As a 90s kid this makes me extremely happy. When I think of Superboy, I think of the brash young clone of Superman. To me, Robin is Tim Drake. The same with Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern and Wally West as the Flash.
I’ve bought several of these trades and thought I’d review them here and see if anyone else shares my love of 90s comics (even when they went EXTREME!!!!). I might also review series that haven’t been collected in trade like Dan Jurgen’s Teen Titans run.
Superman: Panic in the Sky
Panic takes place at the height of the Triangle era. This was when all four of the Super-books shared sub-plots and also combined for big events like this one and the upcoming Death and Return of Superman. From the little I’ve read from that era it worked quite well.
This is the new Panic in the Sky collection, which has issues not included in the previous release.
The plot sees Brainiac take over Warworld which was left leaderless after Superman defeated Mongul. He bribes, tricks, and uses his mental powers to get Maxima, Draaga, and the Matrix Supergirl to do his bidding. He sets Warworld on a course for Earth and sends his skullship ahead to attack Metropolis.
Superman quickly realizes this problem is too much for him to handle alone and since the Justice League was recently disbanded he recruits all the heroes he can. There’s Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Guy Gardner, Deathstroke, Rocket Red, the Flash, Nightwing, Crimson Fox, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, the Metal Men, and many more.
His plan is twofold. One group, led by him, will head to space and stop Warworld before it reaches Earth. The second group, led by Batman, will stay on Earth in case Brainiac sends an advance force of troops.
The first thing that strikes me about Panic is how in control Superman is. He has a plan and he executes it and the rest of the heroes listen to him. In fact, most of them are at least a little in awe of him. It’s a far cry from how Superman is normally portrayed now, with most people on Earth scared of him. It also feels like he plays second fiddle even in his own big events. This event revolves around him and his cast even with all the heroes on the page.
The Panic storyline moves along at a good pace, with the threat being ratcheted up every issue. At one point Brainiac has gotten control over most of the heroes on Warworld and sends them all to fight Superman. At the same time the planet bound heroes are being overwhelmed by Warworld warriors.
Brainiac comes across as a major threat. He easily defeats several New Gods, including Metron. He seems prepared for just about every tactic the heroes throw at him. Sure, he has definite aspects of the stereotypical mustache-twirling villain but those are balanced against the fact that he does have the upper hand for most of the story.
There’s a lot of fun, big comic book action on display here. Page after page is filled with brightly colored heroes using their powers to attack Brainiac and his forces. It’s all just fun. While the threat is real it doesn’t get grimdark like what happens with a lot of these big superhero events nowadays.
The artwork is spot-on. The book has numerous artists but their styles are similar enough that you never have trouble telling who is who or where the characters are. I always hate reading a trade, especially one that tells a single story, and the artwork is all over the place and hard to follow from issue to issue.
There are definitely some 90s elements here. One of the major ones is Supergirl. Here she isn’t Clark’s cousin. Instead she’s a shape-changing protoplasmic being from a pocket dimension created by that dimension’s Lex Luthor to defeat evil Kryptonians.
Luthor himself is involved in a soap opera worthy plot. His old body was dying of cancer thanks to always wearing a kryptonite ring. He transferred his brain into a younger clone body with tons of hair. He then pretended to be his own long lost son. He is also pretending to be a stand up citizen trying to atone for the crimes of his “father.” Here he helps the heroes, including Superman, seemingly out of the kindness of his own heart.
These issues also see the romance between Luthor and Supergirl start. Her Luthor was a kind man and she misses him. This Luthor looks and acts like the Luthor she loved and so she is drawn to him. Luthor, on the other hand, sees this as a great opportunity to have his very own personal superhero.
Maxima is a major star here as well. Brainiac devastated her world of Almerac and she is working with him so he won’t destroy it completely. She does turn against him towards the end. She also wants Superman as her mate.
There are sub-plots going on in the background that aren’t connected with the Panic event. Jimmy has apparently been fired from the Daily Planet and here he gets a chance to work for another newspaper before being hired by the Planet again. Emil Hamilton also shows up, as does Bibbo.
The last part of the Panic trade is only slightly related to the actual Panic in the Sky storyline. Once the heroes return home the plot shifts focus to a group of beings from another dimension, some of whom are stuck on Earth. Jimmy has actually been to their dimension before, though here it’s Emil who gets transported to the other dimension. A lot of this is wrapping up story lines that started many issues ago and aren’t referenced in the main Panic arc.
There’s also an attack against Luthor that was set up at the start of the Panic in the Sky story. It features the Hellgrammite and references back to Superman’s first meeting with Luthor in the Man of Steel series by John Byrne.
