Monday, January 15, 2024

Review: Action Comics #1061

Action Comics #1061 came out last week and I was truly unsure what I would think of the book.

It is written by Jason Aaron, a well known comic artist but someone who I have never read before. So I had no idea what to expect. He unfortunately has the bad luck of coming onto the book after Phillip Kennedy Johnson has just left. I was a huge fan of PKJ. Surely the book would suffer in comparison.

Instead, Aaron gives us a new wrinkle to the Bizarro character and a solid cliffhanger. Appropriately, this was an action-filled comic book with lots of super-heroics and wide-screen battles. Mix those two things and you have a pretty entertaining issue. I don't know if I am 100% behind this new take on Bizarro. I don't know if I need him to forever be a great sorceror. I don't think I will want it to stick. But overall, this was fun.

That said, the action and Bizarro plot dominate the book. I don't know how Aaron will be on the rest of the cast. Will he handle Jimmy and Lois well? Time will tell.

John Timms is on art for the book. I like Timms' work a lot, especially his Harley Quinn stuff. Here, he shows us great work in Metropolis, Wizards' World, and even Venus. On top of that, his fight sequences roll out well. This is a pretty book to look at. Even the cover is great with Bizarro in the background, ready to cross-body block our hero. Slick!

So Jason Aaron, you have my attention. Nice opening issue.

On to the book.

The book opens with Bizarro suddenly bashing his way onto Zerox, the Sorceror's World.

From a prose point of view, I like what Aaron does in the scene. The text boxes reference Gemworld and Skataris, showing he has done some homework (although a little Orando or Naltor would have gone a long way for this Legion fan). But I truly love the high-falutin', overly ornate speech of the sorcerers on the planet. They speak so high-brow, like the way you'd expect learned wizards to speak. It is a nice contrast to Bizarro's odd, simple grammar.

Timms add to the scene by making this place fantastical with floating castles and armored knights. The spellcasters are a mishmash of styles, from an Orko lookalike to some Gemworld feels to even some Kirby-ish stuff.

Very lush scene to bring me in.

Bizarro is just bulling himself around the place, clearly distraught. Three of the toughest magic users try to fry him with little impact.

This is another good scene. For one, there is a sort of 'Dragon Ball Z' feel to this. The three unleash their most powerful spell only to see Bizarro still standing when the smoke clears. Very dramatic. Very well rendered by Timms.

But here is where Aaron adds the wrinkle. Superman is vulnerable to magic. Bizarro is the opposite. So magic somehow strengthens him! I have been reading Superman books for over 40 years and this was new to me. How has this not been done before!

Kudos to Aaron. New but still fitting into classic rules!

Bizarro ends up flying to Earth 6 weeks later. Everyone expects the standard throwdown.

Again, Aaron shows me a Superman I recognize and want to read. Our hero doesn't immediately try to beat up Bizarro. He tries to talk him down first. I especially love the second panel with Superman speaking Bizarro! All that stuff is the opposite.

Bizarro has come to fight and literally beats Superman across the solar system. We get several pages of the space fight.

Arriving back on Earth, the now magically gifted Bizarro begins crafting a spell of some sort. Nice rundown of some of the ingredients needed for the hex, again showing Aaron is reaching into the DCU. 

Now I don't know if I want Bizarro to forever be a Felix Faust knockoff. I like him as the imperfect duplicate of Superman, trying to be Superman but missing the mark. But more on this later.

While we don't get much supporting cast moments this book, we do get a nice couple of pages looking at Metropolis' reaction to the Bizarro clash. 

People expect Superman to wrap this up quickly ... it's Bizarro after all. We see people betting on the outcome at a bar. We see a news team flying a helicopter dangerously close to the fray. We even hear a citywide warning for people to get to shelters.

I especially like the bar sequence. I suppose if it was Brainiac, the guys would run. But it's silly old Bizarro. Let's finish our round and play a bar game. Funny.

Finally we get some back story, done in a nifty way.

Bizarro uses some backwards magic, a la Zatanna, to communicate freely with Superman. Bizarro World is missing. Bizarro is in emotional agony, found himself on Sorceror's World. And now he will complete this spell. 

The spell rips Bizarro apart despite Superman's attempts to pull his doppelganger out of the magical maelstrom. 

I like the backwards magic bit, a nice plot point. 

Afterwards, Superman confirms the whole story. Bizarro did go on a rampage on Zerox. His world is missing. 

Then his spell seems to activate. Superman begins laughing uncontrollably at the carnage he just was told. Lois and Metropolis begin turning into Bizarros. Perhaps the spell was to bring back Thrae, but here on Earth-0.

That is an excellent cliffhanger. Timms makes it all appropriately horrific.

Okay, a few more points.

One, I couldn't help but think of Bizarro in Alan Moore's famous 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow'. Remember how that Bizarro went from a nuisance to a killing machine. This is the oddest Bizarro I have seen in a while. Magically adept, sad, and chillingly murderous. 

Two, while Bizarro is the catalyst surely someone else is behind this using Bizarro as a patsy. His world disappears? He ends up on Zerox? He learns a powerful spell to attack Superman?? All too random and too convenient. Who is pulling the strings??

So this was a good read for an opening chapter. I am still very sad to see PKJ go. But if Aaron keeps this up, I'll be okay.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Top review. I don’t think anyone is pulling the strings. It’s explained that Htrae vanished during one of the post-Crisis multiversal resets. I’m not sure who would be daft enough to hang an anti-Superman plan on a creature who, despite supposedly following ‘opposite’ rules, is basically unpredictable.

Still, we’ll see. I do like the idea that he’s trying to recreate Bizarro World from Earth Zero, but that apparently means giving up being Bizarro No1… hey, it just struck me, Bizarro Junior No1 from the Silver Age - today’s Boyzarro - is a take on Jon Kent before there was a Jon Kent!

Anonymous said...

Great review. I'm already missing PKJ, and this will apparently be a full year of rotating writers. I don't know who was clamoring for that.

John Timms has of course done a lot of work for DC, but in addition to also liking his run on Harley Quinn, I especially liked the nearly full year he put in on Bendis's Young Justice.


Anj said...

Great point about Bizarro being unpredictable so a difficult tool to use. I suppose things like 'the planet disappeared' and 'he just found himself on Sorceror's world' might just be plot points.

And yes TN, I liked that Young Justice book.

Anonymous said...

I'm am reading this, but my long term commitment depends on whether or not Supergirl still has a worthwhile supporting role in the a perfect world mayeb she could migrate to the back pages for her own feature...but this is DC we are talking about so that isn't likely at all.
But any story that delves into "how Bizarro's propagate" is intriguing at least to I'm all in, for now.