Superman Comic Books
Superman: Special Reports
Brainiac - Part 2 (of 3)Author: Sean Hogan (email@example.com)
Last updated: October 7, 2004
Son Of Brainiac!
Meanwhile, in the L.E.G.I.O.N. comic book, we learn that Brainiac has a son. Before his body was destroyed by the Computer Tyrants, Vril Dox created a fully grown clone -- Vril Dox II (the lineage eventually, somehow, leading to Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes). Father and son meet in the 1990 Annuals, beginning in the Adventures of Superman Annual #2 and concluding in L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 Annual #1.
Vril Dox II (call him Dox) has learned that his father has survived and is on Earth as Brainiac. Travelling to our planet leads to a brawl between Superman, Cadmus, and the L.E.G.I.O.N. team. While everyone is distracted, Brainiac takes telepathic control of Cadmus' Dubbilex and uses him to try and destroy the facility.
Brainiac reveals that he has conquered Colu and is using a thought amplification machine to contact them. Dox returns to Colu, where Brainiac attempts to recruit him and, when refused, then to kill him. Brainiac's mental attack on Dox fails. Brainiac temporarily has the upper hand by controlling Dox's teammates, but Superman's arrival leads to Brainiac's defeat. Eventually, Brainiac escapes in his head-ship.
We learn some of Brainiac's background -- but not much on the character's motivations or powers (or the limitations on those powers). Brainiac willingly served the Computer Tyrants until his execution. Through mechanical augmentation, Brainiac can reach across space to control Dubbilex and to communicate with people, but exactly how he was able to conquer Colu is not revealed.
Dox reveals that one of his father's specialties (presumably developed while serving the Computer Tyrants) is "advanced bio-mutational control" (turning people into were-beasts). Brainiac can create mental blasts that can kill or control people and can create mental projections. He has difficulty continuing to control the 7 L.E.G.I.O.N.-aires when Superman leaps into battle with them.
Dox's strength of will is Brainiac's equal, if not more. Dox adds, "We are too close... our minds too similar... for you ever to control me!" Dox is similar to his father in other ways -- as we later discover how Dox has been controlling the planet's population. However, where Dox is brilliantly manipulative, Brainiac seemingly prefers to use brute strength to oppress and defeat. Brainiac uses behind-the-scene manipulation only briefly, as a prelude to an outright attack. He may have been brilliant before his body was destroyed, but he shows few signs of it now. His focus is narrow. He is motivated almost completely by revenge. His tendency to collapse on meeting determined resistance would seem to be due to his mental instability.
Warworld: Panic In The Sky!
Brainiac next appears at the head of a full invasion force on the mobile planet, Warworld. The story is collected in trade paperback as the "Panic In The Sky" (triangle numbers 1992: 8 to 15; Action Comics #674-675, Superman: The Man Of Steel #9-10, Superman #65-66, Adventures of Superman #488-489). Warworld was previously led by Mongul, who was defeated by Superman. Brainiac has taken control and is heading to Earth for revenge on Superman. He has recruited Maxima and, through mind control, Supergirl and several of the New Gods.
Brainiac sends his head-ship to Earth where it attacks Superman. Brainiac boasts that this is only a diversion in the game, to soften up Superman and to let him know that Brainiac remembers. As before, Superman is able to withstand Brainiac's mental attack (with help from some friends), but and learns that Warworld is coming.
Superman recruits the world's heroes to assist him. The fight continues on two fronts. Superman leads a team to Warworld. Batman leads the defence of Earth against warriors transported to it by Brainiac. Slugfests galore ensue -- including heroes against each other as Brainiac gains control over some of them, but the invasion ends when Maxima uses her mental powers to blast Brainiac, making him comatose. She says, "Consider him lobotomized. In any case, that which constituted Brainiac, his very mind... is gone forever."
Throughout the story arc, we are not given any significant insight into the mind of Brainiac. The story is a great action/adventure read, but the purpose is not to explore or offer insight into or development of Brainiac.
