Bizarro Screws Up Time in The Terrifics #23

Bizarro uses baffling verb tense to wreck space-time in The Terrifics.

Bizarro on the cover of The Terrifics #23

Gene Luen Yang made our Best Comics of 2019 list for Superman Smashes the Klan, and it is an incredible Superman comic. It’s already one of my all-time favorites. I can’t wait for it to wrap and come out in a digest I can pass on to newer readers in my life. But if you factor in degree of difficulty, I think his work on The Terrificsmight actually be better.

First of all, the last several issues have been written with healthy doses of Bizarro-speak. Trying to reverse dialogue on its own is difficult enough, but when we talked to him about Superman Smashes the Klan earlier this year, Bizarro came up and Yang told us something terrifying: “…There’s no established rules for Bizarro speak.”

That’s right. There’s no established house rule for how to translate normal conversation into Bizarro. We asked him which was harder: writing Nazis, or writing an entire issue in Bizarrospeak. “This is something I went through with Paul Kaminski, my editor, on that,” he said. “If you look at how Bizarro’s been done in the past, there are a billion different ways that different writers have handled it. So you think of him always speaking in opposite, but he doesn’t always speak in opposites. I remember looking at how he talks in…”Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.” Alan Moore does not stick perfectly to this idea that he speaks in an opposite…[Bizarro’s] fun, but he’s also super hard to write.”

So Yang is building the Bizarro plane as he’s flying it (or…deconstructing Bizarro submarine as…he’s…flying jesus, this IS hard). But on top of that, he’s working in a concept that started out as an industry meta-gag created by another team as part of a wave of books that have all disappeared by now. The Terrificswas, when it first launched, the best Fantastic Four comic on stands. Jeff Lemire wrote Mr. Terrific, Phantom Girl, Plastic Man and Metamorpho as Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben and it was a lot of fun. But it launched as part of the post-Metalwave that included Silencer and Sideways and Damage, and most of those books petered out around issue 16. Terrificsstarted to slow down after a year, and then Yang came on board, moved it past its initial schtick as a F4 pastiche, and then started moving these characters into the weirdest corners of DC continuity he could find, and the result has been quietly excellent. The cast is huge, and the character voices have been strong and distinct, even when they don’t require complex math to calculate verb tenses. Yang’s been scaffolding a really interesting mythology around this team, and I’m genuinely and regularly excited to see where it goes next. 

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A big part of the success of this run has been the art. Stephen Segovia has been Yang’s regular art partner, but Sergio Davila steps in for issue #23 (which you can preview here) and does a seamless and excellent job keeping the spirit of the book going. The Kid Terrifics look awesome. Here’s what DC has to say about the issue:

THE TERRIFICS #23 written by GENE LUEN YANG art by SERGIO DAVILA cover by DAN MORA variant cover by GABRIEL HARDMAN Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Phantom Girl have stopped the Terribles from turning back time on earth…so, yay! Solicit over, now it’s party time! And…wait a tick…hey, Bizarro! Get away from Bgtzl! That’s a bad Bizarro! Very, very bad! You’re not supposed to alter that entire planet’s position in space-time! Wait…you have to talk to him backward, right? That’s a very good thing you’re…um…not doing, Bizarro!

Also, these covers are amazing. Check them out!

Terrifics 23 Preview cover
Terrifics 23 Preview P1
Terrifics 23 Preview P2
Terrifics 23 Preview P3
Terrifics 23 Preview P4
Terrifics 23 Preview P5
Terrifics 23 Preview P6
Terrifics 23 Preview Variant Cover