Continuing Marvel’s 80th anniversary celebration, they have released this fun one-shot revival of the ’80s anthology series, Bizarre Adventures. This issue features some all-star creative teams tackling some of the odder corners of the Marvel universe and, in a few instances, giving them a quirkier spin than we’d expect!
First up is Ulysses Bloodstone in “The Star-Spawned Sorcerer,” written by Jed Mackay with art and lettering by Chris Mooneyham and colors by Lauren Affe. In my opinion, the one-shot opens with the strongest tale of the bunch. Mackay’s foreboding script (which tells the tale fully through text boxes, rather than speech balloons) blends perfectly with the artwork, resulting in a fun take on classic sword and sorcery tales that reminds me of a classic Conan the Barbarian or Prince Valiant comic. The story has a fantastic twist that plays on old fantasy-horror tropes in a way that should really connect with Marvel Comics fans.
Next is Shang-Chi in “The Lesson,” written by Sebastian Girner, illustrated by Francesco Manna, with colors by Andy Troy and lettering by Joe Caramagna. This second tale is a bit more simplistic, but still enjoyable. We see Shang-Chi sparring with an old master and having a bit of a debate as to the importance of looking out for the helpless in the heat of battle. While the plot is pretty bare, the real fun of this story is seeing the commentary on Shang-Chi’s different moves, which are accompanied by fun title cards explaining each fighting style. The choreography is smooth and easy to follow, however the presence of a certain animal in peril seems to come out of nowhere. Otherwise, it’s a fun little vignette that really gets to the heart of why Shang-Chi is a hero.
Following this story is Dracula in “Eveline O’Reilly.” This story is written by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, illustrated by Cloonan, colored by Lee Loughridge, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. “Eveline O’Reilly” takes things in a very fun, Hammer Horror-esque direction, with just a dash of adventurous camp and a final page that will tug at the heart strings. This story was a very welcome inclusion, not least of all because of the version of Dracula presented here. This Dracula is deadly but gentlemanly, very unlike the white-haired version of the character that has popped up off and on in Marvel books over the last several years. This was much more in line with the Dracula we know from the classic Tomb of Dracula series and was easily my second favorite of the collection.
The book ends on kind of an odd note, with a very brief story featuring Black Goliath in “How Does He Do It?” Written by Jon Adams with art from Aaron Conley, colors by John Rauch, and lettering yet again by Joe Caramagna, this is almost akin to the kind of humorous backups that once ran with the Marvel Bullpen features, albeit with a terribly dark twist. It feels almost like a cutaway gag from Rick & Morty and while the idea isn’t fully fleshed out (pardon the pun), it definitely leaves an impression. It’s sick stuff, but it made me laugh out loud.
One thing I particularly enjoyed is that there is a common thread running through the stories. Whether it’s Bloodstone refusing to endanger a captive woman or Black Goliath genuinely not caring what happens when he uses his powers, there’s a recurring element of collateral damage. These moments inform the characters’ personalities in very subtle ways that help to fully flesh out these brief tales. All in all, this was a successful collection of short stories of wildly varying tones.