Superman #43, by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Joe Prado, and Stephen Downer, is part two of the Bizarroverse story arc. The plot thickens as more elements from the Htrae, the Bizarro Earth, are added and a threat emerges
The issue opens a little bit before the last one ended, on Kathy’s farm in Smallville. Maya, Damian’s helper from issue #10, is watching Kathy and Jon because Superman asked her to. After Jon leaves, Kathy, a superpowered alien, confronts Maya… a confrontation that is interrupted by Kathy’s alien machinery revealing a dimensional incursion. In Metropolis, Jon talks to Boyzarro. Clark shows up and Boyzarro flips out, forcing Superman and Superboy to try to keep him from damaging the city. Back on the farm, the girls get another visitor from the Bizarroverse: Robzarro, the Bizarro duplicate of Damian Wayne. Superman, Superboy, and Boyzarro show up and the four of them go back to Htrae, where they’re confronted by Bizarro. The issue ends with an ominous voice over, saying the Collapse is here and it’s time for them to have some… fun.
There’s a lot about here to love. Playing with the Bizarro concept is pretty great and Robzarro is a wonderful example of that. Damian Wayne is a blunt, rude character, but Robzarro is dashing and polite, his speech like that of an old fashioned nobleman. He even has a debonair mustache to go with his speech patterns. It provides a contrast for the stuff with the Bizarro Kent family. Bizarro has always been presented as a buffoonish character, but his dealing with his family so far have had an uncomfortable, abusive vibe to them. Add this to the reveal at the end of issue and it looks Tomasi and Gleason are going for a more well rounded approach to the Bizarros. Silver Age concepts can be hard to bring into modern times, but this story is finding a way to balance the goofiness of the Silver Age while still keeping the edge of modern comics.
Another cool thing is the reveal that Superman has Maya spy on Jon when he’s in Smallville. Superman trusts his son, but Kathy and her family of aliens did some damage and he doesn’t completely trust her. Superman is presented as the ultimate do-gooder, a naive guardian, but there’s no way that would be true. He’s a prize winning reporter and the leader of Earth’s superhero community. He trusts people, but he isn’t stupid. Kathy and her people threatened his family once; there’s no way he would allow Jon to hang out with her again without some kind of safeguard. Superman (and Action Comics) has been so good for the last two years because of things like this. Tomasi and Gleason (and Jurgens) have found ways to capture classic Superman moments while also reminding us that Superman isn’t just a Big Blue Boy Scout. It’s hard to know what’s coming down the pipe from Bendis, but this has definitely been a Renaissance for the character and it will be sad to see this brilliant stable of creators leave Superman.
The art in this is pretty great. Patrick Gleason is always good, but Joe Prado’s inks take it to the next level. Sometimes, Gleason’s art is too cartoony. It works for some things, but there are times when it doesn’t fit the tone of what’s happening on the page. Prado’s inks give the whole thing more of an edge. They don’t change the pencils; they accentuate them where needed (the last page is perfect example of this), while adding something to them for shots where a little more bite is needed (there’s a nice splash page towards the end where Prado’s inks make the whole thing better). Stephen Downer’s colors are also great, giving everything that little bit of added gloss to really make it all pop.
The Bizarroverse storyline is shaping up to be a great one. This first issue in the story gave the impression that this would be a meeting between Superboy and Boyzarro, with a good old fashioned Superman/Bizarro tussle in there somewhere. That’s a fun, albeit simple, premise, but Tomasi and Gleason have expanded on that, adding new layers to the story and upping the ante. This story will be the last one the team gets to do before Bendis comes in and it’s looking to be one for the ages.