Supergirl calling her ‘Ma’am.’ And so does this great interaction, where Kara notices Cat’s implants (I am sure as she is scanning the building for Clark).


Luckily, Lois comes along to extricate Supergirl from this awkward interaction, telling Kara that is not wise to antagonize Cat. She should instead just smile and say bye, which Kara does.


Despite this getaway, it looks like the damage is done. Cat is definitely NOT happy.

On the roof of the planet Supergirl shows her concern asking the million dollar question to Lois …

Before we move on, I again have to say that *this* characterization of Kara is just great. She is innocent but not stupid. She is still new to Earth and so I am sure doesn’t know yet all social conventions. And she is concerned about Kal. She is funny, likeable, and heroic … something she hasn’t always been in her own title.

But where is her cousin? Well, he’s trapped in Brainiac’s satellite being experimented on.

Brainiac seems to be able to tap into Kal's memories which awakens Superman. Superman is able to free himself. As he searches Brainiac's ship, he discovers Kandor.


Superman finally confronts the ‘real’ Brainiac and he is a bruiser. This isn’t the skinny robot in a polo shirt from the 60's and 70's. This is a physically impressive specimen as well as a ruthless organism, collecting data and using that (it seems) to evolve himself into a stronger and stronger being. He shrugs off a couple of Superman punches and heat vision before doling out some punishment of his own. I mean, look at the guns on him!


Brainiac states that when he plugged into Superman’s mind he learned not only of Earth’s location but the existence of Supergirl. Much like the Timm-verse animated Brainiac, this Brainiac wants to capture a planet’s culture and knowledge and then destroy the planet. Thus, Brainiac will be the only receptacle, the only benefactor of that knowledge. He charts a course for Earth and arrives.

As Kara witnessed his attack on Krypton, she seems appropriately frightened.

This simply was a great read from beginning to end. Sure, I was most partial to the Supergirl scenes. But Johns seems to have a grasp of the Superman mythos and is able to make old concepts (Brainiac, Kandor) seem fresh. These issues have never felt rushed or padded to fit some ‘6 issue ready for trade’ market. And Frank's art is the best I have seen it. It seems to have a 'sketchier' feel to it with Jon Sibal's inks ... with lots more small detail lines and cross-hatching than I remember from his Supergirl issues from 1996. Still, it is spectacular. He draws Kara so beautifully. And her body looks healthy and normally proportioned for a teenage girl. Just impressive.

And Supergirl fans should be thrilled. It seems that she will be integrated but not consumed within the super-titles. I have to trust that Johns protégé Gates will make her as independent and appealing as she has been here.

Overall grade: A

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome review! I'm planning to go to the comic book store and read the next few issues.

-ealperin

Heath Edwards said...

this was a good read, and kara's appearance made it even better...

Anj said...

Awesome review! I'm planning to go to the comic book store and read the next few issues.

Thanks for the post.

I highly recommend this run. This will dovetail into the New Krypton story too.

Anj said...

this was a good read, and kara's appearance made it even better...

Thanks for the post.

I agree, even without the Kara scenes this would be a good issue. But the Kara scenes put it over the top. And it is clear Johns has a clear idea of what her personality is. I am pumped.

Mike said...

I liked her comment to Lois that she's supposed to be protecting Kal. It's why she was sent to Earth, and the fact that Kal ended up physically older than her hasn't changed her view of her mission. That's the Kara I've been wanting to see.

TalOs said...

Same here!

Oh and just wanted to say that this blog RAWKS and to keep up the great work too, anj!

Anj said...

I liked her comment to Lois that she's supposed to be protecting Kal. It's why she was sent to Earth, and the fact that Kal ended up physically older than her hasn't changed her view of her mission. That's the Kara I've been wanting to see.

Yeah, that was a nice moment and almost got scanned but I was afraid the post was getting too long.

Kara just seems like she wants to do the right thing in these moments in Action Comics. It also was very sweet, as if Superman needs protection ... but that was what she was sent to do.

Anj said...

Oh and just wanted to say that this blog RAWKS and to keep up the great work too, anj!

Thanks for the kind words and the post.

I love doing the blog and glad others are enjoying it too.

Anonymous said...

I always thought Gary Frank drew a good Supergirl back inthe PAD era, but not a great Supergirl.
He has vastly improves since then!!!
If it me or does he deliberately draw her to look like Laura Vandervoort? And he seems to draw Superman to look a lot like Chris Reeve....

Whatever, the art on this series alone makes me geek out, let alone the superlative writing.

Anj said...

I always thought Gary Frank drew a good Supergirl back inthe PAD era, but not a great Supergirl.
He has vastly improves since then!!!
If it me or does he deliberately draw her to look like Laura Vandervoort? And he seems to draw Superman to look a lot like Chris Reeve....


I really loved his Supergirl with PAD. I do think this is the best art he had done.

There in no denying the Reeve appearance of Superman. At times I do see some Vandervoort in his Kara, but not as obviously as the Reeve stuff.

Anonymous said...

Well all I am saying is that back on his PAD SG run, Gary had a tendency towards a Brian Bolland-ish sort of stiffness. That is all gone now and for the better IMHO.

John Feer

Anj said...

Well all I am saying is that back on his PAD SG run, Gary had a tendency towards a Brian Bolland-ish sort of stiffness. That is all gone now and for the better IMHO.

Thanks for the posts.

I agree with you. When I wrote 'I do think this is the best art he had done' I meant his stuff on Action. I agree he has improved with more dynamic images now.

His PAD Supergirl was a much more statuesque super-heroine as opposed to this Kara.