Friday, April 6, 2018

Review: Superman #44

Superman #44 came out this week, the second to last issue for the Rebirth team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason and the final part of the Bizarroverse storyline. And, befitting of a story set on Bizarro world, it is an odd mix of crazy backwards fun as well as some gut-wrenching emotional scenes. That is a hard and fine line to walk and be successful but somehow Tomasi and Gleason pull it off. I have said it before but I will say it again. I will miss these two on a Superman book. They have really done something special here.

In the book, from the insane side, we see backwards sound effects, reverse versions of super heroes and villains, and the usual backwards speak which needs to be deciphered to get the point.

From the emotional side, we see that this Bizarro isn't an imperfect duplicate. He is the exact opposite. He doesn't save his adopted planet. He doesn't love his family. He doesn't like helping people. He isn't the goofy nuisance I grew up with. He isn't exactly a menace. But he is so self-absorbed, he is utterly unlikable. That isn't Superman. And this loathsome nature plays out on the page in a heartbreaking way.

I also think this book continues to stoke my idea that this is a backdoor pilot for a Young Justice or even a Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes book.

The art is by Doug Mahnke who has frequently assisted Tomasi and Gleason. Mahnke's stuff is always crisp and beautiful. Here, some pages are inked by Jaime Mendoza who brings a sparser feel to the proceedings.

And we start out with this fabulous cover of the Super-Foes facing off against the Legion of Fun. This team face-off book is a classic comic trope, seen on countless issues. But for me it always harkens back to the Secret Origins of Super-Villains treasury.

On to the book!

Last issue, Superman sent Bizarro to the moon with a single punch. While battling up there, it becomes clear that the Bizarro world Htrae is going to implode. The world is dying around everyone there. And up on the moon, Superman is able to deduce that Bizarro himself is somehow the cause. He and the land are one (how Arthurian) and he is bringing out the destruction.

Despite the pleas to help, Bizarro doesn't want Superman's help.

How awesome is this fight with sound effects for 'ka-touch' instead of 'KA-BOOM' and 'gentle' as the sound effect when Superman crashes into the landscape.

It's clear to Superman that the world is in peril. He tells Jon and the other kid heroes to escape back to Earth. But these kids are ... well ... heroes. They won't just abandon Htrae. So instead they are given a mission. They are to free the Super Foes (the Bizarro Super Friends) from the clutches of the Legion of Fun to see if they can help. Jon is put in charge.

See how Nobody dismisses the name Teen Titans? See how this looks like a group already? Clearly we have the first sighting of Young Justice. (OOOOhh ... maybe The Super Squad??) My guess is this is how we will see Jon in the post-Bendis world.

And how sad is it that in backwards speak, BizarroBoy doesn't want to help because he hates this world. Here we see the difference in upbringings as Jon talks about duty. Impressive. But more on this backwards speak from BizarroBoy soon.

I only include this to say it was my favorite backwards gag of the book.

Jon screams 'Up ... Up ... and let's stay!!!'.


Now I don't think there was any true plot reason to include the inevitable Super Foes versus Legion of Fun fight except that it was silly and brilliant. I wonder if Tomasi and Gleason just wanted to have some fun. So seeing Jo-cryer (instead of Joker) blubbering around, and seeing Bizarro Aquaman beset upon by fishes singing Dr. Demento's 'Fish Heads' was fantastic.

And Bizarro Diana likes Superman. Perhaps a backwards way of Tomasi and Gleason saying Wonder Woman shouldn't find Superman attractive?

Ultimately it becomes clear that the planet is going to explode regardless of interventions.

BizarroLois unveils a two-seat rocket she has created to escape the planet. Bizarro isn't going to let anyone use that but himself. BizarroLois and Bizarro get into a fight (including sound effects like 'tickle' and 'massage' for standard comic rakes and wrenching).

For me though, the thing here is that somewhere along the way, perhaps effected by Jon, BizarroBoy begins to talk 'not backwards' talk. He has been humanized a bit as he pleads for his parents to stop fighting.

Pivotal and tremendous.

Bizarro punches Lois away. What a creep!

Like in all Superman origins, the rocket has space for two. But this Bizarro is selfish and self-important and just uncaring. Despite BizarroBoy's pleas to his father, Bizarro closes the hatch and takes off.

So it is a reverse Superman origin. Rocketed away from his adopted planet when grown up.

But it is tremendously sad to see this relationship in reverse. And it is even sadder when you see that BizarroBoy has normal-thinking emotions of wanting to be loved by his parents. And once again we see his speech pattern is our pattern.

So after all the tomfoolery and sight gags, we have this gut punch.

But the story isn't quite over. Superman and the Earth heroes have slipped into Beacon's portal to escape to home. And they aren't going alone. They reach out a hand to BizarroBoy to take him along.

And then BizarroWorld explodes.

Can't help but see that middle panel and think of something else ...

The angle, the circular vibe, the kind folk rescuing the child ... it all screams this first page panel of All Star Superman #1.

I am completely conflicted emotionally as this book epitomized the tragic comedy. Amidst the gags was heartbreak. And yet, despite that volatile mix, it all worked.

We get one more issue with this creative team. One more chance for me to say thank you.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I... can't tell I've enjoyed this depiction of Bizarro. I prefer Bizarro to be a backwards, silly loon. This Bizarro is... an evil, selfish prick. Nothing likeable or endearing about him.

Sure, Bizarro tried to abandon Bizarro World in "Bizarrogirl"... but that was only after spawning Bizarro Supergirl why he wanted to protect her. And he went about as a backwards-thinking, funny idiot. In that vein, his cousin made bad things because she didn't understand human morality; when she learnt human morals and realized what she'd killed a man, she was horrified and punished herself.

And yes, Bizarro killed people in "Whatever Happened To the Man of Tomorrow"... because Mxy messed with his head. Until then he had been destructive but harmless and meant well, but his "well" was... a different kind of well.

Contrast them with this Bizarro, who appears to understand human morals and simply doesn't care.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, extra kudos for spotting the visual callbacks. This truly was a gut-wrenching Issue. I wonder if Boyzarro might be able to stay with Kathy...