Superman on Television
Justice League: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 11: "Panic in the Sky"Reviewed by: Barry Freiman
Oh, So That's Why This Episode's Called "Panic in the Sky"
Well now it all makes sense. Brainiac.
Borrowing a page from Alan Moore's interpretation of the final Luthor/Brainiac teaming of the Silver Age in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", and from an early unmade "Superman Lives" movie script that introduced "Luthiac", we get what could have been the final Luthor/Brainiac teaming of the animated age. So much of this Cadmus arc feels like the animated universe's swan song. But with episodes this good, it's easy to see why Cartoon Network renewed the show for a new season. Thank goodness.
As I noted in last week's review, "Panic in the Sky" is also the title of a story arc from the post-Byrne "Superman" books in which Superman rallies Earth's greatest super-heroes against the forces of Brainiac (and Maxima).
"PITS" (a misnomer of an acronym to be sure) was the first time since John Byrne's 1987 continuity reboot we got to see Superman as the de facto leader of the good guys. It was also a major showcase for the newly reintroduced Supergirl/Matrix character.
This episode delivers on the promise of its title. Superman makes the difficult choices associated with being a leader. He's seen as a moral center by the Big Six (and technically by Batman too, though Bats views that as a liability), and by just about every other hero -- as encapsulated by that great exchange between "Team Superman" members Steel and Supergirl.
As absolute proof that humans learn and adapt, one need look no further than the exquisitely choreographed battle involving scores of heroes and clones and compare the fluidity of these scenes to first season "JL". In interviews, Bruce Timm and company had said how difficult it was to stage and time battles with seven main characters - now they intentionally inflict on themselves 60 or so main characters, staging action sequences that could woo John Woo. Gone are the days of toning down the heroes' abilities to heighten dramatic tension.
The episode has fun with the "Super Friends" clones in ways that are satirical but not insulting to former Saturday morning devotees. It clearly gives us the last word on the question of which windbag whirls best, Red Tornado or Super Friend Samurai? I'd have taken 3:1 odds on Tornado's victory so that battle seemed about right.
There aren't enough speeding bullets in the world to express my enthusiasm for this episode, this story arc, these creators, this voice cast, and the first Kryptonian scientist to express his faith in Brainiac and disbelief in the predictions of Superman's Dad, thus setting this really cool story into motion.
Next week the Cadmus arc concludes with "Divided We Fall". Now that Brainiac stands revealed, I'm sure he'll relinquish robotic custody of himself to the League - or not! Sick 'em, super pals. And till then: Peace out.
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