Review by Win Wiacek
Since his first appearance in 1958, robotic alien reaver Brainiac has been a perennial favourite foe of the Man of Steel, and has remained so even through being subsequently retooled many times. Brilliant and relentless, the one thing he/it has never been is really scary – until this latest re-imagining from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
Brainiac is a computerised intellect from planet Colu who inhabited and transformed the body of showbiz mentalist Milton Fine. That is, until it grew beyond physical limits to become a time-travelling ball of malignant computer code, constructing or co-opting ever-more formidable physical forms in its self-appointed mission to eradicate Superman. However, in this slim but evocative tome the truth is finally revealed… or if you prefer, edited into a sensible scenario combining the best of dozens of previous plot strands.
Long ago, an alien invader attacked Krypton: merciless and relentless robotic berserkers slaughtered hundreds of citizens before physically removing the entire city of Kandor. Decades later, one of those robots lands on Earth only to promptly fall before the Man of Tomorrow’s shattering fists. We learn every Brainiac Superman has ever faced has only been a pale shadow of the true villain. They’ve been autonomous automatic probes and programming ghosts of a malevolent entity that has stalked the universe for centuries, stealing representative cities before destroying the redundant worlds they once thrived upon. Most importantly, the real Brainiac has now found Earth, and what nobody realises is that the Cosmic Kidnapper has been scouring the cosmos ever since Krypton died. He actually wants to possess every last son and daughter of that long-dead world and neither time nor distance will hinder him.
Geoff Johns was at the forefront of the creative movement to restore and rationalize DC’s mythology, and by combining a modern sensibility with the visual flavour of Ridley Scott’s Alien movies here added a tangible aura of terror to the wide-eyed imagination and wonder of those old and much-loved tales. The visceral, gloriously hyper-realistic art of Gary Frank inked by John Sibal adds to the unease, and their deft touch with the welcome tension-breaking comedic breaks is a sheer delight.
This is a Superman yarn anybody can pick up, irrespective of their familiarity – or lack of – with the character: fast, thrilling, spooky and deeply moving, for all that it’s also the introduction to major event New Krypton – but that’s a tale and review for another time.