Superman #24 review

It’s the conclusion of Psi War in, according to the splash page, part three. It’s actually part nine or something, as this storyline has meandered from its beginnings in Superman, bled out into Action Comics and taken in a Superman Annual along the way. I’ve found a lot of it great fun, but there’s no denying it’s been all over the place, with allegiances and motivations changing like the wind.

Case in point: just a couple of weeks ago, in Action Comics #24, the Psycho Pirate wanted to save Metropolis from the imminent return of Brainiac. In this issue’s continuation he doesn’t give the alien invader so much as a thought, wishing only to free the citizens from ‘the mental prisons society makes them construct from the day they’re born’. That’s rather out of nowhere.

The story begins with Superman unconscious, leaving a newly psionic Lois Lane to stop the Psycho Pirate. While a newcomer so far as mental melees are concerned, she makes a good fist of things, but the more experienced villain overcomes her and leaves, to enact his plan to get the citizenry acting on pure emotion. Lois revives Superman, and they’re soon joined by a battered Hector Hammond and a ‘she’s not dead after all, just really ugly’ Hive Queen. While the latter two retain their own agendas, they agree with Superman that the bigger picture demands they stop their mutual enemy before the people tear one another apart and the city burns.

Away from the traditional melodramatic back and forth hero/villain banter, writer Mike Johnson brings a chilling intensity to the vignettes of ordinary people driven mad. It’s nastier than necessary for a Superman comic, with the artwork of penciller Eddy Barrows and inker Eber Ferreira sparing us little in the way of detail.

I’m much happier with the narration by Lois, which brings the focus down to human terms and lets us get to know her better. The chemistry-filled conversation between her and Superman as he reawakens demonstrates once more that she’s the one for him, not Wonder Woman. And there’s a similarly tender moment before the end, as Lois comes to a realisation. Plus, her thoughts as she’s passing out, saying goodbye to her mental powers, really get to the core of the woman.

Calling this issue a conclusion is a bit rich, what with all three evil mentalists getting away; it’s more a case of them being shifted off-screen to make way for the next Superman Family crossover, Return to Krypton. Superman’s zapped in that direction on the final page, interrupting his non-search for the bad guys who nearly destroyed his home. It’s a case of, oh well, they’re gone – shouldn’t he be putting out JLA alerts or something? This approach really does make it seem as if the Psi War story, enjoyable as it’s been despite the flaws, really has been simple filler in between the crossovers, so freeform it could expand to fill a hole in the Action Comics schedule when that book lost its creative team and storyline. While I appreciate the Lois spotlight, a little more from Superman in the way of resolving the situation would’ve been nice.

Near-zombie nastiness aside, there’s lots to like in the artwork, with the colours of Pete Pantazis making a big contribution. His tones applied to Barrows’ compositions and Ferreira’s finishes make for good-looking superhero art.

And good on Barrows for a cover design that hides the new Superman’s lack of shorts and gives us an unapologetic S-curl – while rather young, this guy recalls the classic hero (he’ll probably get shot now I’ve pointed that out).

So, goodbye Psi-War, I’m ready for Psi-War 2. We know it’ll be here as soon as there’s a gap to fill.

8 thoughts on “Superman #24 review

  1. I agree that the psi-war as been a bit over the place, but I like you have enjoyed it nevertheless. I guess I didn't mind the Pycho Pirates seemingly random shifts in purpose/motivation as I guess I put that down to the mask driving him completely bat-crazy and therefore I guessed he viewed bringing the 'freedom' of chaos to Metropolis would in his deluded mind enable them to resist Brainaic's control. A bit of a reaching rationalization in regards to this likely plot hole on my part but I content to see it that way so I can ignore the problem while reading the story, But yeah, it the story had it's issues 🙂 , but it was fun for me.

    Lois and Clark's interaction was interesting, though I'm calling it now, she won't remember any of this when she recovers from her coma. I really wish they would actually keep her in the know from now on, the stories and their relationship would become really interesting. But I'm certain it'll be 'I can't remember anything after falling into a coma, what happened?' “sigh”

    Nice review, agreed completely 🙂

    – Grant


  2. Nice review, Matt. I have barely been following this thing coz it was all over the place, just like you said, but seeing the comments from a friend who loves clois being happy with this issue and your review has tempted me to take a look.

    – Sephiroth/Lork


  3. Hello Grant, thanks for the kind comments. Your possible explanation as to PP's whims makes sense, if I had a Baldy Award to give, you'd get it. As it is, if you're ever passing through Edinburgh, there is a Tunnock's teacake with your name on it!

    And absolutely, Lois will remember nothing – but I wonder if she'll remember that she's forgotten something …


  4. You know, even after all this I'm still surprised that Manchester Black wasn't in Psi-Wars.
    Oh well, maybe he'll come back in Psi-Wars II along with other psychics like Dr. Psycho,
    Martian Manhunter, Captain Comet, and Gorilla Grodd to make it a real Psychic War.

    Buuut that would never happen probably. Besides, I think Manchester Black might be better
    suited for a storyline that test Superman's morals and ethics instead of a test of physical
    strength of trying to stop powerful rampaging psychics.


  5. Hi Martin; you and I were talking about what makes a good review, and of how enthusiasm and critical thinking ought to be combined. There are of course an endless number of ways in which that can be done, and thank heavens for that. But if I may, I think the above is a cracking way to reflect both a reader's love for the material and their awareness that there's problems at hand too. It really is a fine example of how to speak as a fan and a critic at the same time. Anyone picking up Superman 24 after reading this would be fully forewarned of both the aspects you enjoyed and the problems with the storytelling you encountered. I particularly appreciated how you ensured that the problems were never downplayed while the virtues still received their due. It's all too easy to bury the good aspects of a comic in a discussion of its weaknessess, as I know to my shame. To express a convincing reason for liking for the book while showing it had the problems this one had is something that's all too rare. To do it with such enthusiasm and a lack of pretension – I hope you'll forgive me thinking through why I enjoyed this review, and that you'll not object to my throwing m'hat in the air with a rousing hear, hear accompanying the mark of respect.


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