Panic in the Sky! collects an interesting story from the Superman books of the early ‘90s.
Brainiac seizes control of Warworld, a planet-sized weapon populated by brutal warriors. Forcing Maxima, Draaga and Supergirl/Matrix into service, Brainiac launches an attack on Earth. Gathering a large squadron of heroes (plus Deathstroke), Superman leads an assault on Warworld for a desperate struggle with Brainiac. Other heroes defend Earth on the ground. In the aftermath, Superman contends with a deadly swarm of alien scavengers sent to Earth to strip it bare.
Though they each had a unique creative team, the four Superman titles of the early ’90s were closely coordinated under the editorial guidance of Mike Carlin. That allowed them to spin out an ongoing saga that stretched across all four books. Panic in the Sky! was one of the higher profile stories of that era. Coming about a year before the landmark Death of Superman saga, it put the hero at the forefront of a major crisis and showed how he grew into a leadership role.
Writers Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway and Roger Stern all contributed to the saga. That team is well-remembered for their work on the Superman franchise. They brought a lot of humanity to the hero and his alter ego, and were responsible for crowd-pleasing developments like the Clark Kent/Lois Lane engagement. They also did interesting things with the Matrix version of Supergirl and the creative plot that saw arch-villain Lex Luthor masquerade as his own heroic son (thanks to a cloned body and a brain transplant).
If the climax felt a bit pat, the action getting there was entertaining. Superman remained a strong focus in spite of the swarm of characters around him. His diverse supporting cast got a nice bit of attention. It was a writer-driven story that, even with the stylistic tics of the era on display, holds up pretty well.
A small army of artists contributed to Panic in the Sky! Notables included Jurgens, Ordway, Bob McLeod, Jon Bogdanove, Jackson Guice and Tom Grummett. The art teams were different enough to each have a discernible visual point of view, but their approaches fit together well. Superman was bold, barrel-chested and lantern-jawed, without being too much larger than those around him. Layouts were straightforward, with lots of story and panels packed into the pages. But there was still room for some rousing big-screen images that made a real impact. It was a classic approach that told the story effectively and remains pleasing more than twenty years down the road.
For fans interested in the evolution of the post-Crisis Superman, Panic in the Sky! is a good example of the franchise that’s worth picking up.
Originally published at bpoole500.tumblr.com.