Friday, May 05, 2017

No One Defeats Brainiac! (DC)
Adventures of Superman #519 When: January 1995 Why: Karl Kesel How: Barry Kitson & Mike Manley

The Story So Far...
The world mourned when Superman gave his life to stop the rampaging behemoth known as Doomsday. To fill his void emerged four heroes claiming to be the genuine article, unaware the real Superman would survive his injuries, and return from the grave to fight for truth and justice once again! Or did he...?

The citizens of Metropolis are forced to question the legitimacy of their hero once again when his corpse rematerializes inside the abandoned tomb! Even Superman himself is unsure of his reality, beginning a search of any villain who may be responsible!

Brainiac appears beyond suspicion, remaining comatose on the planet New Genesis after his last battle. Even in this state, however, his powerful mind envisions the demise of his arch-nemesis! Brainiac did indeed create the false image of a fallen Superman while in his coma -- and now he has returned to make that vision a reality!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Brainiac 6 (Genius)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Superman 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Superman 33 (Super)

Time to kick-off a big month of DC Injustice with the long overdue debut for one of the DC Universe's greatest threats! He's a nemesis well known to Superman, but we're yet to see what he can do in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Brainiac is a naturally gifted scientific genius from the planet Colu. Real name Vril Dox, he fought against the Computer Tyrants who ruled his home world, before leaving the planet in search of greater knowledge and experience.

Notoriously known as The Collector of Worlds; Brainiac used his advanced technologies to literally shrink entire cities for storage and examination. The most famous of his stolen domains is the bottled city of Kandor: the last surviving populace of Superman's birth planet - Krypton!

Brainiac became a nemesis for Superman when he found his way to Earth, making various attempts to steal landmass, threaten loved ones, and generally cause terror. During this time he possessed various bodies of artificial and living nature, including a telepathic magician named Milton Fine, and even Lex Luthor!

His powers have included advanced mechanical weapons, remote manipulation of computers and technology, super-human strength, speed, telekinesis, enhanced durability and stamina, and a phenomenal level of natural intellect!

We haven't seen Superman go up against anyone quite like his old nemesis Brainiac, but there have been various instances of battles against the brilliant, the brawny, and well equipped!

Look no further than Marvel's green-skinned Hulk for an opponent who possessed both phenomenal strength and intellect, but was defeated by Superman in Marvel versus DC #3! We also saw him effortlessly stop Lex Luthor in his armored power-suit during a team skirmish in Justice League of America #15!

In Action Comics #713, we saw Superman challenged by a very different opponent - a zealous villain calling himself Saviour! He could literally manifest weapons or super-powers by sheer force of belief, conjuring thought into reality through advanced psycho-kinesis.

For today's feature fight Brainiac has reassumed the Milton Fine personality he once possessed. That means heavy on conjuring and psychic manifestation. The same year as Savior and similar tactics. That means he's dangerous, but the same combination of determination and cunning can deliver Supes to victory.

The Tape: Superman Ranking: Superman (#6)

What Went Down...
Superman and the Special Crimes Unit watch desperately as the green menace called Brainiac stands amidst the carnage of a torn Metropolis street. In his hand he clutches the sweater of Lois Lane: Star reporter for The Daily Planet, and the love of Superman's life!

A hostage, Lois may be - but never helpless! With Brainiac distracted by a mano-a-mano challenge from The Man of Steel; Lois pivots to thrust her boot heel deep into an unsuspecting torso!

Freedom comes with a price. Lois now faces certain death hovering above the gaping chasm rendered in the road -- or so it seems. In reality, the drop is just an illusion cast by the malicious mind of Brainiac! With his trick exposed, he turns his mental powers toward the meddlesome reporter. Superman acts!

Like a living missile Superman fly-tackles Brainiac from behind, diverting his intended mental strike against Lois!

Superman confronts his arch-nemesis over the manifestation of a doppelganger created in the image of his corpse. The accidental apparition becomes Brainiac's physical threat. The dead Man of Steel stands and unleashes raw heat vision!

Superman recovers from the surprise attack and retaliates with a devastating right cross to his mirror's jaw! The imitation Superman appears to share the original's phenomenal durability. He fires back with a right hand of his own!

No mere illusion - the false Superman hoists massive pieces of rubble and smashes them over the true Man of Steel! The genuine article is undeterred, bursting from the debris to attack like a speeding bullet!

The hero has no reason to hold back against the soulless construct. He pummels his short-haired doppelganger as they fly through the air -- and a nearby building! They make a crash-landing at the feet of the Special Crimes Unit, but emerging from the dust are now two identical Supermen!

With the copy now claiming legitimacy, the SCU decide to take everybody in for questioning to sort it out peacefully. Lois Lane has a better idea, quizzing the duplicate heroes on the one person they'd save if Brainiac was about to destroy Earth. One rejects the premise, while the other chooses Lois. The latter, offering the answer Lois wants to hear -- which goes unheard by all others!

With his gambit exposed; Brainiac destroys Turpin's pistol with a bolt of mental energy and rushes for his phony Superman! He dives head-first at the motionless copy -- absorbing its mental energies in a dazzling blast of light!

The Brainiac that emerges is surrounded in a shell of raw energy! He uses his full power to launch a frontal physical assault on his unwavering nemesis!

