Superman: Up in the Sky #2 – Tom King, Writer; Andy Kubert, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: No Surrender
Ray: Superman: Up in the Sky #2, the second issue of Tom King and Andy Kubert’s Walmart former exclusive Superman story makes the point of this arc a little clearer – it’s essentially King doing his own version of The Kamandi Challenge, where every issue gets Superman into a fix and then gets him out of it before sending him on his way to the next adventure – all in the service of tracking the mysterious little girl who was taken to deep space after her family was murdered. The first segment of the issue is a tense one, as it finds Superman depowered and in a boxing ring against an alien pugilist named Mighto. This is one of King’s trademark issues where he pushes a character beyond their limits, and the violence in this story can be a bit much for a Walmart comic – how many times can we see Superman bloodied and bruised in one story? – but it does an excellent job of showing us his grit when he has something to believe in.
The second story is interesting, as Superman is barely in it. Superman is floating through space, near-death – maybe due to to the injuries he suffered in the previous story’s fight – and is found by a highly advanced, benevolent species and placed under the care of one of their healers. This psychic being examines him, but finds that Superman is dying and their available technology can’t heal him. However, the close contact with Superman reveals the history of this unfamiliar hero, and the alien sees how many lives he’s saved over the years and how many he’ll save if he survives. That leaves the alien with a terrible choice – one that could cost him everything and leave behind a grieving family as the price of saving Superman’s life. This is one of the most powerful segments King has written in a while and does an amazing job of establishing what Superman means even with him playing a minimal direct role in the story.
Corrina: The opening sequence of Superman: Up in the Sky #2 has more gore and blood that I’d expect in a comic, again, originally aimed at an all-ages. It’s a tale of how Superman never gives up, ever, when he’s on the right course but it does feel like King’s repeating himself here, as he used the same type of sequence (overwhelming odds, never give up, force of will) in his Batman run. I get that determination is an aspect of both heroes but I’d hoped to see how King viewed Superman as somewhat different from Batman. Instead, if you swap in Bruce Wayne in the fight, it’s pretty much the same story.
But I do like the heroism of staying on-goal: finding the little girl.
And then we get to the second segment, in which there’s a choice of a life for a life with the greater good in the balance. I have serious issues with the premise of this story.
Superman, of course, has his morality untouched by this choice, as it’s made by another person, an other, an alien, to freely sacrifice his life so that Superman can live. Ray found it touching. I found it infuriating.
It reminded me of this essay in Uncanny magazine about “Lifeboat Choices” and why such plots are problematic in fictional narratives. Basically, the framing of a story of “there is no choice” except death for the “other” falsely cuts off other narrative choices and forces the reader’s thinking into a binary “this or that.”
The end of the tale could have easily be rewriten as “Superman regains his strength slowly and, as he does, it also effects the empathic healer, preventing him from dying as well.” Because Superman would never choose for another to sacrifice himself for him.
By taking it out of his hands, the story posits that his life is more important than others and that goes against the very core of Superman, which is that all life is important: the alien, the downtrodden, the criminal, the saint.
The morale of Superman is not that he is so important that lives must be sacrificed so he can survive. Superman isn’t supposed to inspire death. He’s supposed to inspire life.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.