Review: Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse brings to a close Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's run on Superman. Surely this series was better than Superman has been in a while, though this volume offers prime examples of how quickly heartfelt in this run could turn to cloying. No doubt there's something to be said for humorous, all-ages Superman stories like these and an ode to the rural Superman aesthetic we're probably unlikely to see again for a while. I wouldn't besmirch what Tomasi and Gleason have accomplished here, but this finale makes me more excited for the new team than nostalgic for the past.

[Review contains spoilers]

Tomasi and Gleason's Superboy Jon Kent has grown on me. There's a particular tone the writers give Jon when he's semi-panicking -- usually caught between a hard place and his parents finding out about the hard place -- that cracks me up every time, here when "Boyzarro" has crashed into Jon's room. I also think the writers' conception of a boy Jon's age is particularly apt, as when Jon has been eager to venture to Dinosaur Island to save Captain William Storm but then gets cold feet right before departure.

There's plenty in Bizarroverse too that's touching. Bizarro's abandonment of his son is particularly effective, in a sequence wisely "bizarro" from Kal-El escaping the exploding Krypton. And though I'd long since thought the Kents left Hamilton for Metropolis and this "moving out a second time" storyline struck me as kind of ridiculous, the scene of Lois mopping the baby footprints up off the floor did get me (until I thought about the implication that, what, no one had mopped that floor previously in ten or so years of Jon's life?).

But I had some trouble separating the humor from the horror. Sure, I get the idea that Superman is a good dad so therefore Bizarro must be a bad dad, but my conception of Bizarro is a creature who wants to be like Superman but goes about it poorly, not who's directly opposite in Superman's personality traits. We're used to laughing at Bizarro, but that gets muddled when it seems Bizarro basically abuses his son, or in the end when it seems Bizarro kills the Bizarro "Loiz" while Boyzarro begs him to stop. That's not funny, it's rather serious, and I'm not sure tonally this story quite knows what it wants to be enough to make all of that work.

Again, I don't fault Tomasi and Gleason's run for being heartfelt, but here at the end of their run, perhaps some impetus to bring the emotion makes it feel forced. Relaxing in front of the TV, Clark and Lois just-so-happen to casually converse about how much they love and trust one another. The writers have often erred in making Jon the most earnest, well-behaved adolescent unimaginable, and his assertion here that he wants to grow up to be just like his father is admirable but also eye-rolling.

In addition to Superman #42-45, this book contains Tomasi and Gleason's Action Comics #1000 story (something not afforded Dan Jurgens' final Action Comics Vol. 5: Booster Shot, though that book had more issues included) and the closing Superman Special. The Action #1000 story was not among my favorites, seeming to struggle to find narration for a series of splash pages (the Batman wedding issue had a similar difficulty) and with an end that chides Superman for narrating too much (an immediate signal that the story's in trouble).

I did appreciate that the Superman Special resolved storylines from the series itself; Jurgens' Action Comics Special was looser and less relevant. I also liked that Tomasi and Gleason gave Storm a few of his own epilogue pages separate from Superman and Superboy, who've had plenty of space. That spotlight on Storm and his difficulty transitioning back to civilian life seemed in keeping with the deference this Superman run has paid to military soldiers and American history.

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Looking back over their Superman run, I can't deny Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have a flair for Norman Rockwell-ian applause lines, Lois and Clark tucking Jon in and curling up on the couch, so on and so forth. Nothing wrong with that; moving strikes me as a little more moving when it doesn't set out to be so obviously moving, but at the same time, comics about happy, loving super-families are few and far between, and kudos to Tomasi and Gleason for putting one on the stands. After Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse, I'm ready for Metropolis and intrigue, invisible mafias and red storms and so on; Gleason, I know, is not going far, but surely I'm eager for Tomasi's run on Detective Comics and wherever else he should end up, too.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs and cover sketches]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review, a pleasure to read as always!

    I followed Tomasi from his stellar Batman run to Superman and was indeed disappointed, not much thought seems to have gone into a painting a larger picture beyond the 'homely Superman family' emotional resonance. There were far more loose storylines following just one after another and often interrupted by DC events from other books. I'm now rereading it as a guilty pleasure but not a milestone from its creators like Batman was.

    Cheers,
    Bart

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