Superman is sent smashing into a nearby building, but emerges unscathed. Brainiac hoists a nearby truck above his head, responding to his foe's defiance by pile driving him into the street with the heavy duty vehicle!

The villain proposes Metropolis be Superman's tombstone, offering to dig his grave. He does so, pounding the ground with sufficient force to send a very real tremor that rips through the road!

Once again, The Man of Tomorrow paws his way from the rubble. He's getting tired of "everyone trying to do their version of The Death of Superman!" His nemesis doesn't mind playing a "variation on a theme".

A blast of telekinetic energy shunts Superman into a would-be early grave, but the only prematurity is Brainiac's celebratory cackling as he covers Superman in dirt! He rises -- coming for Brainiac with clenched fists!

An uppercut rattles Brainiac inside his telekinetic force field! A right hook snaps his head sideways as if a direct hit! A tackle pushes him through the remaining bricks and mortar of a crumbled wall! A straight right comes with the musing that Brainiac is just two-bit carnival magician Milton Fine! The shell cracks!

The mentalist attempts to reinforce the confidence of his shielding and persona. He claims intergalactic terror at the name Brainiac - but Superman isn't buying it! With but a single extended hand, he catches Brainiac's fist - and responds!

A determined right hand shatters Brainiac's force field!

The impact reduces the fiend to a quivering shadow of his former self. Exposed, he clings briefly to a rejection of defeat before passing out. The mental toll of Superman's attack on his mind and force field clearly too great!

When Brainiac recovers shortly thereafter, he is no longer the intergalactic menace who plagues Metropolis! Instead, he has resumed the personality of magician Milton Fine. Superman helps him to his feet, ushering him to a better life -- at least for as long as it will last.

The Hammer...
A slightly ignoble end for one of the DC Universe's most notorious villains, but a welcome induction into The Comic Book Fight Club!

Brainiac is one of the bigger names to have eluded the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths over the years. There's never been any conceited effort to keep him out of the fighting ranks, but I have to admit, he hasn't been flagged as a priority until now.

It's always been a given that Brainiac comes somewhere just behind Lex Luthor in the pantheon of classic Superman villains. His status was earned over some sixty years of tyranny, beginning with his print debut in 1958.

I tend to think the past weighs heavily on Brainiac. He's a quintessential sci-fi baddy of the time, right at home with movie villains of the '50s and early '60s. Attempts to modernize the character have led to a long and tangled history, not always to the benefit of the character, or the removal of dated reference.

The Milton Fine version (seen today), though visually distinct, doesn't do a great deal to ingratiate the character into preference. I've gotta note: I really looking at this issue. Mike Manley's finishes are sumptuously strong and really pop with the bold colour palette of Glenn Whitmore. All those vivid purples, greens, and oranges are a treat with those deep inky blacks! Always nice to see Superman in bold blue and red, too. Trunks included.

The big-headed, moustachio magician still feels as much a throwback as a green man from outer space who wants to shrink the city. I have to imagine that's one of the reasons the character remained in flux.

I have some appreciation for the robot-bodied Brainiac that came just prior to the possession of Milton Fine. Immortalized in the Super Powers toy line and comics, and briefly seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, that version did a solid job of reinventing a visual palette worthy of the pop culture of the eighties.

The skeletal robotic vision came a year before The Terminator was in theatres, and gave Brainiac a real sense of menace. It was a big departure from the green skinned villain of yore, but still felt like it had a foot in the sci-fi tropes of a bygone era, lingering fondly in popular reference.

I imagine the relatively short-lived robot form was a tough sell to traditionalists, and I ultimately appreciate subsequent attempts in the 2000s to consolidate the various styles. The modern Brainiac that's still a green-skinned humanoid, but suitably symbiotic in his relationship with technology, is a nice fusion.

As time goes on, I tend to see increasing value in restoring some characters to their original presentation. Modern sensibilities have had a tendency to push things into a convergence of repeating motifs. The more the meanings of early reference fade into obscurity, the more they become viable as a sense of identity, rather than anachronism. For those who know, the fifties spaceman with the citywide shrink ray is a torchbearer. For those who don't, he's an eerie phantom of strange intent.

Slithery, techno-tendrils add danger and a creepy pseudo-organic vibe that feels almost The Matrix meets Hellraiser. I'm not sure if the current version of Brainiac will endure as the definitive vision, but I've got no beef.

That's the version you'll find in Injustice 2 when it invades home consoles May 16th! Brainiac is the big bad boss invading the world of the fighting game sequel. Featured fights in May will be taking loose inspiration from the game, spotlighting some of the new and returning characters!

This entry is a big one for fans of the fighting ranks, as well! Superman punches his way back into the Top 5 with today's feature victory. Trainspotters will note he bumps Marvel rival Hulk back down to #6 as a result!

Want to see more of the fights that shaped the ranks? Dive into the Secret Archive to find every battle organized by publisher, series and issue. Or, follow along on Twitter and Facebook to get daily fights inspired by the topics of the day! Throw a like and a share to amaze your friends and support the site!

Winner: Superman
#5 (+1) Superman
#158 (+117) Dan Turpin [+1 assist]
#524 (new) Lois Lane [+1 assist]
#839 (new) Brainiac

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