By: Tom Taylor (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)
A good twist is hard to come by in superhero comics. We’ve seen so many of the same kinds over and over—the long-dead character suddenly revealed alive, a major superhero ends up dead or kills someone, someone we trusted turns traitor—that even when you’re surprised, you’re not particularly affected.* The other kind of twist we frequently encounter is the kind that drops out of a clear blue sky. There’s not much craft to it; it’s purely WTF-worthy (which is not a compliment, DC).
It’s rare to get a twist that’s simultaneously surprising and enjoyable, where you realize the clues have been there all along. Taylor pulls off exactly that in this issue, which would make it rec-worthy even if he had accomplished nothing else. Over the past few months, he managed to convince us that Clark had finally been broken into a murder machine, that any hope of him being an imposter was merely wishful thinking. [Spoiler alert!] The revelation that he is actually a Bizarro (“Me am…Superman.”) is not only a great twist, it’s one we could’ve seen coming had we put the hints together: the chains hooked to his crest, the cracks around his eyes.
As great of a moment as it is, it opens up even more questions about where this creature came from, why it turned on Steppenwolf, and why it suddenly starts falling apart physically and mentally once Val stands up to it. No luck on getting answers this issue, which would’ve been nice, considering how much Bizarro altered the course of this arc.
That’s a relatively minor flaw in an issue that has plenty else going for it. Even though Bizarro sort of destroys itself, Val’s passive resilience played a large role in its defeat. True, Val sort of lucked out in that his determination not to fight doesn’t bit everyone else in the ass, but his non-violent victory deserves some praise, nonetheless. Lois also gets secondary honors for delivering the finishing tornado with no animosity or hatred, but with gentle regret for the deluded creature.
For sure the breakout star of this series is Marella, whose dignified badassery makes her a kind of Mera-plus. In dealing with Bedlam, she of all people counsels, “Force is not the answer here,” preferring a more tactical approach. Even though her strategy is rather reminiscent of what Magneto did to Jean Grey in New X-Men, it’s a fantastic triumph for her. Once Thomas declares, “The Queen of Atlantis just gave a god a stroke,” Marella’s epic standing on Earth-2 is pretty much sealed.
I hoped Bedlam’s fall would mark the end of Apokolips’ presence on Earth-2 for a good, long while, but alas, I was to be disappointed. After making a divinely rapid recovery from his stroke, Bedlam retakes Michael, Sloan, and Mr. Miracle, then adds Barda and Fury to his control. That would make a formidable comeback on its own without the promise of “the four from below”** being unleashed. Kind of makes you wonder why he doesn’t just strike upon coming to, while all the other heroes are distracted by Bizarro’s fate.
Scott won’t be on this title anymore, or not for much longer, as I understand it. That’s a terrible shame. I’ve said it so many times that it hardly bears repeating, but Scott has been one of the biggest draws of this series and I don’t think it’s exaggeration to say that for a long time, she was the only draw. Her conventional style has a keen edge which gave Earth-2 its sullen bite, distinguishing it from the much sunnier Prime Earth. It was she who conveyed the pervasive feeling of a world on the verge of oblivion and a war without hope; conversely, it was she who made the heroes of Earth-2 shine like icons in their own right. Whatever Wonders there were to be had in this series, Scott was responsible for nearly all of them.
Conclusion: With one sharp turn, Taylor finally puts to rest one of the most sustained conflicts on any Earth of the DCU, and Scott nearly surpasses herself.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Insert sex joke here.
** This week’s Channel 52 feature seems to reveal their identities as the Four Horsemen of the Apokolips: Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death. Does Taylor plan to just lavishly poach ideas from Marvel?