Superman #42 review
Superman #42, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Alejandro Sanchez, brings the return of Htrae, the Bizarro Earth, to the post Rebirth DCU in a Jon centric story…. Or is it two Jons?
The issue opens on Bizarro Earth, or as the inhabitants call it, Htrae. A lot of the opening mirrors Superman #1(2016), in fact, which is a clever little touch for the reintroduction of Bizarro and the Bizarro Earth into the DCU. On Bizarro’s Bizzarranch, Boyzarro, the Jon Kent of this Earth, is fed up with his parents and his life there, and runs away. He encounters Jon and his friend Kathy from Smallville, visiting from Prime Earth. Jon and Kathy go home and discuss Jon’s new life in Metropolis, a life he isn’t hundred percent happy with after all his years in the country. He goes back to Metropolis, has dinner with his parents, and cleans up. However, before he goes to sleep, he has a… bizarre visitor.
To begin with, the Bizarro speech takes a little getting used in the beginning of the book. This isn’t a drawback, though, because it’s a fun way to get back into the Bizarro mythos. The book stays with the Bizzaro Kent family for around half of its page count, painting a perfect picture of these opposite Kents. They aren’t a loving, tight knit, hard working family, but a group of hateful, distant, lazy folk at each other’s throats. The one constant throughout the book, though, is how both Boyzarro and Jon are dissatisfied with their lives. It’s a little bit of thematic resonance between two entirely different characters that works wonders.
The return of Kathy is a nice callback for the creative team and works because for Jon, she represents Smallville. Jon misses the old farm, the wide open spaces and the freedom. He feels hemmed in by the city, surrounded on all sides. It’s an interesting change from how these sorts of things usually work, where the kid wants to leave the boring old farm to go to the big city. Jon has never been the stereotypical child. Tomasi and Gleason have made him a well rounded, interesting character. The characterization they’ve given him has made him a standout in the series and in comics in general. Few characters as young as him are written as well and seem so real. Hopefully, future creators won’t ignore all the work they’ve done with him.
The art by Patrick Gleason and Alejandro Sanchez doesn’t disappoint. Gleason’s style is usually very cartoony and stylized and this issue is no exception, but there’s a difference. The line work is more concrete. Sometimes, Gleason’s work can look a little rushed, but that’s not at all the case here. The Bizarro section at the beginning is a standout. The colors are perfect--mostly washed out except for the flashes of color from the character’s clothes. The washed colors give it the whole thing a stark tone that’s shattered when the Bizarros are on the page, as it should be. Bizarros have always been chaotic and the way their colors clash with the background. The two double page spreads, again mirroring Superman #1, are great little gags.
The Bizarro section is full of little things like that and it makes the issue that much better. Bizarro stories should always be mixes of the ridiculous and the serious. Some creators err too far to either side and the story falls flat, but so far, Tomasi and Gleason have struck a great balance. The rest of the book contrasts with that opening section, while also setting up a nice thematic resonance with it. The first few pages are a little jarring, but sticking with it rewards the reader with a smart and fun Bizarro story.