A classic title returns for Marvel’s big anniversary! Your Major Spoilers review of Bizarre Adventures #1 awaits!
Writer: Jed Mackay/Sebastian Girner/Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad/Jon Adams
Artist: Chris Mooneyham/Francesco Manna/Becky Cloonan/Aaron Conley
Colorist: Chris Mooneyham/Andy Troy/Lee Loughridge/John Rauch
Letterer: Lauren Affe/VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: October 2, 2019
Previously in Bizarre Adventures: Back in the 1970s, Marvel’s black-and-white magazine imprints provided some of the best, most adult stories that the House of Ideas had to offer. Now Shang-Chi, Dracula, Bloodstone and more are back to celebrate Marvel’s big eight-oh, reviving one of the greatest of those B&W’s for one last hurrah.
IN THE CLASSIC MAGAZINE TRADITION
In our first story, we are given an adventure of Ulysses Bloodstone, the immortal hero whose daughter, Elsa, is part of nextwave. During his days as a wandering barbarian, Bloodstone tracks a mysterious sorcerer-god who is rumored to have come from “beyond the stars.” Tracking the wizard to its lair, he faces it with steel discovering a shape-shifting monster (that readers will recognize as a Skrull) and dealing with it decisively. Then, we follow Shang-Chi as he visits an old friend in one of China’s “ghost cities”. It starts with general catching-up and pleasantries, and quickly becomes a ritual fight during which Shang learns that even he can still take the occasional lesson in philosophy. A retro tale of Dracula, set in the early 1940s, sees him teaming up with Eveline Van Helsing (of THAT Van Helsing dynasty) to battle a literal band of werewolves, only to have the immortal vampire arrive at her deathbed years later in an uncharacteristic show of sentiment. Finally, we get a tale of Black Goliath that both explains and makes horrifying his origins and the nature of Pym particles. it’s all played for laughs and I hope to heck it’s not canonical.
I WONDER WHY THIS WASN’T CONAN
The strange thing about his issue is actually the strange thing about classic Bizarre Adventures stories: They seem like they’re in the Marvel Universe, but parts of them clearly can’t be. On the other hand, if you’re willing to ignore all those questions, this issue is a good read. The Bloodstone story has some excellent art by Chris Mooneyham, but all the way through it, I wondered why it wasn’t a Conan tale. I did love the use of the Skrull, and found the Robert E. Howard influence in the writing to be fun. The Shang-Chi segment once again features lovely art by Francesco Manna and gives us a truly impressive combat sequence with named attacks (including Shang’s “This One Move Wolverine Does When He Fights Drunk”), ending with a reminder that the Master of Kung-Fu has the heart of a hero. Becky Cloonan’s Dracula story is perhaps my favorite of the issue, even though I’m not really a fan of traditional vampire gothic romance, and the ending is truly impressive both visually and narratively. Even the Black Goliath short, which is more seventies references and a couple of goofy jokes works overall, though Aaron Conley’s art is very ‘Ren and Stimpy’ in nature, and it’s depiction of Black Goliath is a little bothersome.
BOTTOM LINE: A TRIBUTE TO A LONG-GONE ERA
In short, it’s a weird book and one that’s a little uneven, but always interesting in one way or another, making it a true continuation of the classic magazine whose title it bears. Bizarre Adventures #1 focuses on four of Marvel’s under-served protagonists, and even the worst story here has a charm about it that makes it very readable, with art that ranges from okay to excellent, earning a better-than-average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. As someone who remembers and sort of misses the old black-and-white days when anything went, I find it a fitting tribute.
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BIZARRE ADVENTURES #1
Four stories ranging from fascinating to pretty okay, with only one that falls too far to the side of "I dunno", making for a readable, attractive book that feels as weird and alien as the title it's honoring.