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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #861 Action Comics #861

Action Comics #861

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 30, 2008

Cover date: March 2008


Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

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Superman and company face Brainiac 5, who rebukes Superman when he brings up the time sphere. He then sends his associate robots out, and reveals that he is, in fact, only playing evil.

Brainy informs them that Earth and the United Planets are about to go to war, and that he has a spy in the Justice League of Earth's camp.

After a series of anectdotes with other members of the Justice League of Earth, we see Earth-Man absorb powers from the captured members of the Legion.

A little girl observes, and finds Sun-Boy powering his ending. Earth-Man captures the girl observing, and reveals her to be Chameleon Girl.

Chameleon Girl's husband gets upset, and scuffles with Brainy, but Superman stops them and musters the Legion. As he does, Brainiac's footsoldiers return, realizing he's been playing possum, attacking just as they escape in a rocket.

2Story - 2: This story is dragging on a bit long for me. I understand we're in the age of decompression, and I understand that six issues make a trade, but there's really not all that much compelling here to me. I'm just... not a huge Legion fan. I have made a concerted effort to be, but there are so many characters that I just can't identify with any one of them really, not that much. It's like why I stopped reading X-Men save ones that parsed it down to core figures I recognize and know very well.

The writing is good, the story is not to my liking, which is frustrating as hell, because I WANT to give this a good rating, but my honest level of enjoyment was down on this one.

There are also a few storytelling flubs that stuck out. The first major one was the fact that Superman is under a red sun, and weak enough to be shot through the hand, and yet he still flies, late in this issue. The second, and one that really made me go, "Ah...huh?" was the fact that 75 percent of universes suddenly jumped from one sun type to another. A red sun.

As I believe "Return to Krypton" pointed out very well, when a normal human is suddenly dropped into a universe with a red sun, their mass increases exponentially and they almost instantly die. In the story, I think they spread it out for a bit, but it's a hard sell even in the far future to imagine a universe could have its sun suddenly change without everyone dying.

Beyond that, it's Brainiac, the smartest in the group as I understand it, who misses this somehow. He's like, "Superman, you're... tired!"

Seventh level intelligence my #%%.

Beyond that, there are the typical Johns-style character moments, like the girl rejecting the guy in the suit, and the "Long Live Humans!" shpiel, but one, it's already been established, and two, it's with characters I have no real palpable backstory on, so it's not as fun as it is in JSA.

But the biggest thing which knocks this story down for me, honestly, is the fact that this book is a Legion story that guest-stars Superman, not a Superman story with the Legion in it. Though there is a wonderful moment where Superman gathers the troops, all in all, Superman is only in half of this book. Count the pages. And if you count pages where Superman isn't focal, it's more. This is, quite clearly, Johns doing a Legion book. And if he wants to do that, GREAT. I'd even buy it. He's one of the few artists who, if they were writing Legion, would have my bucks.

But I bought a Superman book. I want a Superman story. Not a Legion story Superman enhances.

You all know me. Geoff Johns is one of my darlings who can do no wrong... so understand I say all of the above with a strict deference to how much I enjoy his work. But in this case... sadly... not as much as usual.

4Art - 4: Frank is really awesome with expression, and I like the way he brings a distinction to each character. His details, also, are incredibly awesome. I want to see him doing major Superman villains, I really do, and I can't wait to see his take on Brainiac and etcetera.

My one major complaint is that there are a lot of panels that involve a character and virtually no background. Much of an artist's talent is lost to me when the backgrounds are missing beyond really, really poignant moments and revelations. Otherwise, it smacks of either laziness or people standing in space, which pulls me out of scenes. Still, this occurs sparsely, and is more than made up for in the crazy-good detail pages.

5Cover Art - 5: Creepy, awesome, and relevant to the events in the story. And, get this... Superman is not going: "Must... escape... tentacles!" as he would have on many books of late.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2008

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