Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Unsung Greats: Superman - Panic in the Sky

Maybe I am in the minority for thinking this, but the world needs more comics like Superman: Panic in the Sky.

The trade paperback cover by Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding.
This six part story arc from late 1991 and early 1992 came only months before Superman’s much ballyhooed death storyline and by most of the same creators. It focuses on the return of War World, Mongul’s evil battle world from the Superman in space stories from a few years previous. Now the planet is ruled by Braniac who uses it to amplify his own psychic powers. He has an army of alien soldiers at his disposal as well as his allies Maxima, Draaga, and a mind-controlled Matrix/Supergirl.

The cover that drew me in.
With War World on its way to Earth, Superman gathers a group of heroes together to battle against the coming threat. DC mainstays like Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Aquaman join forces with the New Titans, Metal Men, New Gods, and a few former members of the Giffen-era Justice League to take on the threat. For the first time in the post-Crisis DC Universe, Superman shows his leadership abilities, aided and abetted by his chosen second-in-command… Deathstroke.

Most importantly, the fight between Brainiac’s forces and Earth’s heroes comes off as a heck of a lot of fun.

I was twelve when these issues originally hit stands and they were my second Superman story arc to purchase, right after the Supergirl Saga of a couple years before. The return of Supergirl on the cover to the prologue chapter drew me in, and my young mind was fascinated by a bunch of characters I only knew from some Batman issues, a couple Who’s Who magazines, assorted Justice League comics, and a few random annuals from 1989.

I was most intrigued by Deathstroke, a character whose costume I loved but I only knew as a villain from a Secret Origins Annual. It served to make the young me want to learn more about these heroes, even while I learned about them over the course of the story.

I’ll be honest: the tale isn’t anything ground-breaking to the comics world. Instead it is a great team-up multipart story that doesn’t involve the purchase of more than four comics a month. And those comics were only a buck a pop.

Sadly, most modern comic readers would probably take a look at a huge chunk of the gathered heroes and villains and be really confused. This version of Superman and Braniac have pretty much been retconned out of existence, Deathstroke is suddenly a psycho killer, and about a third of the cast is dead.

Still it does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of this series for me personally. I think any long time comic fan could read it with the same level of enjoyment. This right here is just plain good superhero comics.

The book is currently out of print (though not hard to find in the secondary market), but a new edition is currently available for preorder at Amazon.

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