There isn't even a recap of Brainiac's origin, let alone any sign of Milton Fine. Brainiac's role is that of the generic alien conqueror (albeit with powers of mental domination).
Since the body shows no sign of life, Metron of the New Gods offers to take it back to New Genesis for study.
Brainiac next appears in the 10-issue "Dead Again!" story arc (triangle numbers 1994:41 to 1994:53; I'm not listing all the issues). Workers fixing the Superman statue (where Superman's body was laid to rest following the Death Of Superman arc) discover that there is still a body in the tomb -- Superman's body. Speculation goes wild as to whether the living long-haired Superman is the real one or another false Superman.
Superman investigates his enemies to try and discover who is responsible for the body. Tests prove that the dead body exactly matches Prof. Hamilton's original examination of Superman before his death. The living
Superman's does not. Superman becomes increasingly frustrated, angry, and violent as he tries to prove that he is the real Superman.
In Superman #95, Superman travels to New Genesis to check on Brainiac. Metron assures Superman that Brainiac is constantly monitored by a Mother Box and that he is confident that Brainiac will never function again. Superman's further investigations prove fruitless.
In anger, Superman steals the corpse and battles the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, almost delivering a killing blow to Maggie Sawyer (Action Comics #705). He believes that he is trapped in an illusion -- he can't trust his senses. His outcry that "I'M GOING OUT OF MY MIIIIIND!!" (yes, I counted the five I's) reverberates all the way to New Genesis where...
We learn that Brainiac is responsible. Brainiac easily defeats the New Gods with mental blasts and teleports himself to Earth. Before he leaves New Genesis, Brainiac mutates himself -- his head growing large, with the exterior showing the contours of his brain. Brainiac claims that he only appeared to be in a coma -- he was actually in a trance to grow and change; to become stronger and more powerful. He says Superman's madness was the first step, to break his will. Brainiac continues his indirect attack, using agents and illusions to madden and confuse Superman. He reveals himself when Superman figures out that it must be Brainiac (Superman: The Man Of Steel #40 and Superman #96).
The storyline concludes in Adventures of Superman #513. Brainiac reanimates "dead Superman" saying, "unlike some of my other attacks, this one does not depend on your belief for its success". Brainiac's power drives this one. Brainiac also attacks Superman personally. But when Superman tells Brainiac that he is only Milton Fine and smashes Brainiac's forcefield, the villain, looking disoriented, collapses, mumbling that no one defeats Brainiac.
When Brainiac regains consciousness, it is a confused Milton Fine in control of the body. He has no recollection of past events and believes that he has had too much drink again. When he looks in a window's reflection, he sees Milton's original body, rather than Brainiac's. Prof. Hamilton theorizes that when Brainiac realized that he was about to be defeated, his mind convinced itself that he was not Brainiac, and he became Milton Fine again.
Despite some interesting concepts, I just cannot recommend the "Dead Again!" storyline. It didn't get any better on re-reading either. First, I just can't accept that Superman would lose it so thoroughly -- even to the point of almost killing both Maggie Sawyer and Lois. I might have been grudgingly accepting if there had been a suggestion that Brainiac was influencing Superman by reducing his inhibitions and telepathically enhancing his anger. There isn't. Brainiac's plan is to put Superman in circumstances designed to confuse, frustrate or anger him. This should not have worked -- Superman has been in uncountable situations where, despite enormous pressures, he manages to maintain his calm.
Second, Brainiac's power levels and his sudden collapse at the end are just inconsistent. While in a coma/trance on New Genesis, his subconscious influenced everyone on distant Earth into believing there was a corpse (after he is defeated, all the pictures of the coffin show it empty); he completely fools the New Gods and the Mother Box; he defeats them with a thought; he wields tremendous powers without any sign of weakness or exhaustion -- until Superman comes at him personally and starts calling him names.
It would be nice to see more complex characterization and motivation for Brainiac -- as well as some consistency in his mental powers. Or at least to deal with his tendency to collapse when Superman stares at him and says "Boo!"