Superman: Brainiac

March 21, 2010

This is how falling from the heights of Mount Everest feels like. After the superior first collaboration on Superman and The Legion of Superheroes, the Geoff Johns-Gary Frank pairing comes crashing down with this most unfortunate volume. The story re-introduces Brainiac — apparently the real Brainiac, with all earlier varying versions explained away as mere emissary probes. He turns out to be brains plus ripping brawns, looking like Bat-breaking Bane with the head of Lex Luther or, perhaps in an aptly more disconnected way, of Star Trek‘s Captain Picard-Locutus. Indeed, the whole interior of Brainiac’s skull-ship resembles the neo-gothic inside of the Borg cube with its Giger-esque bio-mechanical feel. We are certainly seeing probably the scariest Brainiac in Superman history although the ease with which he is defeated — by having this mysophobe dragged through some earth mud — leaves much to be desired.

The fact is — and I’ll be lying if I say something else — the poorness of this story lies squarely on Johns’s titanic shoulders. Frank with inker Jon Sibal have done their part sensationally and almost in desperation to lift the comic to their own expectation of consistency. You see this on every page, with the powerful angles, fresh characterisation, and very raw beauty punching out. Johns, however, may be a top-notch and rightly revered talent often beaming with the most wonderfully obvious and loving ideas, but this volume is uncharacteristic. It shows potential but also laziness, with so many splash panels and pages with minimal text that you can almost imagine his script repeatedly inviting Frank to “just use your imagination to depict [insert sequence]”. It feels like oh-so-many mediocre sci-fi movie sequels (eg. Matrix 2 and 3, Transformers 2) where much is left to the visuals people to make action and noise cover up the hollowness of a writing peppered with unanswered questions and cheap tricks. Even Grant Morrison’s bare-bone one-chapter engagement with Clarke and Pa Kent’s relationship in All-Star Superman emanates with more sophistication that this one. Johns is still lucky enough to have competent partners: who knows how more conspicuously embarrassing this disaster might have been if placed in the hands of lesser artists?

Gweek casts 6 Kryptonian stones at this book.


One Response to “Superman: Brainiac”

  1. ~autolycus Says:

    A mysorabble attempt. 😀

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