Panel....or pep rally? Thousands of Heroes fans packed Comic-Con's largest venue to get the first look at season three before it returns to NBC — after a nine-month-hiatus — on Sept. 22. And when we say first look, we mean a complete 44-minute look: Executive Producer Tim Kring told the 6,000-plus crowd that he not only wants them to be among the first to see the start of Volume III (titled "The Second Coming"), but that he'd also like them to spread the word once they leave San Diego. "Go back and talk about it and say it's better than ever," Kring said. Spoilers begin after the jump:
• The action begins with a "future" Peter (Milo Ventimiglia, pictured) coming back to modern day in an effort to shoot Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) before he exposes their secret powers to the world.
• Matt (Greg Grunberg) discovers future-Peter's real identity — but is banished into the middle of nowhere before he can do anything about it.
• Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) finally isolates Maya's (Dania Ramirez) powers in chemical form, and uses a syringe to inject himself with the magic elixir rather than give the girl what she wants — freedom from the hell of her super-human affliction.
• Sylar (Zachary Quinto) traps Claire (Hayden Panettiere) in her house and literally rips open her head to steal her thoughts and ability to defy death, while...
• Hiro (Masi Oki) disobeys his dead father's command and opens up the office safe that holds part of a formula that, if completed, could destroy the world. Of course, it's confiscated within seconds by a mysterious, time-traveling blonde.
• There are also brief appearances by Niki (Ali Larter) — now looking professional and dating (or married to?) an older man — as well as Noah (Jack Coleman), who's locked up in an inescapable prison cell. Oh, and keep an eye out for a new animated image (painting?) that look likes the Earth is cracking in half.
• And did we say a newly powered-up Mohinder gets to finally kick some ass?
The screening left little time for and a Q&A session, but that didn't stop the entire cast from coming on stage to wave and blow kisses to the fans (one young woman even got a hug from Ventimiglia). The crowd roared, especially since most had been waiting hours for the panel. One even waved a sign that said "Milo we camped out 4 U all night."