Monday, April 04, 2011

Superman: Brainiac

I've been a fan of Gary Frank since near the beginning of his career. His early work on Hulk would end up eclipsing superstar Dale Keown's fervent re-invigoration of the title, and it was Frank who would set the character's signature style for years to come. He would hop around titles quite a bit after that, with the occasional creator-owned work like Kin filling in the gaps. And of course his time on Gen13 is near and dear to me, marking a period of the book that was the most mature it's ever been, this in spite of the immaturity required of the series.

It was only to my joy to see that what I feel is his best work has exploded in the last couple of years. When I first saw a fill-in of his on Superman, my first thought was an odd familiarity mixed with an artistic excitement that rarely comes over me. Probably not unlike many comics followers, I said to myself, "This is Gary Frank?" Indeed it was and on further inspection it had all of his qualities encased in a hard-edged, crisp determination that fit Superman like a glove. Thankfully more than a few recognized this as well, and Frank was soon onto producing story arcs and regular covers. Frank is currently oft-aided no less deftly by Jon Sibal, a highly skilled (and adaptable) inker in his own right.

With Superman: Brainiac, we are treated to a re-introduction of the titular villain that is one of the best. Writer Geoff Johns continues his path on quilting the DCU from his personal whole cloth, which I've found questionable on more than one occasion. But I do have to say, when he gets it, he gets it. It's a very powerful and driven version of Superman and Clark Kent, facing off against a Brainiac that's every bit as cunning, calculated, and ruthless as one would expect him to be. Some riveting conflicts and truly great battle scenes lead to a tragic end, where the climax of Superman and Brainiac's rivalry shadows the far away death of Pa Kent. The theme of Superman not being able to save everyone has been seen many times-- here the combination of story and art make it one of the more memorable ones.

Again, enough can't be said of Frank's work on these chapters. His Superman's features ever-so-slightly invoke the memory Christopher Reeve with an effortless consistency that can only be the mark of a master artist. All of his characters are great, from Lois Lane to Supergirl, and the supporting cast as well. Rarely is a villain as one-note as Brainiac been represented with a depiction of power that matches his eerie state of being. The fight scenes are just fantastic to look at. And all the moments in between-- the whole book is a visual treat from start to finish.

Oh, and everything said above can also be said of Superman and the Legion of Superheroes, which is even better!

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