T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen have taken a road trip to Canada using a map that guided them straight through the Silver Age. The final installment of Heath Corson’s and Gustavo Duarte’s six-issue limited series was released this past week, and ComiConverse’s Superman writer, T. Kyle King, has taken a look at the last issue.
Bizarro #6 wrapped up Corson’s and Duarte’s delightful buddy comedy. Bizarro America: Part 1 tied up all the loose ends for the imperfect Superman duplicate and the Man of Steel’s closest pal, but did they make it all the way to the Great White North?
While stranded in the Nevada desert, Jimmy Olsen is captured by Regis and Regina Tuttle, who use the kidnapped photojournalist to lure Bizarro to Seattle. Encouraged by Superman to settle his differences with Jimmy, Bizarro flies to his friend’s rescue. The would-be hero struggles to defeat Regina until help arrives in the form of Colin the Chupacabra, Deadman, Chastity Hex, Agent Meadows Mahalo, Agent Stuart “Chicken Stew” Paillard, Zatanna, and the alien detainees freed from Area 51.
Colin disables Regina’s alien technology, which Jimmy turns over to Chicken Stew so he and Agent Mahalo can earn promotions. After Bizarro frees “King Tut” from his hypnotic spell, Regis and Regina agree that she will pursue her dream of becoming an artisanal chocolatier and make her special confections available at her father’s car dealership. All is put right, including Bizarro’s and Jimmy’s friendship, and, despite being turned away at the Canadian border, they agree to co-author the coffee table book together. In the end, Clark Kent aids Bizarro in obtaining the Daily Planet internship that will allow him to see Jimmy on a daily basis.
I didn’t review this issue sooner because I held off on reading it out of a desire not to see the series end. Bizarro has maintained both its spirit and its momentum through the series’ six-issue run. Credit for constantly continuing that consistent quality goes to the entire creative team, starting with letterer Tom Napolitano. Bizarro features location-showing datelines, highly stylized internal monologues, multiple major characters – whose specific speaking styles are showcased by distinctly designed letters – word balloons, and sound effects (including “PANS!”, the sound of Bizarro snapping his fingers), all of which Napolitano routinely delivers with clarity and craftsmanship.
Likewise, Pete Pantazis’s colors keep the book as bright and light as its mood, and the series’ stellar sequence of guest artist contributions was capped off by Tim Sale’s depiction of Superman’s first full-fledged appearance in Bizarro. As always, the extravagance of Duarte’s drawings highlights the humour and includes such nice images as Bizarro perched upon the globe atop the Daily Planet building or shrugging silently in a convincing response to an understandable question posed by Olsen.
Last but not least, Corson contributes this series’ soul with his wonderful writing. Jimmy remains the perpetual perfect straight man, drily replying “We’re not doing that” when his partner christens his ragtag team “the Bizarro League!”, but Olsen also gets his turn to deliver the punch line when he dictates his last will and testament in the desert and leaves his bow ties – “All 287 of them” – to Bizarro.
Deadman gets the best laugh line in Bizarro America: Part 1 when it is revealed that Boston Brand is a Twin Peaks fan. Since Jimmy earlier mentioned his full name when composing his will, the clever joke offers a subtle allusion to the fact that Dale Cooper and Jimmy Olsen share the middle name Bartholomew. Also, the idea that the murdered trapeze artist, who was given ghostly possession powers by Rama Kushna to hunt down his assassin, would want to know who killed Laura Palmer makes at least as much sense as Frankenstein’s appearance in Action Comics #46.
At the heart of this issue, though, are the words thought and uttered by the divided duo from the outset. These provide insights into the genuineness of the friendship they have developed over the course of the comic’s run, and the Man of Steel appropriately is integral to the characters’ realization of what the audience already understands. “Friendships aren’t about destinations,” explains Jimmy Olsen’s oldest pal to his newest, “they’re about journeys. It’s about what you’ve been through together.”
Enlightened, Bizarro enthusiastically gives the Kryptonian a hug, and Superman’s reaction to his duplicate’s embrace mirrors Jimmy’s: “Too tight. Way too tight.” The truth, though, as these characters know, is that you cannot cling too tightly to your friends. Just prior to dropping a delightful revelation upon the audience about the chupacabra’s identity, Colin’s companions confess, “Space is cold and vast and we have to hold on to broodmates as tightly as our appendages will allow.” Exactly.
True to the series’ origins, the crucial conversation between Bizarro and Superman is steeped in Silver Age sensibilities. Clad in his trunkless New 52 costume, the Man of Steel compliments his chalky counterpart: “Nice shorts.” Bizarro responds by complaining about his lack of pockets, asking the Action Ace where he keeps his wallet. Seemingly stymied, Superman replies, “That’s… a great question.” (Yeah, it’s in a pouch in his cape, but I’m pretty sure Corson knew that we knew that.)
When the two super-powered aliens fly together across the Metropolis skyline, the city’s citizens repeat a modified version of the familiar incantation, intoning: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… and another klutzier bird.” “No, it’s a plane… and a weirdly larger plane whose pilot has a death wish.” “Naw, it’s Superman! And Bizarro, Superman’s freakish twin brother.” After uttering the Silver Age’s definitive emotional expression, “sob” – then blowing his nose on the Man of Tomorrow’s cape – Bizarro takes off to retrieve his friend, exclaiming, “Down, down and present…” The backwards-speak in this issue is exactly that pitch-perfect throughout.
Although the unusual twosome made it only as far as the Canadian border, Superman was right that it was never the destination that mattered. Indeed, Bizarro’s, Jimmy’s, and Colin’s 3,033-mile return journey in a Volkswagen bus explicitly carries with it both the premise and the promise of “a whole other miniseries”. The summation of the series, though, comes when the forgiving friends conclude their feud and spend a panel sharing a belly laugh.
Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen are two characters who define the Silver Age, an era of comics – and of Superman stories specifically – whose rigid rules involved placing a well-intentioned and superpowered alien in tales appropriate for all ages governed by a weird yet internally consistent logic that invariably made a meaningful moral point. Meeting those criteria was a tall enough order even before the Marvel Age of Comics got underway more than 50 years ago, and it’s an even tougher line to walk successfully enough to satisfy a 21st-century audience.
In Bizarro, however, Heath Corson, Gustavo Duarte, and their creative colleagues managed to revive a slice of a bygone era in a heartwarming and hilarious way. After a recap of the series’ first five issues, a splash-page asterisk offers the reader a rhetorical question in a sidebar: “Doesn’t all of that sound awesome? It is.”
Yes, it is, now every bit as much so as it was then. If you missed Bizarro, you missed out on something special, but, as an editorial endnote on the last page observes, “Let’s see how the trade sells.” If you haven’t been following Bizarro on a monthly basis, you need to pick up the trade paperback compiling all six issues as soon as it becomes available next February so you, too, can join the journey the characters, creators, and readers have had the good fortune to experience and enjoy together.
What did you think of Corson’s and Duarte’s miniseries? Offer us your opinion in the comments and ComiConverse with us below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen finished their road trip across America in a final issue as warm and witty as the five before it.