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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Superman: Brainiac

Superman is on my radar at the moment, so I'm trying to catch up on his pre-New Krypton adventures before plunging into that many-issue storyline. Which brings us to Superman: Brainiac [DC; $19.99], a slim hardcover book reprinting Action Comics #866-870 and an epilogue from Superman: New Krypton Special #1. Five comics and change for twenty bucks isn't a super-bargain, but neither is the volume overpriced.

Superman has never met the real Brainiac. That's the starting point of this story by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank and inker Jon Sibal. When he and we do meet the real Brainiac, he's the scariest interpretation of the villain ever. There is genuine horror to be experienced watching Brainiac as he slaughters entire worlds in the name of his own evolution. He's more terrifying than Galactus, albeit in a much more personal manner.

Johns and Frank don't stint on the super-hero stuff either. They have plenty of action and just enough truly brutal action to keep the horror keen. There are wonderful moments for every member of the cast, including newly returned Daily Planet employees Cat Grant and Steve Lombard. There's even a major development in the Man of Steel's life. Whereas many of today's super-hero serials are padded to fill out a collection, this particular story unfolds at a good pace and delivers a complete adventure.

If I have a quibble - and I do - it's that Superman doesn't really have a plan when he goes after Brainiac. That skirts my aversion to smart characters doing stupid things for the sake of the plot. If the writing weren't otherwise so good, if the art was less than sensational, this might have been a deal-breaker for me. But the writing and art were that good.

Superman: Brainiac picks up an impressive four out of five Tonys. More Superman reviews coming soon.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Our web-wizard Justin is back from the Chicago Comic-Con, so TOT is back as well. I haven't been checking the news sites, but, just as there were announcements of upcoming comics projects at the San Diego Comic-Con, I'm sure there was news coming out of Chicago as well. I suspect it will leave me as unmoved as the news which came out of SDCC.

It's me. With rare exception, I'm not interested in the news items about movies, TV shows, toys, or video games. Several folks e-mailed me that Black Lightning will appear in the direct-to-DVD Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but my sole interest there is that DC will have to pay me something for that appearance. The whole "BL working for Luthor but really working for Batman" left me cold in its comic-book incarnation. Instead of doing anything at all interesting with my creation then, it was just another case of Bats saying "Jump" and Lightning asking "How high?" Small wonder I've little confidence in the editorial management at DC.

The announcement of Doc Savage and other pulp magazine heroes being published by DC, as well as the announcement the company will publish new Thunder Agents comics, didn't excite me either. DC has a habit of securing rights to characters more to keep others from doing with them than to do great comics with them. I would rather have seen these characters, as well as the Milestone and MLJ heroes published by almost any other outfit. Which is not to say I won't be swift to eat my words should DC do something wonderful with any or all of the above.

I'm somewhat more interested in the news that Dark Horse will be publishing Doctor Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter, Mighty Samson, and Turok...and that Jim Shooter will be writing most of these new titles. Shooter has done great work, so-so work, and awful work, but I think he's a good match for these characters, especially if he can resist the urge to tie them all together. Gold Key, their original publisher, treated each title as complete unto itself and that worked well. Shooter should embrace the challenge of writing four separate universes.

What SDCC news did excite me? I was thrilled to learn classic Archie and Nancy material will be reprinted by several publishers. I was equally delighted to learn Jeff Smith will be creating new Bone comics and that Kurt Busiek's Astro City will be coming our way monthly. Those are known qualities, as in "I know they'll be quality books and I know I'll want to read them."

My interest/disinterest comes down to this:

Don't tell me how good your new comic books are going to be. Talk is cheap and hype isn't reality. Make your new comics good and I will sing their praises as loudly as anyone.

There's all sorts of "Tony news" to discuss as well, but I'll spread it out over the next several columns. In the meantime, you can e-mail me at:

Or post on my message board:

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/03/2009 | 08/11/2009 | 08/12/2009 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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