SPOILERS from here on out, fellow humans.
In terms of focus, issue #5 of Superman: Up in the Sky is far better than others in this series. Tom King slathers the Jesus allegories all over #5, putting the paragon of virtue in the moral hot-seat. Darkseid knows where the kidnapped girl is. But in order to save an innocent, Superman must kill an innocent.
When he assists in a suicide, Superman comes back to Darkseid (blatantly called “the devil” here). Darkseid doesn’t believe him. So we cut to our next story where Superman is in an idyllic world where all is peaceful. We can tell even before the visual clues that this is some twisted scheme, which has been done to every superhero under the sun at this point in the 21st century (Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, etc.). Of course, Superman declines, which is where we leave off.
While it has plenty of overwritten dialogue and predictable beats, at least this issue’s story continues the themes and characterization it set up in the first issue. We’ve only got one issue left to go and even King knows it’s time to focus and wrap this re-sold Walmart story up.
Andy Kubert’s art hasn’t been this good since #1. His best work conveys a scraggly texture, and every Up in the Sky location he envisions brims with detail. However, much of the atmosphere should also be attributed to the colorist, Brad Anderson. Apokalips is scabbed over with rock and streaming molten lava. The alien planet where Superman must assist in suicide is an eerily glowing place that envelops the struggling Man of Steel in ambiguous light. To convey the hopeful future Darkseid is feeding him, Metropolis gleams with radiant sunshine before the palette turns sickly green to show Superman’s actual imprisoned state.
Up in the Sky has certainly had its ups and downs, no better exemplified than in this thematically powerful but predictable installment.