Pick of the Week

10.08.2008 – Action Comics #870

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community think?

Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 73.4%
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Size: pages
Price: 2.99

I suppose that it’s possible that there are some people who are getting sick of hearing about how great we think Geoff Johns is, but I guess those people will just have to deal with it one more time.  When you’ve got a guy working at this high of a level on at least five series and mini-series currently on the stands, his name is going to pop-up in conversation, and it’s going to pop-up a lot.

There was a lot to accomplish in Action Comics #870, and Geoff Johns pulled it all off brilliantly.  He had to wrap up his current story arc (which redefined a classic villain; no small feat), he had to set the stage for the big New Krypton story that will run through all the Superman books, and he had to put a stake through every one’s hearts – ours’ as well as Superman’s – because sometimes victory comes with a heavy price.

Okay, he totally didn’t have to do that last thing but he did.  Damn him.

The high point for Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics has been the Legion of Super-Heroes arc, but I feel pretty confident in placing this Brainiac arc as a close second.  It began strong, slowed down in the middle and then ended with a heart-stopping flourish.

In this issue there are multiple events happening all at once, and we are witness to a very fine example of parallel story-telling.  While Superman fights Brainiac over the fate of the bottled cities (including Metropolis and Kandor), Supergirl must stop a Brainiac-launched bomb from hitting the Sun and causing it to explode.  And as Superman and Brainiac take the fight off his ship and to Earth (in a brilliant scene), that particular event splits, and as Superman races to save the bottled cities from destruction, Brainiac decides to hit Superman where it really hurts.  He takes his revenge to a farm in Smallville.

The end of this issue had me on the edge of my seat.  Following the three separate sequences speed closer and closer to their respective climaxes, Johns ratcheted up the tension by cutting between the three quicker and quicker, as a filmmaker would.  I was reminded very much of the end of Return of the Jedi where the action cut between three separate sequences as well.  In Action Comics #870, Johns put together a whopper of a finale that had me exhaling a very large, tension-filled breath when it was over.  It was a breath that I had been holding for the final ten pages, without even realizing it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the big event that happened in this issue, the one that was spoiled for many people by major media outlets.  I had heard that there were spoilers flying around so I avoided newspapers, TV, and the internet until I had picked up my comics (thanks, Twitter!) but just the fact that I knew there was a major, mainstream media-worthy spoiler in the book, coupled with the cover, took away most of the shock and emotional impact of the event itself (no thanks, Twitter!).  So what happened?  Brainiac got all pissed off at Superman and attacked his parents and in the course of saving Martha from an explosion, Jonathan’s heart gave out.  It was an emotionally wrenching scene and that last page was devastating, but I didn’t feel as strongly about it as I might have if I didn’t know it was coming.  Or, it’s possible that I have been somewhat desensitized to Jonathan Kent’s death as – between the comics, the movies, and Smallville –  this is (at least) the third time I have seen it happen in various forms of media.  Still, as portrayed here it was a very effective scene and I can only imagine how the fallout is going to play in the next arc but I have a feeling in the hands of Geoff Johns and James Robinson it’s going to lead to some fantastic stuff.

It’s amazing to me that what Geoff Johns does with Superman seems on the surface to be so simple and yet he is one of the few people who can pull it off – he gives Superman a personality.  He allows Superman to get angry.  He lashes out.  Yet he never loses his stature as the Superman, the most inspirational person in the DC Universe.  On one page he can grab Brainiac by his little head hole things and use them as leverage to land a mighty haymaker, and then a few pages later he can inspire Supergirl to save the world. And it all works and it never seems contrived.  That to me is the greatness of Superman as a character that is so often lost when he is portrayed as stereotypical boring Big Blue Boy Scout.

We have talked a lot lately about artists who can actually make their characters act and Gary Frank is definitely one of those.  Look through this issue and it would be a great challenge to find the same facial expression used twice.  And say what you will about using Christopher Reeve as the facial model for Superman, it is undeniable that there is no other character in comics that looks like Gary Frank’s Superman.  Oftentimes in comics man and women have the same faces, they just have different hair and clothing to differentiate them, but not with Gary Frank.  The art in Action Comics is as important to this book as the writing is, I believe that firmly.  I don’t know that it would carry the same weight if there were an artist of lesser talent providing pencils.  

With Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, James Robinson, Renato Guedes, Sterling Gates, and Jamal Igle at the helm it’s a great time to be reading Superman.  I absolutely can’t wait for New Krypton.  It can’t come fast enough.

Conor Kilpatrick
Oh, Pa Kent


  1. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    An excellent choice, sir.  My pick so far as well.  

  2. Nice review, Conor. 


    but honestly was there any other choice? 

  3. I haven’t finished my books yet, but this one is leading the pack for me as well…but I have to say…what an amazing week over all.  I’ve not read anything I haven’t enjoyed yet!

  4. Man, there was no hope for any other comic this week.  When I saw that panel of Superman speeding back to Smallville, his hair plastered down by the speed and his face in agony because he knew what that scream meant, was heartbreaking.  I had no inkling this was going to happen until I saw the cover when I picked up my issue today.  Geoff Johns is a Man-God (not a Magog), and this was the ultimate capper to a tremendous arc.

