Some of the preview comments about this issue make it seem like Brainy might know Supergirl from another timeline ... maybe the pre-Crisis Earth-1 Kara? But I didn't think that at all. I thought we were dealing with characters from different time periods who are interacting with each other at different points in their lives, but all on the same timeline. I know ... I am confused typing it and I wrote it. I'll try to explain what I mean as this review moves along. The good news is there is more interplay between the two characters to come ... guaranteed.
I really think Sterling Gates does a nice job with the two characters here. I just get the sense he has an appreciation for the history of Supergirl and Brainiac 5 together.
One thing I was worried about was that Supergirl might be lost in this Last Stand issue (the way she was sort of a bystander in the Supergirl issue of Codename:Patriot). Those worries were unfounded. While this is a Last Stand issue, and it does move the bigger story arc forward, Supergirl is the primary focus in the book.
We start the issue looking at the big picture of Last Stand. As seen at the end of Adventure Comics #10, Zod and his soldiers have escaped Kandor, enlarged to normal size, and free on Brainiac's ship.
I can't get enough of Ursa. She is deliciously malicious, saying the wailing cries of fear from the bottled cities are 'motivating'. But look at that smile. I think she is thinking they are 'stimulating'. She is a predator. She doesn't deal in deception and guile like Zod. You always know where you stand with Ursa.
With that stage set, we finally see Supergirl and Brainy. And immediately we get the sense that their relationship will have the headaches and paradoxes that 'time travel' stories usually do.
After a standard condescending Brainiac 5 comment, Supergirl thinks to herself that he is a jerk.
Then Brainy thinks 'she told me the first time she met me she thought I was a jerk.' So this isn't the first time he has met her ... even though this is the first time she has met him. Classic time travel craziness.
Brainy's arrogance and aloofness leads Supergirl to think that the Coluan doesn't like her. Odd, since he chose her to go with him on this mission when the Legion split up. She just senses he has a problem with her.
That couldn't be farther from the truth.
In a brief moment alone, Brainy reveals how hard it is to be near Supergirl ... how much he loves her ... how hard it was when she dies.
My first reaction was maybe he was remembering the death of the 'original' Supergirl, her dying in the Crisis.
But then I realized that Brainy is looking back at Supergirl's life historically. Of course he would know Kara dies at some point. What is hard to know from his words is if he was there when she died.
But I don't know any Supergirl fans who want to hear about her dying again. We are all a bit antsy after the Crisis. We don't even joke about it.
After being omnipresent in the book for almost a year, Reactron hasn't been seen in Supergirl #47. At the end of that issue (which feels like a lifetime ago given everything that has happened in this book since), Alura had faked Reactron's death so she could torture him for information.
It turns out he has been tortured ... and hasn't given Commander Gor the information he wants.
In a sudden turn of the tables, Luthor shows up in the miniaturized Kandor. Lex wastes no time in perforating Gor's chest, killing him. I have to say I won't shed many tears for the boorish and sadistic Gor who always seemed to have the wrong thing to say at the wrong time.
In what is a surprise, this turns out not to be a rescue mission. Luthor isn't there to release Reactron. He is there for something else.
Chances that something else is Reactron's Gold Kryptonite heart? 95%
But more on Luthor later.
Battling their way through Brainiac's satellite, Supergirl just can't shake the feeling she has met Brainiac 5 before. Brainy tries to figure out if indeed Supergirl has met him already but that her memories of the future are being masked by Saturn Girl's mental blocks. I wondered if it was some memories from her time with the other Brainiac 5 (from the Waid/Kitson Legion). Or is it some resonating feeling from prior continuities.
At the very least, they may be memories from the first time Brainy (a younger him) met Supergirl ... a story teased for this fall's Supergirl Annual #2. Two stories representing both sides of 'the first Brainiac5/Supergirl story'? Sounds perfect for such a convoluted chronal relationship.
At least we know what is in store for the Annual. If Jamal Igle is too busy, any guesses on who the artist should be?