The second to last issue ties in to Panic quite well. Right before he was defeated Brainiac released a silver sphere. Turns out it is a lure to a giant black swarm of insect like creatures or nanobots (it’s not made clear). Their job is to devour everything on a planet conquered by Warworld to prepare it for colonization.
It’s a great issue as Superman has no clue how to fight a giant swarm like this. The tension is high until Luthor figures it out and manages to drive off the swarm. I wish this had been the end of the trade. It would have been a nice bookend to the whole Brainiac attacks Earth arc.
Instead the final issue wraps up the story of the dimensional beings and their plight on Earth.
Panic in the Sky is a collection I’d highly recommend. It has a great story, good artwork, and is just a lot of fun.
Superman and Justice League America Volume 1 by Dan Jurgens and Rick Burchett
While seeing the major heroes join together to fight the bad guys in team books like Justice League and Avengers is always great, I do have a soft spot for teams that are made up of B and C list heroes. That is part of why I love James Robinson’s run on Justice League right before the New 52 reboot.
This run by Dan Jurgens is a lot like that. You have Superman leading a League populated by Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle, Maxima, and Bloodwynd. It’s a strange combination but it works.
There are three main arcs in this trade. The first three issues deal with the team forming and fighting their first villain; the next three see the League go to Almerac to help Maxima with a usurper to her throne; and the final three issues has the League deal with an alien who has bought Earth.
This trade starts with the Justice League Spectacular issue, which was DC’s way of making changes to their JL titles. They had just done a giant 15 part arc that wrapped up the Justice League International run that was known more for its soap opera elements and comedy than super heroics. There are still comedic moments in this trade but also serious threats.
I’ll talk about the heroes before getting into the individual arcs.
Superman – In Post-Crisis continuity Superman was not a founder of the Justice League. In fact he was never truly a member. He helped them out but never joined. Here Batman approaches Superman and tries to convince the world’s greatest hero to form and lead a new League. Superman is a reluctant member. He doesn’t like the U.N. involvement with the League nor does he like how Maxwell Lord tries to tell the team what to do. He does hope he can be a positive influence for the other heroes as well as try to reign in Guy’s worst impulses. He knows the world needs a Justice League. He just isn’t sure that he can work within a team like this.
Blue Beetle – Beetle is essentially the Batman of the group. He has no powers and he is a genius. He is constantly designing new gizmos and weapons. He has a beetle shaped aircraft that the League flies in. I really like Ted Kord. It makes me sad that he was eventually killed off. His intelligence is on full display here as he uses it to defeat two major villains. He is also suspicious of new team member Bloodwynd. A lot of his arc in this trade has to do with discovering as much as he can about the new hero.
Booster Gold – Beetle’s best friend, Booster is from the future. He came to the past to become a hero and make money. He is something of a comic relief character, always making quips. In one issue he complains that he and Beetle don’t pull any pranks anymore so the two teleport to the HQ of Justice League Europe wearing different pieces of each other’s costumes to make it look like they were spliced together. The prank backfires on them when the Flash strips them to their underwear, ties them back to back with their own uniforms, and teleports them back to their own HQ. That’s pretty much Booster Gold in a nutshell. He is always up for a good time and it almost always backfires on him.
Fire – A model as well as a superhero, Fire is a meta-human who can envelop herself in green fire and has the ability to fly. She is best friends with Ice. She goes through several different costumes because she was ranked #1 on a Worst Dressed List. Her second costume is well designed and I wish she had stuck with that one. Her third costume is extremely revealing and definitely there for the male gaze. I liked Fire even though I felt more could have been done with her.
Ice – A princess from a magical frozen kingdom, Ice surprisingly has ice powers. I never would have guessed. Ice is the most innocent member of the team. She is just an all around good person. She used to date Guy but they’re on the outs at the moment. She develops a major crush on Superman.
Guy Gardner – He starts the trade as a Green Lantern and ends it using Sinestro’s yellow ring because he was fired from the Green Lantern Corps. Guy is basically a walking advertisement for what the #MeToo campaign is fighting against. He is loud, obnoxious, boorish, and sexist. He picks on everyone and starts a fight with Superman. He literally abandons the team on Almerac when they don’t agree with him that they should just rush to fight the bad guy instead of doing some reconnaissance. It is really hard to like Guy here. It’s a far cry from the Guy of recent years. In his defense, he does make some good points. Superman refused to carry a JL communication device, which means several members have to hunt through Metropolis to try and find him when an emergency happens. Guy calls him out on it and he was right to.
Maxima – A queen and she won’t let you forget it. Maxima is on Earth hoping to convince Superman to be her king help her rebuild Almerac. She joins the League hoping this will help her case. Towards the end of the trade she is banished from Almerac and stays with the League because she has nowhere else to go. I like Maxima even if she can be grating at times. Not only is she an alien on a new planet but she is royalty surrounded by people who don’t care that she is royalty.