  5. Yeah I agree with everyone, this was the hands down champ this week

  6. Excellent issue! 

  7. @edward: I thought Detective Comics and The Stand: Captain Trips #2 were just as good as this issue. I made the latter my pick because it was so creepy seeing that two page spread about the infection.

    Still I hear the angel’s playing because if it wasnt for The Stand this would’ve been my pick hands down! Great issue, although why was the death of Pa Kent such a big news story today? Like you said conor, he’s died a bunch of times in other forms of media; why is this so different? Oh and I’m still alittle iffy on this new Brainiac, but this issue made me like him a little bit more.

  8. @NextChampion 

     yeah,  i’m not feeling this arc of detective for some reason, i thinks Hush leave a bad taste of Leob in my month (thats what she said) but The Stand comics do look very interresting

  9. @edward: Definitely recommend The Stand series that’s out cause that my friends: That could be the new Dark Tower juggernaut waiting to happen.

    I just mentioned it in lmiller’s review but I gotta say; as a whole arc…..This was a 3 at best (with the ifanboy ranking as 5 as perfect). Dont get me wrong, this was a great issue and I loved every second of it. But overall? Eh I didnt think this needed 5 issues to get reboot of Brainiac and the start of ‘New Krypton’. The first issue could’ve mixed 856 and 857 together; the next issue could’ve mixed 858 and 859 together, and the last issue could’ve been just this one. Either way you put it together it was a good arc, but if you compare it to the last arc (Legion) then it’s no where near the quality of that one….Again not saying this was terrible, this was a soild issue and deserves POTW status. But it definitely felt like filler just to get to this big event.

  10. Filler!

  11. Great choice Coner. I wouldn’t have envied you this week.  I’m still struggling with my POW.

    I mean so many great moments this week!

    Pa’s death broke my heart, really got to me.

    Detective? The scene with the Joker was brilliant. Electrifying even. (booo)

    The End League? Some badass sheild work there.  Solid front to back even.

    Trinity continues to be awesome, with a nice change in story if a little "House of M-y"

    I love comics!!

    (I suppose I’d be remiss to not mention Crossed, but how do you describe a two page spread like that and not come off…well…sick?)

  12. I really did like the issue, but even without spoilers, Pa Kent’s death by heart attack wasn’t all that wrenching to me.  I feel like I’ve read and seen the heart attack thing before.  It would have been more impactful for me to have him die a different, more profound way.  And the screaming thing was less awesome because it was used in GA/BC.  Not to say that it doesn’t take away from how great the issue was.  It’s just that if these things had been fresher they would have been more rocking.  

    This issue is up there for me this week. 

  13. I saw no spoilers.  I was surprised and saddened.  I’m so happy to see Superman back to being one of the best comics being published right now. 


  14. I had no idea about the spoiler going in, either (I guess I should’ve paid closer attention to the cover) and I actually said, "oh, no’ out loud when Pa grabbed his arm (and, unlike Jim from Raging Bullets, I don’t normally emote while reading).  Loved the moments with Supergirl, the several ‘hell, yeah!’ moments with Superman, and like Conor, was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  And then the end–devastating.  Felt like this was the best Superman Movie Never Made.  And then I read Detective . . !  Fantastic!  What a week! I love my DCU!

  15. this is the superman I love, Johns can give him a personality without making him a meat head dick(action anyone). I saw the little box on cbr.com about the news spoiling the ending to the issue but I decided to not click, so I was in a small panic when jonathan grabbed his arm because I knew he was gone. It’s almost like losing your own pops(or grandfather), every time they kill Pa Kent it just stirs up all kind of stuff for me.

  16. I saw the spoiler on CNN and, knowing it was a Johns issue, I should have known it would be the pick. . .

    i haven’t tried ‘Action’ yet, but the reviews here make it sound really appealing.  I may have to look for this in trade.

    This was one of those weeks where everything I read lived up to expectations (Iron Man & Green Lantern both nice solid conclusions to their arcs), but nothing stood out; I feel like I should go back to the store and find something pick-worthy.  That’s a really good way to spend unnecessary money. 

  17. It was on CNN?  Comic books score again!

  18. Really old Pa Kent died AGAIN??  I don’t know but it always feels that Superman, however well it is written, always goes back to the well…

  19. Great issue although knowing the fate of Kandor and Pa Kent [even without CNN] before reading kind of took away from it for me. Def can not wait for New Krypton although I am bummed that apparently Frank will not be drawing the issues of Action during the cross-over.

  20. There was no other choice to make this week. It was an emotional. page turning story with incredible art.

  21. Johns gets the label of silver-age revivalist thrown at him, but I actually think his Superman taps into the Golden Age version as well. His Superman is the type of hero who punches the bad guy in the face, a dynamic man of action.

  22. Clearly, I need to listen for the sound of the Johns bandwagon and chase it down like the ice cream truck, because this week of reading, for me, buh-lew.

  23. Does Geoff Johns have any dreams to be a film director? Cause what we really have here is the perfect Superman film franchise relaunch story. Even if you removed the Supergirl bits (mind you, there was nothing at all wrong with Johns’ Supergirl), this story is essentially what I am looking for on the big screen for Superman.

