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Action Comics #544 was, indeed, a very memorable comic book to read. For a comic book about Superman and the celebration of his 45th anniversary, Action Comics #544 was more about the drastic reform (and improvement) of the super villains Lex Luthor (gaining a powered suit of armor) and Brainiac (becoming fully robotic). That particular issue ended with Superman actually getting defeated and knocked down during his first encounter with the now metallic Brainiac (who also had a huge squid-like space ship of his own).
The story continues with this look back at Action Comics #545, published by DC Comics in 1983 with a story written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Gil Kane.
The story begins with Superman already down on the ground on an alien world in the presence of Brainiac and the strange beings (natives of the planet) standing near him. Braniac explains to him that his red-sun missile brought him down and states: With but the merest thought I can and will destroy you! For only with your death can I be victorious in my battle against he-who-created-us-all! With you dead, this universe and all others will be mine to rule!
After much talking, Brainiac puts the weakened Superman into his small ship and brings into him the main ship (Brainiac’s flyer). Before departing, Brainiac’s flyer fires a powerful blast killing many of the planet’s natives.
Superman is conscious but is too weak to get up. Brainiac then starts analyzing him using his ship’s state-of-the-art equipment…
Let me start with the story. Written by the legendary Marv Wolfman (who went on to author Crisis on Infinite Earths), Action Comics #545 is the highly compelling extension of the first encounter between Superman and the highly enhanced Brainiac. Continuing from the events that took place in issue #544, this comic book further emphasizes Brainiac’s new technology and new capabilities complete with revisions in his programming which make him even deadlier than his previous form. While Brainiac is cold and very calculating like a computer, there are still threads of humanity in him, mainly in the form of expressions.
Along the way, Superman is portrayed to be very vulnerable and in more danger than usual. The situation is so bad for him, Superman realizes that attacking Brainiac would be suicidal. Since he could not afford to take the risk to defeat Brainiac, the Man of Steel relied more on his instinct and observations to solve problems.
On the art, Gil Kane delivered pretty good visuals. While his take on Superman makes the icon recognizable, it is his art on Brainiac and the futuristic technologies that really shined. Even by today’s standards of comic book art and sci-fi concepts, Brainiac, his ship and all other forms of technology still look futuristic!
Very entertaining and compelling! That’s how I describe Action Comics #545 and it definitely is a great continuation of the Brainiac story that was featured in issue #544. Lots of action spectacle and intrigue all through the story. While Brainiac’s new abilities and revamped personality were compelling to read, it should be noted that Superman in this comic book thinks more, becomes more strategic and makes decisions knowing he has been weakened. This is a Superman who strives to survive.
As for Brainiac, this comic book shows his rise as one of the premier super villains of DC Comics leading to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The ending here has a very powerful image!
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Action Comics #545, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $18 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $36.
Overall, Action Comics #545 is highly recommended!
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