"Escape From Bizarro World" (part 3)
Writer(s): Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist(s): Eric Power, Dave Stewart (c)
Publisher: DC Comics
It am bad time to be Superman hater.
Ok, I should probably work on my Bizarro speech. Still, between Kurt Busiek's Superman and Geoff Johns and Richard Donner's Action Comics, Superman really is reaching a new level of creative genius. These three writers have reinvigorated a concept that some people write off as "staid" or "relics of a past morality".
The latest issue of Action Comics is no exception. Superman and Jonathan Kent are trapped on Bizarro World, surrounded by hostile bizarros out to get not only them but Superman's direct counterpart Bizarro and his own twisted, warped, and yet oddly amusing Justice League. Bizarro has always been a concept that was really interesting, but never really executed in a good way. Some times he's a character played for laughs, and other times he comes across as nothing more than a Hulk in a Superman costume. In a recent, and very similar storyline over in All-Star Superman, the bizarros were a bland, boring, and downright pathetic group played as nothing more then one big laugh, juxtaposed by a rather whiny outsider character. That would probably be an example of an extreme in the "bad Bizarro" story category.
However, the Bizarro's presented in this story are much more interesting, and definitely make it into the "good Bizarro" stories. Back in the Action Comics Annual #11 we were presented with a rather haunting glimpse of Bizarro World and its inhabitants, and from then I was hooked, waiting forward to this story. It pays off. Johns and Donner have crafted a new take on the character, giving the Bizarros and their world a zombie like quality, removing camp humor for a chilling atmosphere. Some of the horror aspects are cut back in this issue, and it adds for a greater connection to Eric Powell's art. Still, the Bizarros are back, and for the first time in a while, interesting.
The writers' take on numerous DC characters in the Bizarro World are a bit odd, a bit head turning, and all the while amusing. Green Arrow sporting a target on his chest, Aquaman with a fish bowl on his head, and Batman with a smily face on his chest, big floppy ears and a perpetual smile are some of the most, no pun intended, bizarre concepts I've read in a comic, and yet they work everytime. Johns even manages to tie the story into the “Sinestro Corps War” going on over in the pages of Green Lantern in a very clever way, featuring the Bizarro Hal Jordan as a member of the Sinestro Corps. The Bizarro Justice League in this book, unlike the All-Star version of the same concept, only adds to the depth of character and uniqueness of Bizarro #1.
And yet, while this is Bizarro's story, the subplot involving Clark and his father plays out to a wonderful end. It’s not often that I consider a comic heart warming, but that's exactly what this story is. The final scene between Clark and Jonathan is probably one of the best examples of why Superman is the son of the Kents, and not Kal-El of Krypton. His family made him who he is, and the loving bond between them only adds to the inspirational feel present in the Superman concept.
Powell's art still feels like an extremely odd fit for a story mixed with horror and dark concepts. Powell is a great artist, no doubt about it, but this just does not feel like the right comic for him. The cartoony Superman and company just do not really stand out or fit. Still, considering the more light hearted nature of this issue, Powell does get some moments to shine, and his Bizarro Justice League is great.
Johns and Donner have managed to finally get Action Comics back on track, free from scheduling woes and artist delays. Thanks to that, the comic is full of wonderful new ideas and some great revitalizations of old ones. The writers have proved not only why Superman matters, but that he can have fun comics.
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