REVIEW: SUPERMAN VOLUME 4 – PSI WAR / AUTHOR: SCOTT LOBDELL / ARTIST: KENNETH ROCAFORT, AARON KUDER / PUBLISHER: DC / RELEASE DATE: AUG 19TH
Superman’s near-immunity to physical damage has always presented challenges to comic book writers. After all, action and violence are the mainstays of your average superhero story and if your lead character can shrug off bullets as if it was a light summer rain then you have a bit of a problem. Luckily, one of his less well-known weaknesses is a vulnerability to psychic and psychological attacks and as the title suggests Superman Volume 4: Psi War is mostly about people messing with Superman’s mind.
It’s taken almost three volumes for this new incarnation of Superman to find its feet, and the plot is still as convoluted as always. In this case we meet a conspiracy of psychics who all share a common origin and an agenda connected to one of Superman’s oldest foes. Thrown into the mix is big-headed horror and mind control expert Hector Hammond, who despite looking incredibly silly still manages to be scary. We also have a re-imagined version of another mind controlling villain, Queen Bee, who, in a pleasing remix of ideas, is now responsible for the bad-guy factory H.I.V.E.
All these elements combine to create a storyline in which the man of steel is brought low through human frailty and psionic manipulation. Lobdell’s script is strongly reminiscent of the '90s era, focusing on action and character growth rather than tedious navel gazing. Superman Volume 4: Psi War sees a welcome change in direction, the hyper-violent style and overwhelming grittiness that have plagued this series ever since the re-launch are all but gone. This gives the characters room to breathe. The supporting cast get a chance to do something in this book and this brings Superman’s own problems into a sharper focus.
The art is still of the adequate but not amazing standard we’ve come to expect from most of DC’s books , but shows signs of improvement. Psi War marks a point where the title has finally started to recover from recent abuses, and for the first time in a while we look forward to seeing what happens next.