Thursday, March 27, 2014

Psi Sighting 3: Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad Special #1

I just finished my look back at times 'Supergirl met Supergirl', a long box review from all the ages of Supergirl.

At the same time, because of her reappearance in Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S., I also have been looking back at Supergirl villain Psi. Her biggest appearance was in the first three issues of Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (reviewed here: She did make a couple of appearances after that first battle though, most notably in the comic I am reviewing today -the Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad Special #1 from way back in 1988.

This is a crazy issue, co-written by  Suicide Squad scribe John Ostrander and Doom Patrol writer Paul Kupperberg with art by then relative-newcomer Erik Larsen. Hawk (of Hawk and Dove) is captured by contras in Nicaragua. The Suicide Squad is called in to rescue him or eliminate him if necessary! And it is Ronald Reagan who sends them!

An anti-Amanda Waller subset of the government would like to beat her group to the punch. One of them is owed a favor by Valentina 'Negative Woman' Vostock. That agent calls in his marker and the Doom Patrol are suddenly on their way to try and rescue Hawk as well.

This is a 45 page slugfest as the teams fight each other, fight contras, and end up fighting the Red Rockets. There is also the usual inter-team squabbling. But this review is supposed to be look at Psi so I will be concentrating on her moments.

The first thing to realize is this isn't the 'classic' Suicide Squad. Ostrander and Kupperberg send in Rick Flagg and the farm team. No Deadshot. No Captain Boomerang. No Bronze Tiger. No Nightshade.

Instead we get The Thinker, The Weasel, Mr. 104, and Psi. I suppose the addition of Mr.104 is a nice twist. He is an old Doom Patrol villain and that adds some fuel to the fire. And the Weasel here seems more like a lycanthrope than a frustrated professor in a suit (which I thought he was).

Anyways, Psi is able to use her powers to scout the area psionically and detects the Doom Patrol is in Nicaragua as well. And she is able to use her powers to mask the Squad's presence. Psi was always a troubled soul in Supergirl. Here we learn that she joined the Squad in hopes of them restoring her memories.

Too bad Nightshade wasn't there. I really like that character!

The Doom Patrol is on the island and it is the main team (at the time): Robotman, Celsius, Tempest, and the Negative Woman. So at least we have some 'big names' in the book.

The two teams work their way closer and closer to the prison; it was inevitable that the two would face off. It is a classic movie moment ... the two teams stealthily working their way through the streets (as stealtily as you can with a Weasel and guys dressed like the Squad is) only to turn the corner and run smack into each other.

Before either team can talk, Mr. 104 leaps to attack the Patrol. And, as is typical in these comics, the two teams of 'heroes' end up brawling. So much for a quiet mission that doesn't cause attention.

Remember Psi was strong enough to take on Supergirl. She also was conflicted in her desire to harm people.

I thought this was a great shot of her blasting Negative Woman, hoping to convince Val to step down rather than get hurt. Psi must be holding back here because she briefly defeated Supergirl with a move like this. Negative Woman shouldn't be able to shrug off that amount of power.

As I said above, the Rocket Red Squadron shows up, hoping to take Hawk back to the USSR and interrogate him. The old rubric 'politics make strange bedfellows' holds true. The Squad and the Patrol have a common enemy and so team up.

In the earlier battle, The Thinker ends up being killed and Rick Flagg throws on his helmet. Like Mento, a suddenly boosted brain makes him addled. He veers to evil and out of control.

As for poor Psi, she never did have great control over her powers or her empathy. With all these super-personalities around her, her mind is overwhelmed.

And that psychic pain means she can't concentrate to use her powers. As she flees the scene, she is blasted from behind by a nameless Rocket Red.

She took on Supergirl. She was immensely powerful. But in the end, she wasn't invulnerable. An energy blast is enough to take her out.

And it kills her!!

Even though they were fighting just a few pages before, Negative Woman goes to Psi to comfort her.

At least in those death throes, Psi suddenly remembers her past. She remembers her name, her parents, her life. Kupperberg gives her decent death scene.

And nice last panel with Val mourning her. But why that Rocket Red is just standing there and not fighting more doesn't make much sense.

Alas, Psi ... we barely knew ye.

And element of the USSR is concerned about this international incident so sends another Russion agent - the Cossack - to get to Hawk. In the meantime, Flagg, mad with Thinker power, ends up killing the Weasel. That act snaps him back to sanity and he removes the helmet. Hawk is freed by the Cossack but ends up in the hands of the Squad. And both teams scurry their separate ways, heading back to the states.

This book is a wild read. It is nearly all fighting with just a smidge of political intrigue mixed in. Everyone fights everybody. The city is left in rubble and three members of the Suicide Squad end up dead! Otherwise, this is a throwaway mission which didn't impact either books long term plans.

I like seeing early works of artists whose style have morphed over time. I am a Doom Patrol fan so I have much of Larsen's work on the title. You can see some of his 'Savage Dragon' sensibilities on the pages here and there.

But the main reason to review this was to showcase Psi and her tragic death. She was never a true villain. She was powerful, but susceptible to people hoping to exploit her. And that trust in others led her to her death.

This isn't an important issue for Supergirl fans ... or really any fans. Even Psi fans. But if you want nonstop action and the occasional death, and you see it in the quarter bin, you should pick it up.

Overall grade: C-

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