REVIEW: Superman #23.1
It’s time to meet Bizarro! Lex Luthor decides to try and best Superman yet again. This time, it’s through the wonders of cloning, creating everyone’s favorite grey-skinned, fire-breathing, ice-vision shooting, Superman-clone. Is it all worth it in the end? Yes. Is that answer in Bizarro speak? Maybe. More after the jump!
Good look into the Luthor psyche
Luthor’s faces are priceless
Isn’t a book about Bizarro
Art style doesn’t jive with the plot
Previously in SUPERMAN: After hunting down the Twenty, Superman finds himself in the middle of psionic war between Hector Hammond and Queen Bee as they vie for control of Metropolis (and, presumably afterwards, the world). However, another player makes his appearance on the battlefield—Psycho Pirate.
For the umpteenth time, Lex Luthor is trying to figure out a way to beat Superman. This time Luthor wanted to create his own Superman, loyal only to him, by splicing together Superman’s DNA with human DNA and injecting the resulting serum into a hapless volunteer by the name of Bobby. Things don’t quite go as planned, however, and Luthor instead finds himself running for his life as his new creation runs amok.
Bizarro’s “backstory” isn’t quite what was expected. While Fisch did decide to focus on the clone version (not the version from Bizarro-world), this issue isn’t really about Bizarro so much as it’s about Lex Luthor and his creating Bizarro. Since this Bizarro eventually becomes soup, it can make the casual reader stop and wonder why it’s main character suddenly dissolved into a puddle. Overall, Bizarro doesn’t play as big a part as Luthor, which is strange in a Bizarro themed book.
That being said, Lex Luthor steals the show considerably. Fisch was really able to highlight just how horrible a person Lex is. Though most people know he’s a conniving and evil guy, in this book Luthor leaves his whole team to die horrible squishy deaths at the hands of a horrific science experiment gone wrong. While that’s not particularly surprising on Luthor’s part, what’s fun to read is just how detached he is from the rest of them. They aren’t mentioned in his inner or outer dialogue. Literally the only thing he thinks or talks about is the science aspect of the whole incident, focusing on how to improve the chemical make-up of a Superman clone and what not to do next time. Everyone else is collateral.
While it’s a good look into Luthor, the book isn’t supposed to be about Luthor. It’s supposed to be a Bizarro book. It would have been nice to have a book from Bizarro’s point of view, which is completely doable if written correctly. It’s disappointing that that’s not what was delivered.
THE MANY FACES OF LEX LUTHOR
With Jeff Johnson at the helm for this issue, the book is very clean, with nice lines and not a ton of intense detail. It’s also a very brightly lit book, working primarily in bright colors and a bit of pastels. The progression of Bizarro’s transformation is very well drawn and he seems to change and mutate with each passing panel. Even with its soupy finale, Johnson maintains this relatively spotlessly style throughout. The book’s plot is also very action heavy and Johnson is able to easily keep up, giving each panel a sense of movement.
One thing that made this book kind of fun to look at was Luthor and the various facial expressions he makes. One can tell what he’s thinking in each panel he appears. It matches up well with the writing and inner-dialogue, as his faces easily reflect what he’s pondering at the moment. On this level, the artist and the writer seem to be in sync. It’s not really the case with the rest of the book.
The problem with this art is is that it doesn’t match up with the story. The story is, at it’s heart, a miniature Frankenstein story. It has a darker plot than the art allows and the book may have been given a bit more depth if the art was something akin to the art in the current Swamp Thing or Animal run. Since Johnson’s work in this book is so tidy, the story appears much lighter than it really should be.
BOTTOMLINE: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
For a book about Bizarro, this issue is very Lex Luthor heavy. It focuses on a failed attempt at making Bizarro, but not on Bizarro directly, which is disappointing. The art is clean and it’s easy to see what Luthor is thinking just by looking at him, although the plot feels more hindered by the art than anything. The story is mediocre, though it gives a good look into Luthor’s psyche. Compared to some of the other Villains Unleashed books out there, this one is just okay. Overall, Superman #23.1 earns two stars out of five.