Bizarre Adventures #1 Review

by Charles Martin on October 02, 2019

Bizarre Adventures #1 Review
"The Star-Spawned Sorcerer" (Ulysses Bloodstone)
Jed Mackay
Artist/Letterer: Chris Mooneyham
Colourist: Lauren Affe

"The Lesson" (Shang-Chi)
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: Francesco Manna 
Colourist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

"Eveline O'Reilly" (Dracula)
Writers: Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Colourist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

"How Does He Do It?" (Black Goliath)
Jon Adams
Artist: Aaron Conley
Colourist: John Rauch
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Marvel takes another whack at the retro anthology format with this collection of wild tales.

Let me shoot the elephant in the room right off the bat: The solicit lied. I pulled this because it promised a script by Chris Onstad; the comic itself provides no such story.

That's a disappointment, but Bizzare Adventures #1 makes up for the 11th-hour roster change with some excellent content.

What we get is a gory Conan-esque tale of Ulysses Bloodstone, an admirable and action-packed character study of Shang Chi, a lovely re-imagining of Marvel's Dracula, and a comic relief strip featuring Black Goliath.

The first is great, the second and third are good, and the fourth … keeps the front and back covers from being too close together.

The whole creative team for the Bloodstone strip deserves kudos. Jed Mackay tells an enthralling story with a nifty structural conceit: He uses exactly two words of dialogue. All else is narration, and it is fantastic. It paints a savage picture of Bloodstone as the immortal hunter and immortal outcast, chopping his way across a chilly, savage Europe during the days of the Vikings. Chris Mooneyham's art and Lauren Affe's colours support his story terrifically with intricate lines and gradually-intensifying shading. The strip nods cleverly at wider Marvel continuity as it unfolds, too.

The Shang Chi strip is an excellent intro to the character, perfectly timed for the increased attention brought on by his induction into the MCU. Sebastian Girner's story uses a long-standing sparring relationship to make an illuminating point about the spirit of the man behind the deadly hands. Francesco Manna and Andy Troy make sure the fight looks absolutely bonkers good, standing tall in the highest ranks of premium action art. The setting, one of China's new "ghost cities," is also fascinating -- and tailor-made for a destructive bout of super kung fu.

The Dracula strip is a passionate story with a surprising number of twists. This quasi-romance featuring a Dracula-Van-Helsing team-up bends a lot more toward "Dracula Lives" than "Tomb of Dracula" -- and that's entirely a good thing. (By that I mean, it's rogueish sexy antihero Dracula instead of decrepit monster villain-protagonist Dracula.) The character interactions are a treat, but the top honours belong to Becky Cloonan's passionate art and Lee Loughridge's noteworthy colours. Switching between indoor and outdoor scenes creates a sharp dichotomy between hot and cold palettes and adds tremendous depth to the visuals.

The Black Goliath strip is … there. I strongly dislike resurrecting an under-utilized character just to mock him. And this is definitely mockery; this strip uses an unabashed dick joke as the tentpole holding up three pages of relentless busting on what a buffoon Bill Foster is. Aaron Conley's busy art is at least a nice example of intentional grotesquerie, but it can't win me over to the script's less-lovable ugliness.

Marvel's renewed experimentation with the anthology format is, on balance, a good thing. I think there's space on the Marvel shelf to accommodate the wide range of creative voices you can fit into collections of short strips. While not every strip can be a winner, Bizarre Adventures #1 establishes a good precedent. If Marvel can continue batting 750 with anthologies, it can and should do more of them.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
The Shang Chi strip breaks noteworthy ground in the comedic genre of "ridiculous names for martial arts moves." You'll know the standout when you read it.