Superman #23 review

Metropolis stands revealed as the haunt of powerful psychics, known as The Twenty, once-ordinary people seeded with mind-mangling power by the alien conqueror Brainiac. One of them, the HIVE Queen, has Superman in her power. She's drowning him in sticky mental energy stolen from the citizens, a kind of psychic honey. Her taunts spur Superman on to break free, and he fights back, but she's just too powerful - attacking him internally with telepathy and externally with telekinesis. Soon her mind shackles have the hero trapped once more.

In Metropolis General, Lois Lane is comatose after the events of Superman Annual, and being watched over by boyfriend Jonathan. Then she wakes up, crackling with psychic energy and crying out one name - Superman.

While the Queen fights Superman downtown, rival psi-villain Hector Hammond is at her base, feeding off her minions. He now has enough power to manifest himself before her, attacking with his superior mental blasts and making the people she's made her drones, his. He even gives them massive-brained bonces to match his own.

Enraged, the Queen heads off to find Hammond, allowing Superman to free himself once more, and slip away from the Hammond homages who want his hide. By the time he gets to HIVE HQ, the fight is over - Hammond lies crumpled on the floor, his head normal-sized, and the Queen ... Hammond claims she's fallen before a new player - Psycho Pirate!

Said villain shows up and drops a bombshell in a dramatic last-page reveal which would seem a lot more dramatic had the first page of this issue not been a flashback to four years ago, with a 'poor sweaty nerd' - one of the Twenty - stealing the legendary Medusa Mask from Metropolis Museum of Art. Longtime DC readers know the mask means the Psycho Pirate. As do newer ones who read Superboy #23 a fortnight back. In fact, that comic had the exact same final page entrance by Psycho Pirate. I suppose if a cliffhanger's worth using once ...

Still, this is another fun issue, with one exception, as Hammond causes a pair of Metropolis cops to shoot each other; we don't see the carnage, but before the blast they're aiming at one another's heads. I'm surprised fill-in writer Mike Johnson includes such an unnecessary moment, given that earlier we see what has to be his rejoinder to the events of the Man of Steel movie.
And later, there's this moment (click on image to enlarge).
Some might say I shouldn't be whingeing about a villain being villainous in a teen-rated comic book, but I just don't like seeing solid citizens cruelly killed. Let the villains slay one another, that's fine, but these police officers are just trying to serve and protect. I hope we see Superman's reaction to this scene at least - it shouldn't be a throwaway moment.

Otherwise, full marks to former Supergirl writer Johnson for capturing Lobdell's narrative tone, complete with witty banter (something which, again, makes casual killings seem out of place). It's good to see Johnson is still around, available for Superman office work.

Superman is less to the fore than usual, but I find 'Queenie' and 'Big Head' so interesting, and the plot so intriguing, that I don't mind him taking a back seat this once.

There's a reference here to how the people of Metropolis see HIVE - as 'a benevolent social media company that connects people to each other' - is this the first time the evil organisation was revealed as Facebook?

And it's great to see the criminally underrated Jesus Merino drawing this issue, after the thumbnails of Eddy Barrows (who gives us a few especially angular panels in the style of regular artist Kenneth Rocafort). The pages burst with power and passion, lending an epic feel to events. Merino's Superman is beautifully clean and heroic, and the Hammond horde are a hoot. The colours of Blond shouldn't be underestimated, as there are some wonderful special effects in here, and great choices from beginning to end.
I don't know how long this arc is slated to continue - presumably it'll cross over with Superboy at some point - but I'm a long way from bored. And so long as Lobdell and collaborators as talented as Johnson and Merino are on board, I can't see disengagement setting in. And with luck, Rocafort will be back before long - this issue's trade paperback-ready cover reminds us just how talented he is.

Just one question - there's someone who appears for a single panel, perhaps it's psychic Lois, having slipped out of her hospital bed and turned into a man - any ideas?


  1. I also found the police officers shooting each other meaningless and gratuitous. It added nothing to the story. We already know Hammond can control minds.

    I did like the art and effects as you mention. And I somehow find the Queen Bee fascinating. Did she use her hypno-pollen on me?

    1. I'm actually disappointed they seem to be avoiding calling her Queen Bee, as that's obviously who she is.

      Mind, I'm still seeing Ilyana.

  2. if you want a fun comic mart try the new indestructible hulk this new arc feature two-gun kid dinosaurs time travelling terrorists king arthur zarrko and the true tomorrow man i dare you to call that a boring comic

    1. I may well give it a try, despite never having been a Hulk fan, ta.

    2. just do what i do and say to yourself mark waid makes good comics

  3. That's a Superman Cos Playing Drag Queen, Mart...


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