Is There a Doctor Psycho in the House? (Plastic Man #5 Review)
Plastic Man #5
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Adriana Melo
Cover Artist: Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Simon Bowland
Previously in Plastic Man…
As the pliable protagonist Plastic Man, Eel O’Brian spent some time bonding with the enigmatic secret agent Obscura (aka Munira Khairuddin), finding clothes for the suave prince, Pado Swakatoon. Eel’s friends, Lila and Doris, from the nightclub he manages continued to investigate the framed-murder pinned on Plastic Man. After a chance encounter with the Secret Six, Eel learns that Obscura faked the kidnapping of Pado all to coerce him to aid her in revealing who the Cabal, a secret group of evil masterminds, are. All the while, Eel’s former boss, gangster Sammy Mizzola dealt with the aftermath of attempting to replicate Eel’s powers using his girlfriend, Janet, who instead had come out with half her body petrified and a boiling temper. With Plastic Man now doubting Obscura, the Cabal step into the light, revealing Queen Bee, Hugo Strange, Per Degaton, Amazo, and Dr. Psycho…
Summary with limited spoilers
After the reveal of the Cabal at the end of the previous issue, this one opens with the conniving Cabal planning in their evil lair as Plastic Man’s narration reinforces his disbelief in the existence of the them. We see the various members of the group beginning to butt heads with one another before Amazo chimes in, reminding them of the strength of their organization where only the greatest are included with no room for fools such as Crazy-Quilt or Mister Disaster. But as Dr. Psycho decries Amazo’s inclusion and nearly gets choked out as a result, Hugo Strange stops this and reminds every one of their mutual goals. As the disputes are all finally settled, Psycho reminds everyone that Plastic Man is a loose thread and must be eliminated and makes plans to do so.
The comic then moves to a different doctor, Kirk Langstrom, aka Man-Bat, as he hears a strange noise. Transforming into his monstrous half, a fight breaks out with his intruder, Plastic Man. Plas stops the fight, revealing he came to Man-Bat for help changing the rubbery hero back to a normal man, feeling he needs to do this if he’s to be a father to Pado. But Man-Bat refuses, saying such a cure could take years and even then, it would more likely turn him into a monster. Dejected and devastated, Plastic Man leaves as the comic cuts back to Dr. Psycho, relishing in treating the prisoner he has locked up like dirt. The prisoner, an alien, as shape-shifting abilities of their own, and Psycho uses his mind control abilities to command them to kill Plastic Man.
The comic returns to Plastic Man, who’s made up his mind about what to do with Pado, as he takes him and Doris out for a day at the carnival before social services arrive to collect Pado. Pado’s heartbroken at Eel abandoning him, as is Doris at seeing this betrayal. But Eel knows Pado can’t continue to live on the streets and feels living with Plastic Man will be even more dangerous for Pado. As Doris leaves in disgust, Eel stands alone, before being called by Obscura again, begging for his help. Plastic Man’s in disbelieve over this claim before Obscura reveals the person chasing her. It’s Plastic Man!! A huge fight between Plastic Man and his doppelganger ensues, and just as Plastic Man seems to be winning, the double takes on a huge, parasitic form, vowing to eat Plastic Man…
Opinions on story and art
Yet again, I’m utterly delighted by this miniseries as creative team Gail Simone, Adriana Melo, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Simon Bowland continue to deliver their A-games! This issue puts the full-spotlight on the Cabal after their grand reveal at the end of the previous issue and I’m loving what I’m seeing thus far. It’s an enjoyably eclectic group of DC baddies, most of whom are very under-utilized. From the malicious Queen Bee to the would-be conqueror Per Degaton to Amazo, the superhero-power-duplicating android, all of them get a fun moment to shine here. And at the forefront, one of my favourite foes: Dr. Psycho. Given his appearances in her issues of Secret Six, Action Comics, and Wonder Woman, it’s no surprise to see Gail Simone writing the terrifying mind-controller here. No other writer can capture just how sadistic Psycho’s thoughts are as well as Gail can. Adriana Melo alongside Kelly Fitzpatrick captures his manic, wild expressions perfectly. Equally well-conveyed and just as much a stand-out moment is the carnival sequence, flipping from heartwarming to heartbreaking on a dime as the art exquisitely conveys the delight in Pado at finding Eel and then the devastation in Eel abandoning the Suave Prince. I had to grab a few tissues the first time I read this sequence. And the second time too. The fight scenes between Man-Bat and the doppelganger are fantastic, continuing to highlight why Melo and Fitzpatrick are the perfect art team for a Plastic Man story, as they continue to highlight both the absurdity and terror that can come from abilities like Eel’s. Bowland’s lettering remains crisp and clear, always being easy to read, and never taking me out of the story for a moment.