THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Braniac’s one-shot for villains month is another one of the many origin stories that comic readers will be seeing this September. While it may be one of many, the issue does a good job of characterizing the villain, and it reaches at greatness, meaning the issue is certainly worth it to fans of the villain, as well as to fans of Superman.
Artist Pascale Alixe does a wonderful job with the artwork this issue. The linework is solid, and really does a great job of setting the tone while also harkening back to Rags Morales’ artwork from the early Action Comics in the New 52.
The issue does a good job of rationalizing Braniac’s plight to “save” worlds from the multitude while also covering the fact that he lacks moral fiber, and has learned to enjoy his bottling of cities and destruction of worlds. It also shows his desire to stop the multitude, which functions as Braniac’s purpose in the New 52, and it serves to at least make his progression from beyond brilliant scientist to planet-destroyer make a little bit of sense.
The choice to have one of Braniac’s indoctrinated drones tell the story creates an unreliable narrator and leaves the reader to discern what parts of the story are true and which are pure or partial fabrication. This time-honored storytelling technique adds a bit of mystery and uncertainty to Brainiac’s origin. The possible mistruths in Brainiac’s story also help the reader understand that Brainiac really does want to come across as benevolent, and he may even be so lost as to think he is.
Seeing Braniac’s origin as the alien Vril Dox, a scientist just trying to save his planet, is a great foil to Jor-El from the Superman comics. Whereas Jor-El was a genius while also empathetic, Vril Dox viewed suffering of others as a necessary means to an end; pain and suffering of others, even his son, was fine as long as knowledge was obtained. This dynamic is made even more apparent when, like Jor-El, his society’s leaders ignore Vril Dox’s apocalyptic predictions. This origin is the juxtaposition between Brainiac and Jor-El, and how they both handled similar situations and how they both have affected Superman.
It is aggravating that Braniac #1 doesn’t deal with the current situation on Earth at all. But, the issue succeeds as a one-shot, albeit insulated from the current comic storyline.
While the issue is just another origin story, this is an example of one way to make for interesting reading. Putting the narration of the story in the hands of the villain, and have a character, representative of the reader, question his story. This is a more creative way to show the difference between what a villain thinks and what is actually going on, rather than just spelling it out for readers. This storytelling style also allows for readers to empathize with the villain, even if that empathy only sprouts from the villain’s own embellishment.