Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: Superman #42

Superman #42 came out this week and completely reminded me why Superman fans have been blessed over these last couple of years since Rebirth. This was a great issue. And sadly, as many have pointed out, it is near the end of this tremendous run by the creative team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Hello Brian Michael Bendis. Goodbye to this title and the love it has shown the Man of Steel.

Tomasi and Gleason have given us a loving Kent family with Clark, Lois, and Jon. They have given us great small town stories and a supporting cast. And they have had these characters act the way they should act. Lois is smart and funny and cunning. Superman is strong and immutable and craves justice. Jon is young and impetuous but recognizes his parents as the role models they should be, even if he challenges them now and then.

So why not have the last storyline before they leave the title turn all that on it's head by visiting the backwards world of Bizarro. And why not really reflect on their run by making this issue mirror Superman #1 in very palpable way. I'll post comparisons at the end of the review. Trust me, it is incredible.

And Gleason really knocks it out of the park artwise, giving us the insane action of the Bizarro World while harkening back.

It all makes me thankful that this run exists. Because Superman had been suffering for a long time. And Tomasi and Gleason gave us a ... well ... a Rebirth. On to the book.

The book starts with a mournful Bizarro standing at the Bizarro family graves and contemplating his life. What is the opposite of a rebirth, a rejuvenation? Well, I guess doldrums and a mid-life crisis?

Yes, I had to struggle through some Bizarro backwards speak. But the bottom line is this Bizarro is questioning his role in his life and his family and wondering if he has a purpose.

Oh Bizarro ... I understand. Who hasn't slipped into this feeling now and then.

But this scene is a perfect reflection of a similar graveside scene in Superman #1. Remember the blue energy handprints we all wondered about back then. Here we get a red footprint. So the question for is this: could there be something nefarious messing with the Bizarro World and people's feelings there.

Not Manchester Black but ManU White?
Not Dr. Manhattan but Patient Coney Island?

Hmmm ....

But this is a Bizarro book and we get a splash page of him and some bits from his history and stories. Again, this is a lift right from Superman #1.

But how awesome is this. Lighting a building on fire! Putting cats into trees! And those credits! I don't know if they will blow up well, but they are hilarious!

And just as in Superman #1, Bizarro has to deal with a barn fire on the Kent farm. Here he has to work hard to save their livestock ... giant worms! (Maybe this is a Spice Farm? The sleeper must awaken!)

In Superman #1 we see Jon responding to his father's heroics with a smile and a thumbs up. On Earth, Jon loves his father and wants to be like him.

So, of course, the reverse is a sullen Bizarroboy giving his Dad a thumbs down and being unimpressed. I guess that makes perfect sense for a backwards world. How sad!

And that loving family that we get on Earth becomes something rather dysfunctional on BizarroWorld. Bizarro wants a nap on the hammock after worm-wrangling. But Bizarro Lois is rather harsh, calling him (in their speak) lazy and unappreciative. These aren't two people loving and supporting each other. Lois is acting the part of the shrew. Bizarro is acting the part of Homer Simpson.

This leads to fisticuffs! Yep. We are Bizarro World.

And BizarroBoy doesn't want to witness this. He storms off. Out in the fields, his cat is almost taken away by a hawk and in an attempt to rescue it, he unleashes his cold vision, freezing his pet and having it plummet to the ground (with a great 'landsoft' sound effect). This is definitely a mirror riff on the immolation of Jon's cat Goldie.

Before BizarroBoy can stew over his actions, he is distracted by some visitors. Jon and Kathy are visiting other worlds using Kathy's space ship as a sort of teleporter. They are in a force bubble and able to view what is happening elsewhere.

They just happen to blip in next to BizarroBoy. And both sides are curious about the other. (Although, for some reason, Jon's dialogue sounds a little callous.)

It's a brief visit as they immediately blip back to Hamilton. As someone who liked the Kathy character for Jon, I am really thrilled that we see her again (perhaps for the last time before Bendis kicks her into limbo?). And the conversation here is one of two kids kicking around romantic feelings for the first time. It is cute in its awkward obtuseness.

And I love that Jon bemoans leaving the fresh air of Hamilton for the enclosed Metropolis. He is missing out on the Smallville years Clark got.

All this talk makes him remember that he had things to do back home and he flies off.

Look at his flight pattern. You might think it is a random wild kid flying but to me it looks like a heart with an arrow through it.

Back home we see the happy, loving couple that Clark and Lois should be. He tries to tell her he plucked exotic flowers while away on a mission. She sees the price tag from the local store but likes the sentiment.

Just when they are about to confess their love again, the moment is broken by Lois seeing the trash still inside. Jon didn't do his chores.

Speaking as a parent, those top two panels are so true. The mood can be shattered that quickly by the actions or inactions of kids. I love how Clark is still trying to move in for the kiss and instead gets a face full of flowers.

Also, there is a downside to being the kid of a superhero and an investigative reporter. The two quickly put together clues and figure out Jon was with Kathy.

And like the young kid figuring out love, he stammers, sweats, and runs away.

The simple panel of Clark adjusting his glasses, a way to show he is trying to see more clearly into Jon's feelings, is wonderful, almost playful. That conveys all we need to know.

And then Jon lies in his cramped room listening to the sounds of the city but also the sounds of his loving parents getting some alone time. Yes, not everyone has loving parents. And if you know comics, you should be able to guess who crashes in, perhaps wanting to sample his doppelganger's life.

This clicked on all cylinders for me, reminding me of what I have loved of this run. From words to art to sentiment, this issue is a big winner.

But when you compare it to it's mirror image from 2 years ago, it nudges up to near perfection. Seriously, if you didn't click on the link above you need to check out my review of Superman #1 here:

The covers are a nice comparison to each other.

Here is a look at a couple of panels from that graveyard scene.

Here are the splash pages of back story and credits.

Here are the sons reactions.

The whole thing crackles with contrast.

I hope Brian Michael Bendis means it when he says he is building on things and not erasing the board. I hope we get this same dynamic in his books. But even if we don't, I have had these two years and I have been a happy Superman fan. I haven't always been able to say that.

Overall grade:A


Anonymous said...

Story arcs based on Bizarro and his world are always a delight. Still another element of the mythos thoughtlessly scrapped off by the reboot.

I have some issues with Tomasi's run but I'll be sad to see it to go.

Off-topic: Today I saw one of my co-workers sporting a "Supergirl" shirt! A nice and unexpected surprise, since DC and Superman aren't popular where I live.

Martin Gray said...

Great review of a truly fantastic issue. Well done on spotting the hidden message in Jon’s flight trail, that’s so clever!

Anonymous said...

Horrible review Anj, bad job missing that reference with Jon’s heart shaped flight pattern. Bizarro speak to the side, this was a fantastic issue that recaptured the peak of Tomasi and Gleason’s run. The sci fi weirdness of Bizarro World was excellently captured, the Super Family dynamics were spot on and there was plenty of heart in this story as well. I’m really going to miss this creative team when this arc is over.