    And we already know this, but it is worth repeating anyways. The name "Frank" is gold in the world of comicbook artists (even colorists!).

  24. Acation 870 was also my favorite book, but, funnily enough, I thought the choice to kill Pa Kent was dumb and pointless. The interaction between Clark and his parents can be one of the best relationships in comics, so it seems pretty pointless to kill one of them. It gives stakes and can pack an emotional punch, but then we are missing a great relationship to read. Still, it was the best book of the week.

  25. Um, I’ve read the book again and, although Pa Kent clearly has a heart attack, he isn’t actually pronounced dead or buried or anything. Has Johns confirmed that he’s definitely dead in this book?


  26. @Garrett – Well, if he wasn’t dead I would imagine that Superman wouldn’t have been sitting there holding him, he would have rushed Pa to a hospital.

  27. Hmm, the thing is, we’ve all seen a lot of people "die" then miraculously come back in a later issue.

    Anyway, he’s dead in "Smallville" so I’m already over it. By the way, the Pa Kent in this book is no way near as hot as the Pa on the telly show.    ;o)

  28. I loved this issue, but mostly for what happened before Pa Kent dying (again).

  29. But while we’re at it, can we please, for the love of Odin, kill off Aunt May?????

  30. I never thought that a superman book would be my pick of the week. Of course Geoff Johns has to be the guy to prove me wrong.  The art was fantastic too.

  31. I never thought hair could mean so much. I used to work at CBGB, and I could tell whenever a band was full of corporate shit by the amount of time they spent on their hair vs. their music. But then there was that panel of Clark racing to his dad with the hair blown back in a way that i’d never seen before. Clark moves fast, and, like Wally, at this point, with the many ideas that have come before, it requires great innovation to artistically express that speed. Clark’s hair is part of the icon. And that break with that iconic piece awesomely sold the importance of the event.

  32. @ john. The panel you’re talking about was my favorite part of the book.  The sheer determination and fear in that face and the flying just blew me away.  It made this issue all the better for me.

  33. I like how the current status of Superman is being updated with the "plot points" of the pre-crisis Superman history now.  The interaction Byrne gave us by allowing the Kents to be alive and well when Clark was starting out felt fresh for the character at the time, but somehow it feels right for him to lose his remaining father figure now and move forward into his own.  

    I’m most excited for when they allow Superman to have a bona fide child in the comics and then listen to everyone flip their shit. 

  34. good lord. I almost want to read a Superman comic.


  35. I just remembered that one of my first Superman book to read was back in the early 90s and Pa Kent had a heart attack and he and Superman battle demons to come back to life or something. I think that’s why, when I think of Pa Kent, I picture him as Tom Grummett drew him.

  36. So, I finally finished all of my books and I’m having the hardest time clicking "Make Your Pick" link.  There’s just so much good.  Why do I feel such anxiety?

  37. @Neb: *slaps him across the face* Make the pick like a man! You dont see manly men like me and Conor worry about what the pick will be. Dont make me force you to pick the Two-Face issue!

    Oh and not to say if its better or worse, but Pa Kent died earlier even if it wasnt in canon. Did Morrison did a good job of Pa Kent’s death in All Star Superman? Or did Johns do a better job with the death in Action Comics?

    ….I’m kinda leaning towards Morrison’s take just a tiny decimal point more (like .000001). Although both were written well.

  38. @TheNextChampion~  Slap accepted, balls grown, pick made.  Long live Detective Comics.

  39. Sounds like a great pick. My pick was The Twelve.

  40. Gotta say, this was my pick this week, too.  Haven’t read Green Lantern yet, but other than that this was the best book I read this week, no doubt.

    I somewhat enjoyed Detective Comics at times, but it’s so far from what’s currently going on in RIP, I just couldn’t get into it.  Joker didn’t look or act anything like he’s currently being shown in RIP.  And, the characterization of Wayne’s relationship with Catwoman seems real far from what’s been going on with Jezebel in Batman. 

  41. I was just re-reading Justice League of America #0 the other day and I was wondering if any of the future events shown in that book were ever going to happen. Well, I guess this one has. 

    I had no spoilers from anywhere except that my brother-in-law was reading my copy before me, only he didn’t know I hadn’t read it already, and he was like "Dude, heartbreaker." And then before he could spoil it for me, I told him I hadn’t read it, but I was still trying to figure out what could have happened that would be heartbreaking. Oh well.

  42. Great issue. Great pick!

  43. Good issue, and this coming from a Superman-phobe.

    It’s just a god-damned shame Clark didn’t get to have that beer with Pa last month. 

  44. @RobAbsten  Seriously!  Knowing this was coming makes that editorial decision seem even more petty and weird.

  45. this is the one time being a brit helped me out. i hadn’t heard a peep about the end of the issue and it took me by surprise. I’m not the biggest supes fan, in fact i’m a massive batman man but i have to admit at the moment the supes books are more coherant, and more fun than the bat books. this was my pick too and rightly so. great choice

    The brit in a hat

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