While Tom King writes a good long game, his individual chapters can be a gem all on their own. Part 4 of his “Up in the Sky!” Superman story is one of them. That is, if your local Walmart got the #6’s in stock.
Adrift and barely alive, Superman floats in the abyss of deep space. A ship finds him, and the crew makes the Good Samaritan effort to take him aboard and heal him.
The ship’s healer uses part of his very life force to cure patients. Even with great effort, the healer struggles to help this stranger come back to life. The crew prepares to give up on the extraordinary measures and head home.
Soon, the healer returns to his family awaiting, yet he is plagued by memories not his own. In his initial healing efforts, the healer begins to live brief moments of Superman’s life, hearing the voices of those crying for help.
These memories speak to the valor of the stranger now in a room that might be a hospital or a morgue of sorts.
Can the healer go back to his home life, or must he risk his own life so that the mysterious stranger can return to his heroics? Hugging his exuberant children, curled up with his mate in bed, the healer is at rest but the memories make him restive.
What will he choose? King doubled down with the further aching question: Is there even a choice in such moments?
This past year, King has put Mister Miracle and Batman through the wringer, not to mention his previous work with The Vision and Omega Men. Heroes in Crisis currently vexes the local comic shop faithful with the lingering questions of what happened at The Sanctuary. (On that latter one, I see Wally West and others dead and keep hoping the next issue will bring us some sort of “Bobby Ewing in the shower” denouement….)
Can a good person/being ever stop being sacrificial or sacrificed on the altar of the greater good?
Spoilers ahead: Knowing King’s work, the healer is going back and giving up his life force. Just as surely as Supes will keep looking for the kidnapped child (knowing all too well the firepower her abductors have can imperil him again), just as surely as Bruce will stare down the onslaught of all Arkham’s worst (Bane being a very effective puppet master). Scott Free and Big Barda will go to war again and again even with an toddler at home (if there’s not some sort of alternate reality afoot with much of that series and left for a second series to answer!).
Andy Kubert continues to wow with his art. His scene with the alien crew members on the ship’s bridge is quite wonderful. His recovered Superman visiting the healer’s family tapers down to a very small moment with Superman relaying the last words and providing comfort to the grieving family.
A sad yet wistful chapter in this ongoing story.
(Next issue: A look back home in Metropolis with Supes gone and Lois coping without her Clark)
Jerrod Hugenot is a Baptist minister living in upstate New York. He considers Wednesday’s their own kind of sacred day.