Heath Corson brings his experience from animated DC features such as “Batman: Assault on Arkham” and “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis” to play in “Bizarro” #1, which sends Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen on a road trip in his and Gustavo Duarte’s “Bizarro America: Part 6.” When a tree gets in the way, Bizarro inquires if he is “worstier than Superman.”
Corson described his pitch for “Bizarro” as Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” That’s an accurate assessment for a starting point. “Bizarro” #1 has some touching moments but, given the less constraining budget and more bizarre components of comics in general, Corson quickly makes this a love letter to the Backwards Bruiser (dubbed such by Corson in this very issue). Olsen makes this comic all the more entertaining as the straight man, as Jimmy very easily crosses the line from straight-laced supporting character to hilarious-in-spite-of-himself straight man. Corson gives Olsen a bit of a mean streak, but it’s a relatable mean streak. After all, we all know someone who is a bit of a challenge to relate to, don’t we?
Infusing “Bizarro” #1 with electric, animated energy, artist Gustavo Duarte makes this comic his own. Bizarro has never looked so monstrously charming. Duarte makes lively caricatures of all the characters in this comic, bounding through panels and projecting from backgrounds. Olsen’s pencil thin, impossibly long neck and King Tut’s ridiculously bulbous nose amp up the cartoony nature of this story, but in a fun way, visually reminding readers that comic books are supposed to be fun (and not Bizarro-speak “fun”). Bill Sienkiewicz contributes a dream sequence for this issue that melds nicely with Duarte’s work but completely hits the mark with what I expect Bizarro dreams to look like. Sienkiewicz is so on-target and inline with Duarte that I didn’t even think twice about the image until I was typing up credits for this review.
Colorist Pete Pantazis and letterer Tom Napolitano round out the visuals for “Bizarro” #1, with each making significant contributions to the overall appearance of the issue. Pantazis makes Bizarro’s outfit just enough off from Superman’s to be close, but not too far to be unrecognizable. He also adds subtle graytones and shading to Bizarro’s skin to make the dermis appear chalky and somewhat gritty. Like the characters on the pages, the backgrounds and atmospheric coloring are caricatures, with fluffy blue skies dotting the distance above Smallville. The letters, like the colors, require imagination and exaggeration. Bizarro’s word balloons are completely different from anything and anyone else in the comic, which includes different balloon styles for aliens, Egyptian gods and possessed townsfolk.
“Bizarro” #1 isn’t going to go down in history as the greatest comic ever — er, not as the worst comic ever — but it is a comic with humor and heart. Reminding readers that comics can be fun and absurd and that the characters in them were originally created for entertainment (not licensing) purposes, Corson, Duarte, Sienkiewicz, Pantazis and Napolitano offer readers a wonderfully strong comic with vast potential. This comic just might be the “worstiest ever” and will certainly hit the spot for readers jonesing for something different and fun.