Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Action Comics #40

Action Comics #40 came out last week and as usual, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder have hit another home run. This was a spectacular issue - fun, beautiful, retro. As someone who thinks the overwhelmingly grim world of comics is depressing, a stand-alone humorous issue like this is not only entertaining but needed.

As I have said in prior Action reviews, I like how Pak and Kuder always seem to push Superman into environments where he is uncomfortable or uncertain. Whether it is Subterranea or the horrific Smallville, when Superman is uneasy in his own skin, it makes for a more compelling story.

So putting him into the insanity of a classic Bizarro-world is genius.

And this is the classic, square-world, backwards thinking Bizarro world. This isn't a Luthor grown flawed clone. This is a flame-breathed, reverse talking, Bizarro Superman. Things are crazy here. And it allows artist Aaron Kuder to once more crack his knuckles and let the magic happen. Last arc was Lovecraft. This month, its Looney Tunes.

Buckle up your seat belts!

Last month ended with Superman and Lana talking in a graveyard.

This issue opens up with Superman 'somehow' finding himself flung into deep space ... 'straight past continuity'. Pak lets us know up front that this isn't going to make much sense in the current DC universe or storylines. Who cares!

I remember plenty of issues in the Bronze Age where we open up with Superman just flying in deep space and happening onto an adventure.

Retro and welcomed.

This magical trip through space lands Superman on the impossible square Bizarro World. A place with a moon made of cheese. A backwards place where Lois is married to 'Superman'. (How sad that a marriage is now considered backwards and bizarre.)

And a straight talker like Superman stands out on this place, marking him as a villain, and bringing Bizarro to the rescue.

Each writer brings a different sensibility to Bizarro-speech. Here 'many worries' I guess translates to 'no worries'. So only some of the speech is reversed.

As for Bizarro, I love how the S in his S-shield looks like a question mark if I squint.

And I love how even the sound effects are backwards. Kraaaakooom becomes Mookaaaark. Slick.

I also love how Superman's sound effects are not reversed. He really is out of sorts here. And that is a nice little flourish for this kind of comic.

Superman pretty quickly figures out the backwards nature of the place.

But then things get even wonkier.

The Bizarro Metallo shows up. He is remarkably lucid. And he is there to defeat the Bizarros.

Now there are a lot of backwards visual gags in this book that made me chuckle. But the best one is the statue Wonder Woman. Remember, in the 'old' DCU Diana was a statue that became alive. So I guess on Bizarro World, Diana was flesh and became a statue. That is a subtle but intelligent Bizarroism.

It turns out that Metallo is sane and forward-thinking because of his computer brain. He wants to tidy up the Bizarro world, put things in order. And that isn't what the Bizarros want.

Superman has to tell Metallo that he needs to accept the Bizarros and there differences. So what if they want to destroy their world with things like thrown toasters. They're happy.

I do love how casually Supes catches a bowling ball lobbed his way. Ridiculous.

And that would have been a fine story.

But Pak and Kuder decide to up the ante and the hilarity.

Out of the same portal that Superman came through, Doomsday appears.

Now I wonder if Pak is having a little fun with the overly clunky Doomed mega-arc. Bizarro ends up battling Doomsday, who once again explodes into deadly spores, infecting Bizarro.

Suddenly, he is a Doomzarro! There is too much to love in this page. I love the backwards talk as he turns into this monstrosity. It feels fantastic and pretty good. But I really love the ridiculous moose antlers that Doomzarro sports.

But there is more.

Of course this is Bizarro World. So instead of SuperDoom and his lethal doom spores with a withering doom zone, Doomzarro has silly powers. We get cute bunnies and tiny fairies and puppies and flowers. And one of those fairies de-beards Kal! Huzzah!

The art is just incredible.

I am stunned by what Kuder can do. Think about the demonic landscape of Horrorville and compare it to this Wonderland.

But cute bunnies in a dream-like paradise is the opposite of what the citizens of Bizarro want on their world. This would be their Doomsday. Much like Superman felt he needed to leave Earth when he was Superdoom, so does Bizarro contemplate leaving his world.

This is my favorite panel of the whole book. The 'angel' and 'devil' are sitting on Bizarro and trying to help him figure out what to do.

They both give the same speech! Of course the 'angelic' Bizarro has backwards meaning.

I love this panel! Love it!

Bizarro flies into the sun, sacrificing himself. And Superman tries to backwards console Bizarro Lois!

Or does Bizarro sacrifice himself.

A page later, he is back to the glorious boos of the people!

Just a wonderful issue. So much fun! So visually stunning! A statue Wonder Woman! Backwards sound effects! Doomzarro and bunnies! This is like a wonderful palate cleanser for the grim DCU leading into Convergence.

But this also fits right into what Pak and Kuder have been doing on the book when not distracted by mega-arcs. We have seen Superman sort of cringe at his surroundings ... whether it is from terror or silliness. And seeing Superman have to rethink how he does everything because he is in a new environment makes these stories feel fresh.

I hope that Pak and Kuder can continue to walk their own path on the book once we get the relaunch.

Overall grade: A+


Martin Gray said...

Great review, and excellent call on the question mark S-symbol. DC should bring out a new Best of Bizarro book just to stick this story in.

Jay said...


Epic battle cry.