Superman: Panic in the Sky

I had to do a bit of back-and-forth between this trade and Superman: They Saved Luthor’s Brain!, since this storyline lies smack-dab in between stories in that trade.  There isn’t much tie-in, other than references to Lex Luthor II and further explanation as to how and why Supergirl returns to Earth.

The story itself was pretty basic: a set of villains is traveling to Earth to destroy it; Superman enlists the help of a variety of heroes to help stop them.  It’s not groundbreaking, but it was still a very entertaining read.  The writers brought in a good variety of characters, and gave each one their own little moment in the spotlight.  Even characters like The Forever People, Jack Kirby creations whom I haven’t seen since well before Crisis on Infinite Earths, make appearances here.  The inclusion of more obscure characters made it clear that the writers read and liked the classic comics, and that made the story feel more nostalgic and heart-warming.

Also, yay Captain Marvel! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he’s just too precious.

The real star of this trade though was a character who had previously been relegated to supporting status:  Draaga, the alien warrior whom Superman originally defeated on Warworld in the Superman: Exile storyline.  Draaga had made a few guest appearances since that initial introduction, demanding Superman fight him so that he may regain his honor, honor that can only be won by either his or Superman’s death.

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Initially I viewed Draaga as a bit of a throwaway character, one who was so set on this one task that he didn’t really have the opportunity to be fleshed out as a character.

Somehow, this comic proved me wrong, as Draaga joins in the fight against Warworld, befriends Supergirl, and finally makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her life:

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Draaga dies a hero, something I never would have guessed.  What’s more, the story plays up the friendship between him and Supergirl, even paying homage to the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths artwork with this image gracing the cover:

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Reminiscent of a similar image featuring Superman holding Supergirl’s lifeless body, I found this a rather touching and surprising tribute.  Draaga is not forgotten in the comic, as Superman reminds Earth of his noble sacrifice.  It was subtle, but the focus on Draaga’s heroism rather than his previous less-than-noble actions was quite moving. It reminds the readers that anyone can make the switch from villain to hero with a single act.

Other than Draaga’s death, the status quo is returned by the end of the comic, but the story was a moving, entertaining read nonetheless.  The character interactions felt realistic and were fun to read, and I found myself not wanting the story to end.  Maybe Draaga’s death is permanent; perhaps, like so many other characters, he will find a way to return.  Either way, he managed to evolve over the course of this comic, starting as a boisterous brute and ending a hero.

-Jess

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