With this being their last pre-Convergence issue of Action Comics, and with the most recent arc having wrapped with the last issue, writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder get to have a bit of fun with this particular installment. They’re not beholden to any ongoing story lines, nor are they trying to set up anything new. It would also seem that they’re not being forced into any kind of universe-spanning continuity with this story, so if this is a precursor of the types of stories we’ll be getting post-Convergence with DC’s “soft reboot,” then we’re all in for a real treat.
The regular cover of Action #40 features the name “Bizarro” above the title, and he is featured quite prominently in the story. However, this is not the same Bizarro that we’ve seen before in the New 52 in story lines like “Forever Evil.” This is something, and somewhere, completely different. Fans of old-school pre-New 52 continuity will definitely get a kick out of this, but don’t let that scare you away if you’re a new reader. This is a fun, slightly goofy (in the best sense of that word), stand-alone story done in the best manner of old Silver Age stories that didn’t really bother to fit into continuity or other existing story lines. In fact, Pak sets this all up on the very first opening page wherein Superman himself, during an internal monologue, essentially tells the reader that he’s spiraling “straight past continuity.” It’s very tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a way of saying, “Don’t worry about it – just sit back and enjoy the story.”
Aaron Kuder continues to create the perfect visuals for Pak’s story. In this issue, he’s really allowed to stretch out and go beyond the so-called “DC house style” and have a lot of fun with Bizarro versions of all our favorite characters and geography. But even with the slightly cartoony feel of the story and the setting, Kuder’s work is as masterful as ever. His character designs are always so well-proportioned, and he does an excellent job of making Bizarro feel different, alien, and just plain “off,” while at the same time still retaining some of the characteristics that make Superman look so heroic. All of this is accompanied by Wil Quintana’s usual excellent coloring. Superman stands out as a bright spot among the slightly more subdued and muted tones of Bizarro World. However, Quintana doesn’t color Bizarro’s home as bleak and grey, which would have been an easy trap to fall into. It’s still colorful, but just not quite as bright, and it’s a nice touch and perfectly complements Kuder’s art.
DC has taken a lot of flak lately for being too grim and dark, both in comics and its other forms of entertainment. While there may be something to that, it’s stories like this that show that there are some creative teams who aren’t going that route, and it’s also a testament to the Editorial Team that they left this issue alone and didn’t try to force it into any kind of continuity or make it more serious in tone.
Action #40 is a perfect issue of the title to pick up, even if you haven’t been reading the title. It’s a stand-alone issue that won’t leave you scratching your head about stuff you might have missed, but it also rewards long-time readers with little payoffs to things that have happened during the Pak and Kuder run. That’s a very tough feat to pull off, but the creative team excels at it with this issue.