Review – Superman: Up in the Sky #1: Mystery in the Stars

Comic Books DC This Week
Superman: Up in the Sky #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Superman: Up in the Sky #1 – Tom King, Writer; Andy Kubert, Penciller, Sandra Hope, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Not Quite There

Ray: One of the biggest experiments DC did in recent years was their exclusive arrangement with Walmart to produce 100-page comic giants for only $4.99. Combining a 12-page original serial by top talent with reprints of the characters’ most iconic stories, they were a great way to get new readers into comics – but the line was plagued with supply issues that made it difficult to follow the stories for long-time readers. Now, the original stories are finally being collected in single-issue format, with each one becoming a six-issue miniseries with two chapters in each. First up is the Superman: Up in the Sky #1, by Tom King and Andy Kubert, and if you’ve read King’s writing you know not to expect an easy read geared towards rookie readers. That’s both this issue’s biggest strength and biggest weakness – it’s a challenging comic that seems to want to break Superman down as it mires him in an intergalactic kidnapping mystery.

The story kicks off when Superman is contacted by Batman about a horrible murder of a family of foster kids, with one girl clinging to life and another missing. The surviving girl, shortly before she passes away, tells Superman her sister was taken by a spaceman. Clark tries to investigate as a reporter but is shut down by an oddly belligerent Perry White. Did he and JJJ have an unannounced crossover body-swap? It’s a little hard to place this story – Superman and Lois are definitely together, Pa Kent is still alive, and Clark seems more like a rookie reporter than a Pulitzer-winning vet. Feeling he owes it to the missing girl, Alice, to find her, Superman heads to space and to Rann to track the source of the Zeta beam that her kidnapper apparently used.

That’s where one of King’s classic tells comes into play in the second half – he’s really fond of hallucinations that put heroes through dark nights of the soul, as we saw in “Knightmares”. Here it’s Superman’s choice, as he attempts to absorb countless hours of data into his brain from the Zeta Beam computer, at the cost of his own sanity. That takes the form of a crisis involving a little boy who winds up in a coma pretending to be Superman, and causes Clark to wonder if he’s doing more bad than good. It also leads to a chance encounter with Alice, sending him on the next stage of his quest. The art is great and King seems to have a lot to say about Superman, but this is not something I would choose to give to a first-time reader picking up a comic through Walmart. It’s a challenging, often grim comic that begins with murdered children. Lots of story to be told here, but it’s much more of a Tom King comic than a Walmart comic.

Superman in action. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: The murder of children seems a strange way–to put it mildly– to start a series that was supposed to be geared to getting readers of all ages into comics via Wal-Mart. That’s definitely a Teen-rated subject and while that may have been the age market DC wanted, I question the choice to do so when these books were put near the cashwrap where, presumably, kids would see them and want them.

Story choice aside, it’s an uneven issue and it feels a few degrees off. Take the conversation with Lois and Clark. It’s beautifully drawn, with them together on the roof, and it looks amazing, but the dialogue that’s supposed to be playful instead seems strange. Also strange is that Superman would have to be talked into going looking for a child–he does have Kara for back-up and it’s not like this situation hasn’t come about before, and it’s also odd that Perry would shut down a story about a child who’s been kidnapped by aliens. I know, it’s not local, but a child has been stolen by aliens! That’s a national story!

In short, it looks amazing, but the story is dark and uneven and I don’t totally buy the actions of the lead character.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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