“Escape from Bizarro World: Part 1”
Writer: Geoff Johns and Richard Donner
Artist(s): Eric Powell
Publisher: DC Comics
The team of Richard Donner and Geoff Johns return to Action Comics for their next story-arc while the conclusion to “Last Son” continues to be drawn out. However, as hinted at in Action Comics Annual #10, Donner and Johns bring their creative talents to the realm of Bizarro along with artist Eric Powell (of The Goon fame). Bizarro’s been a featured player lately as Grant Morrison penned a very strange, yet very interesting take on the character in All-Star Superman. I think its fun to see Donner’s take on Bizarro especially after Superman III. Of course, Superman III was not a Donner film but it was based off of what Donner started. For those who don’t remember, the Superman III version of Bizarro was a drunk, dirty and unshaven Christopher Reeve made from kryptonite laced with tobacco. So don’t smoke.
My first hope for this story-arc is that it arrives on time. Too many story-arcs with big name creators or with big concepts meet their demise in delays. For some reason, I don’t see that being a problem here. I wasn’t sure how Eric Powell’s style was going to convey into a superhero comic or THE superhero comic for that matter. The Goon is a great series that fits into the horror/comedy genre of storytelling and Eric Powell’s art has always been the staple of that series. After merely looking at this issue’s cover, my questions were answered.
There was something great about Powell’s depiction of Superman on the cover. It was iconic and the style felt “old-school.” But the “old-school” look to Powell’s Superman was match by the unexplainable modernism in the image. I couldn’t help but think of the classic Fleischer cartoon intro, where Superman is described to the audience. But this fantastic image of Superman is overshadowed by the menacing visage of Bizarro in the background. But there is something deeper in Bizarro’s eyes. Powell manages to convey the level of misunderstanding associated with Bizarro in that one image. So now that the cover has completely blown me away, what about the rest of the issue?
The premise of this issue is simple enough. For some unknown reason, Bizarro has crashed into the Kent home in Smallville and kidnapped Pa. What immediately engrosses me in this story is the distress in Ma Kent’s voice which is quelled by Superman’s extreme calm. The dialogue here is brilliant. Superman tries to calm his adoptive mother by assuring her he understands Bizarro. However, in that same moment Superman also conveys that he doesn’t understand Bizarro. He understands how Bizarro operates but he doesn’t understand why Bizarro operates. This concept follows the premise behind Bizarro’s character; while his actions are simple and seem devious, he’s simply misunderstood.
On a personal level, I am hoping I don’t have to wait until Final Crisis to see the retelling of Superman’s origin (again). Personally, I’ve always been satisfied with the John Byrne/Dick Giordano retelling, but if DC wants to incorporate the Donner and Singer vision then I am all about it. In true movie fashion, Superman visits his crystal Fortress of Solitude to talk with Jor-EL. I love the idea of trying to streamline Superman into one origin. His story has been told and retold so many times that whenever a new origin story is released, it gets a bit confusing. I like the idea of fusing in elements from the movie’s origin. Now let’s get the Superman Returns sequel moving.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this issue but the end result has left me pleased and wanting more. This story is beautifully told as Johns and Donner capture the very nature of Bizarro’s character. The depiction of the Bizarro World is also quite fascinating. It looks like a barren wasteland, a world completely destroyed, but its Bizarro’s home. He’s got his own “Mutroplis” and his own Bizarro supporting cast. Of course, the most shocking aspect of this entire issue for me was the fact that Bizarro can multiply as easily as he does here.
The Bizarro World orbits a Blue Sun. Jor-EL warns his son that exposure to this sun will increase his powers and will be cause for the development of new ones. With this in mind the same can be said for Bizarro. Johns and Donner do a fantastic job using Bizarro and the elements brought forth in this issue to take down Superman. There is even a hint at what Bizarro wants in this issue but seeing as how we are dealing with the backwards Bizarro world, it’s difficult to tell. The ending is also quite strange as readers learn what has happened to Jonathan Kent. I never would have thought Bizarro had his own Fortress of Solitude.
I really enjoyed Eric Powell’s artwork throughout this issue. He did an excellent job utilizing his style and making this stand out as one of the best Superman issues of the year. Powelll’s style definitely shows signs of Golden Age and Silver Age influence but everything feels modern. It’s difficult to explain but his depictions of the Bizarros are absolutely outstanding. I would love to see Powell on a number of different superhero titles.
Overall, this is a fantastic issue put out by Johns, Donner and Powell. It’s a fantastic set-up to what should be an excellent story-arc and I don’t forecast any delays here. I would definitely recommend this issue for great writing and a unique style of artwork that really stands out. This is my Pick of the Week.
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