Strange Attractors

Authors: Gail Simone and others
Artists: John Byrne, Nelson and others
Titan Books
RRP: 7.99
ISBN 1 84576 249 5
Available 21 July 2006

When the magnetic-powered supervillain Dr Polaris arrives in Metropolis - pursued by a mysterious rival called Repulse - Superman must use all his strength of body and mind to save him. And when Dr Psycho turns the people's love for Superman into a deadly obsession, will the world's greatest hero survive? Shrapnel, Satanus, the Queen of Fables and Livewire also want to make the Man of Steel's life a living nightmare...

There seem to have been rather a lot of Superman graphic novels coming out lately, don't there? Is there a new movie out or something?

Following several continuity-heavy volumes, such as Sacrifice and Ruin Revealed, this one (which collects issues 827-8 and 830-5 of Action Comics) takes a refreshingly straightforward approach, making it an ideal jumping-on point for readers new to the series (perhaps having just seen the movie). Though the book contains the usual "story thus far" sections, including a digest of what happened in the pivotal Sacrifice, writer Gail Simone ensures that her characters' musings never linger on past events for long.

This doesn't mean that the author ignores previous storylines, however. When Superman faces the hypnotic Dr Psycho, both hero and villain reflect briefly upon the Man of Steel's recent mental assault by Maxwell Lord. When Lois calls upon Lana Lang-Ross to ask for a favour, their old rivalry is not forgotten. And, as you can see from the above synopsis, there are plenty of old enemies to keep hard-core fans happy (though strangely Satanus reveals his long-hidden secret identity rather suddenly to Superman).

Other than that, though, Simone keeps things simple, with each of the stories lasting no longer than one or two chapters.

Adding to this back-to-basics flavour is the return of John Byrne (The Man of Steel), who provides the pencil work throughout this volume. Though I prefer Byrne's art when it is inked by Dick Giordano or by Byrne himself, after a slightly shaky start the artist ultimately establishes a good partnership with inker Nelson. Their visualisations of Bettie Page look-alike Repulse, the aptly named Dr Psycho, the Queen of Fables and a brief flashback to ancient Krypton are among the highlights of this volume.

All in all, Strange Attractors is an appropriately attractive proposition.

Richard McGinlay

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