Bloodwynd – He is a mysterious hero who appears to help the League fight Weapons Master. His powers are magic based and many. He can fly, teleport, turn invisible, shoot magical beams, and cast illusions to name a few. We don’t learn much about him here though Blue Beetle tries his best. I do know the secret of Bloodwynd because I looked him up after encountering him for the first time while reading The Death of Superman. While I know who he is I don’t know the reasons behind the mystery so it will be fun to find out. I have to say that I like Bloodwynd a lot. He has a cool look and an interesting power set.
I am going to briefly review the arcs in the trade.
The first arc sees Weapons Master hired by the Dominators to attack the League and steal Guy Gardner’s Lantern ring. W.M. tests the League first by giving advanced weapons to the Royal Flush gang. Once he has seen enough, he attacks the League and manages to take them out rather quickly. He teleports them to another dimension where they are under his control. He is outwitted by Blue Beetle and Bloodwynd.
This first arc was rather good. It gives a reason for why this League exists, shows off all of the characters and their power sets, and has them face off against a worthy opponent.
These three issues also introduce several plot threads that run through these issues and, presumably, beyond. Plots like Beetle’s suspicions of Bloodwynd, Ice’s crush on Superman, Fire making new outfits, Superman distrusting Max and the U.N., etc.
The second arc is, IMO, the highlight of the trade. A person loyal to Maxima crashes on Earth with news that someone has usurped her throne on Almerac. She rushes off to reclaim her position and the League quickly follows.
The threat is a villain named Starbreaker, a threat the League apparently fought in an old 1972 issue. He is an energy vampire and world destroyer. He lands on a planet, drains it of energy, and then causes it to drift into the sun. The resulting explosion gives him even more power. That is the fate that awaits Almerac. He quickly defeats the League (minus Guy who ran off in a huff) and digs three trenches deep into the core of Almerac. It takes everything the League has to defeat Starbreaker and save Almerac.
I like this arc for several reasons. The first is that Starbreaker is a huge threat and his villainy threatens the entire universe. He’s not a pushover. The second is that it gives us more insight into Maxima. Her people turn on her here because she left instead of helping to rebuild the planet. They end up exiling her since she hadn’t been ruling them for a while anyways. We see a rare moment where Maxima lets her guard down and softly cries as she looks at a painting of her deceased parents.
The third reason is that with Guy gone for most of this arc it wasn’t as annoying to read. The final issue is that the League has a discussion if they should even get involved. They agree that it is terrible that Almerac is suffering and that Maxima has lost her throne but don’t agree whether they have the right to interfere and put Maxima back on her throne. They don’t go around Earth toppling dictators so why should they on another planet? It is an interesting discussion and a nice little bit of real world politics creeping in.
I lump the last three issues into an arc even though really only the last two issues deal with the alien that bought Earth. The first issue sees Guy returning to the League with his new Sinestro ring and getting into a fight. Superman starts to fight Guy at first but realizes that there is no point. He can easily beat Guy but it won’t change things. He lets Guy back in the League with the hope that he can still be a positive influence on the hothead. The Atom guest stars, hoping to join the League but decides not to after seeing the dysfunction going on.
The final two issues are just fun. The League investigates a missing space shuttle for NASA and discovers that it has been taken aboard a giant alien spacecraft. The alien, named Chaq, bought the rights to Earth and the solar system from an old galactic ruling body. Of course the heroes don’t recognize the authority of this old ruling council but Ice points out that human history is full of examples of one civilization forcing its laws on another civilizations whether that civilization wanted it or not.
The League wins not by force but by tricking Chaq into selling the deed to them. It was a nice change of pace from the slug fests that were the last two arcs.
Overall, I thought this trade was highly enjoyable. I had a smile on my face many times while reading it. The issues were just fun and didn’t wallow in darkness. The stories could get dark, like when we are shown just how horrible the situation is on Almerac. The main difference is that it doesn’t stay dark and gritty when it doesn’t have to, unlike some comic books today.
There are some problems. Some technical, like when talk bubbles are pointed at the wrong character or when Weapons Master is called Master Weapons. Others are a writing issue, like when at the end of one comic Starbreaker clearly says he remembers Superman and then at the start of the next issue has trouble remembering who this guy in the red and blue costume is supposed to be.
Still, that didn’t deter me from enjoying this trade. In the long run, this Justice League trade isn’t significant. It features an odd collection of heroes and exists at a time when the League was in flux, between a highly popular comedic run that had just ended and a highly memorable run by Grant Morrison that would start in a few years. I can see why that would stop people from buying it. However, if you want a fun, well drawn Justice League collection you could do a lot worse than this one.
Edited by Virgil Vox, 14 March 2018 - 05:53 PM.