Brainiac 5 continues to deny having met Supergirl, even to the point of saying no records of her career exist in the future. Be he slips, calling her Linda Lang and Superman's cousin. It would be hard to know those facts if no records are around.
How is it that a 12th level intelligence make such a boneheaded mistake? Maybe he is flustered around her. Historically, we have seen Brainy stammer and sputter around Supergirl in many stories. Why should this incarnation be different?
Supergirl doesn't like the deception though. Maybe Brainy is hiding something? Maybe he is a threat? There are some nice echoes here back to that first comic meeting in Action Comics #276.
Before she can deck him, Brainiac I flushes them out. Staying one step ahead of the satellites defenses (the dreaded Visper Phages), Brainy divulges why he needed Supergirl with him. Only she would have the power to smash the satellite's power core. Not an elegant plan by any means.
I love how Brainy tries to rationalize it by saying "you can't outhink a fist." And I love Kara's exasperated response "what does that even mean?"
It reminded me of Kurt Russell's character Jack Burton in John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China. Burton was always befuddled at the 'wisdom' being thrown at him. He also said 'what does that even mean' when someone told him 'China is here, Mr. Burton.' I can think of no higher compliment than if someone's work reminds me of Big Trouble.
Brainiac 5 implores her to destroy the reactor while he attempts to hold off the Phages. Supergirl adds her own wrinkle to the plan. Assuming that Brainy's force field belt can take the punishment, she carries him with her as she become a battering ram, smashing the satellite's power core. Mission accomplished.
I was glad to see that Matt Camp's great cover was based on an actual event in the book.
Success doesn't make Kara forget all the earlier subterfuge by Brainiac 5. She wants answers and is willing to wring them out of Brainy if she has to.
He tells Kara that she needs to trust her friends who care about her. And she needs to trust him. That said, he can't tell her anything about her future. She needs to live her own life. After hearing so many people tell her how she should be living her life, it must be nice for Supergirl to have someone say she needs to discover her own future.
Supergirl finds it and his brooding ways 'kinda cute'. And while she might not say that, Brainy knows she finds it cute and starts to trust him from there on because at some point in his past (and her future) she told him so.
I can imagine it is hard to write these scenes ... trying to capture that initial magic and chemistry that leads to attraction and romance. But I think Gates does a good job showing how Brainiac 5 could pique Supergirl's interest.
And thanks to her efforts, the reactor is shut down, Brainiac's satellite's force field is down, and Superman is suddenly back on the playing field. On board, Luthor emerges from Kandor and grabs a bottle city for himself.
This was such an interesting issue for me and I credit Sterling Gates for keeping me guessing. As an old school Supergirl fan, I was ready for a Kara and Brainy to be together again. And I was hoping that this would be an old-fashioned romance .. a happy reimagination. Instead, we get just the earliest sparks from Supergirl. We also get outright fatalism from Brainiac 5. In his mind, the relationship is literally over before it has even begun.
This wasn't rainbows on roses and whiskers on kittens. This was bittersweet ... bordering on sad. That was unexpected ... and therefore appreciated. And I can understand that sadness in Brainiac 5. I have seen it in the immediate post-Crisis issues.
It reminds me so much of this panel from JLA #12 (by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter). When time travel gets involved it can be difficult to explain variances with 3 dimensional language. I cannot give a comic a higher compliment than to say it reminds me of Morrison's famed JLA run.
While I know we have the remainder of Last Stand and the next Annual to look forward to, but I sincerely hope we see even more of this relationship. Brainy certainly talks like there is 'history' .. not just a couple of adventures together.
Outside of this interesting first take on the Brainy/Kara romance, I would be remiss if I didn't say that this was another good Last Stand issue with things continuing to move forward.
Guest artist Ivan Rodriguez does a fine job here. His Supergirl looks more like a young woman. I also like that he tweaked her S-shield, making it a unique symbol for Kara.
Overall grade: A/B+