Review by François Peneaud
Bizarro is a character who’s been through many iterations over the decades, from sad clown to horror freak, from clumsy Frankenstein creature to laughable oaf. This time, writer Heath Corson and artist Gustavo Duarte give us an all-ages comedy that rollicks throughout the DC universe in an unaffected way.
This particular Bizarro is an alien who was rocketed from his planet, crashed on ours and decided to emulate Superman, with a low rate of success. In short, this is cosplay Bizarro. Superman jokingly suggests to Jimmy Olsen that he should go on a road trip with Bizarro, hopefully ridding Metropolis of the super-powered pest whose bumbling attempts at being a hero are even more annoying than his way of saying the opposite of what he means. Jimmy quickly agrees, though not for unselfish reasons.
Though this is set outside continuity, the recognizable elements of the DC universe are all there–only tweaked enough to elicit smiles and even laughter. The unlikely pair bumps into various DC heroes, including Jonah Hex and Zatanna, the backwards-speaking magician. That meeting leads to a very inspired bit of mixing magical oil and sci-fi water, as Bizarro discovers he’s rather good at Zatanna’s brand of magic, much to her exasperation.
Jimmy and Bizarro also encounter a ghost town full of cowboys and bandits, find their way into a super secret detention centre for aliens and run afoul of an Egyptian-obsessed used car dealer. Regis “King Tut” Tuttle is a wonderful invention of Corson, another unexpected combination, built upon the stereotypes of used cars salesmen, but with the added threat of a power sceptre coming right from meddling Egyptian deities. Guess what a salesman with a big stick that enables him to mind control would do? Throw in King Tut’s daughter, who seems to have a thing for Jimmy (and for revenge), assemble all the characters the duo has met in the previous chapters and you get an extremely entertaining and rather unpredictable broth of silliness and an absurd brawl.
Gustavo Duarte also shows some serious chops. His layouts are very dynamic and his characters have such mobile faces that some of the dialogue could be seen as unnecessary. See his version of Jimmy as a big-eared, dorky young man or his Bizarro as a hulking piece of clumsy naiveté. It’s nice to see that DC currently has room for a style that’s far removed from those filling the pages of the “serious” superhero series. It’s also nice to see DC characters doing something else than baring their teeth and bleeding all over the carpet.
As fun as the plots are, it is the friendship between Jimmy and Bizarro that elevates this tale. Beginning as reluctant companions (Jimmy is reluctant, Bizarro is up for anything), they grow closer as the pages turn. The wrench in the genial works is Jimmy’s motivation, which comes back to bite him in the rear as Bizarro feels betrayed. Since this is an all-ages book, the reader can be assured that Bizarro does not go on a murderous rampage. Corson intelligently uses the trouble to make his characters more than one-dimensional jokes.
Heath Corson, so far known for his writing duties on the current, rather dark, DC animated films, shows his versatility on Bizarro. Gustavo Duarte is definitely an artist to watch. Bizarro is a book that blends parts that don’t often work together. For all its jokes, bad puns and outlandish characters, it displays a lot of heart and human warmth.