CREDITS: Written by Scott McCloud; art by Rick Burchett and Terry Austin.
REVIEW: I've read this kind of story elsewhere - the sports contest between aliens and superheroes - and it can be quite funny. I think there was at least one Marvel Adventures title that ran such a story in the past few years, for example. Here, the bulk of it only comes off as silly. There are jokes, but not that many, and it just feels like everyone takes the situation lightly, from the baseball announcers calling the contest of champions to the crowds sitting elbow to elbow with aliens. And really, I think the contest is a little dull, being three rounds of fighting with different weapons. If you're going to use a baseball stadium, at least make it more baseball-like.
And then there's the final act, which redeems the issue. It turns out that this story is really about Professor Hamilton. Dragged to the game to see Superman's opening pitch, he plainly hates sports and walk away when teased about his likely failures in gym class. Only a small character bit, surely, and it seems his real role in the story is figuring out each alien weapon so he can tell the announcers what to advise Superman to do. Which, frankly, made Superman look a little dumb. He should be using his entire suite of powers, and doesn't, waiting around for Hamilton's directions. After Superman wins, he's awarded a kind of booby prize, because the Nebula Cup is actually a compressed neutron star, super-heavy and incredibly dangerous. Hamilton figures out the gravity bats used in one of the contests is the key to saving a stadiumful of people, but he has to hit a small ball with one, which happens to bring up traumatic flashbacks of being a nerdy kid useless at sports. In that moment, it becomes a sports story and an effective one at that, probably better for having hidden its hand. McCloud is very good at giving the supporting cast some love.
Oh and Lobo completists should know Lobo is in this story. It's his fault the Nebula Cup came to Earth, and though he appears in less than a page, he gets what's coming to him. Worth a smirk, if not a smile.
REREADABILITY: Medium-Highish - A silly but amusing story that packs some heart in the end.