SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #29, written by Keith Champagne with art by Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza, on sale now.
Superman is one of the strongest and most confident superheroes in the DC Universe, but even he has the ability to feel fear. It’s part of what makes him so great; the ability to know fear is directly linked to the ability to feel empathy, and Superman is inarguably one of the most empathetic heroes in all of comics.
But to the right villain, the ability to feel fear is a major weakness to be exploited. Superman usually doesn’t have too much of a problem dealing with his own villains, like Lex Luthor, Brainiac or Mongul, but against another hero’s arch-enemies, he can easily be caught by surprise. That’s exactly what happened in the lates issue of Superman, as The Man of Tomorrow came up against the full power of the yellow light of fear.
The crux of the issue centers around a number of missing children in Metropolis and Superman’s pledge to their parents to find them and bring them home safe, while one of the missing children is seemingly responsible for the abductions. Superman is able to trace a strange energy to the child as he abducts yet another kid and when confronted by Superman, both children prove to have an immense power that doesn’t just floor Superman, it knocks him clean unconscious.
After regaining his composure, Superman is able to follow the yellow light of fear to an abandoned hospital where he finds the missing children embedded in a web of fear infecting the whole city. He confronts the entity controlling the children by name revealing the true form of Parallax, the fear entity which powers the Yellow Lanterns’ rings and was once responsible for the entire destruction of the Green Lantern Corps. As the two begin to fight, Parallax exploits the children’s fear to grow in power and in a desperate bid to save them, Superman offers himself up to the fear entity in their place, allowing Parallax to possess one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe. The only person who can save Earth from the Parallax infested Superman is Sinestro, who arrives on the scene looking to reclaim Parallax for himself.
Parallax has inhabited many beings in the DC Universe, but the yellow fear bug seen in this issue is a retcon added to the Green Lantern mythos a decade after Parallax’s first introduction. Originally, Parallax was the name Hal Jordan took after he was driven mad by the destruction of Coast City and became a cosmic supervillain. He wiped out the Green Lantern Corps and tried to rewrite reality itself. Luckily, Hal's good nature won through when it was needed most, and he sacrificed himself to reignite the sun during Earth’s Final Night. Hal later went on to become the new incarnation of The Spectre as an attempt to atone for his genocidal actions, before eventually returning to the land of the living and once again becoming a member of the GLC.
It was later revealed that Parallax was the entity of fear we know it to be today, and that for millennia it was prisoner within the Central Power Battery on Oa. However, because the Power Battery is linked to all Green Lantern rings, it was able to worm its way into Hal Jordan, slowly at first and then all at once following the destruction of Coast City. During the time in which Hal was The Spectre, it came to light that he was not responsible for the actions of Parallax and Hal, The Spectre and Parallax were separated from each other, restoring Hal to life.