Today’s Super Comic — Action Comics #866 (2008)

Superman’s greatest enemy is no doubt Lex Luthor. But his second greatest enemy is easily Braniac (even if the movies have failed to make use of him thus far).

Braniac receives a modern reintroduction in Action Comics #866, which begins what might just be his strongest story arc to date. Writer Geoff Johns amps up Braniac’s creepiness and alien nature while retaining his classic shtick of miniaturizing cities, bottling them up, and maintaining a collection of perfectly preserved samples of alien civilizations. Here, he actually comes across as a frightening, dangerous figure (maybe a bit too frightening for younger children) and definitely a worthy foe for the Man of Steel.

Even as the story modernizes elements of the Superman mythos, it pays homage to the past. Artist Gary Frank’s rendition of Superman/Clark Kent resembles Christopher Reeve more than a little, and this first part spends some time with the classic Daily Planet staff, with Clark playing his role as the guileless nice guy without any over-the-top bumbling around.

It’s a strong part one, and yet it all gets better from here on out.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Gary Frank

Inker: Jon Sibal

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman: Braniac (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #1 (1996)

supergirl_vol_4_1Peter David’s terrific run on Supergirl wasn’t like any other Supergirl before or since. This Supergirl wasn’t Superman’s younger cousin from Krypton—only one Kryptonian allowed at this point in DC’s history. So instead, she was a, um, blob of alien proto-matter that fashioned itself as Supergirl. She also spent some time as Lex Luthor II’s girlfriend before coming to her senses.

As a blob of alien proto-matter, she didn’t have much of a life. So David gives her one in #1—someone else’s. Supergirl merges with a young woman she failed to save from an evil cult, acquiring all her memories as well as influences from her personality. The blob of alien proto-matter essentially solidifies into Linda Danvers, and Supergirl’s life is now hers and vice versa. Problem is, Linda might not have been a purely innocent victim.

Yeah, not the easiest version of Supergirl to market, but still a great run of comics nevertheless. You need to start with #1, though, which does an excellent job doling out just enough exposition to intrigue the reader as it introduces us to Supergirl’s new secret identity, leaving ample room to cover in future issues. A focus on mysticism and religion helps to distinguish Supergirl from Superman’s titles, and it truly is a unique incarnation of the character. She’s two people in a single body—one person good, and the other considerably less so.

It’s not what you’ll see on television this fall, but it’s a compelling Supergirl in its own right.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Gary Frank

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Supergirl by Peter David vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up