Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: Jimmy Olsen #1

These are great times to be a Superman Family fan. Superman has seen something of a renaissance under Brian Michael Bendis. A Supergirl book is on the rack. It has all but been confirmed that a Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes book is happening. Lois Lane has a solo book. And now, another title hits the stands.

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1, the first part of a 12 part maxi-series, came out this week and was a funny, fast paced, entertaining romp through the Superman universe. If the Superman books are standard super-heroics and Lois Lane is a gritty, topical look at the more noir aspects of Metropolis, Olsen is a weird, Vertigo-lite, Silver Age crazy book. Writer Matt Fraction seems to have embraced the wackiness of Olsen's classic title, showing us the strange events that seem to gravitate to Mr. Action. Throw in a number of new characters who could be a supporting cast and you have a heady brew. I loved it.

And the decision to have Steve Lieber on art is something of an inspired choice. This is going to be a crazy book, no doubt. But you can lean a little too hard into the weirdness. Pick an artist that is too stylized or too cartoony and it becomes a caricature. Pick someone too photo-realistic and it is jarring. Lieber walks that fine line. This is solid, realistic art which makes the craziness seem that much more insane. These events are happening in a grounded world.

I don't know if I was ready for the sort of 4-page mini-burst rapid fire story telling of this issue. But if that is going to be the feel of the series, I'll be okay. You can't settle in. Things happen, happen fast, and then we are off to the next thing. This is a sprint of a book, perfect for Jimmy.

On to the details!

We start out with a look to the past. Metropolis hasn't sprouted from the wild. Joachim Olssen staked his claim to land that was literally a gold mine. It was from this boon that Metropolis was built.

Unfortunately, it is hard to know just how much of the gold Olssen got to enjoy. A family called the Luthais make a claim to the land. And when Olssen won't respect the deed, Luthais kills him.

The Luthais have to be the Luthors. So interesting to see some feuds go back many generations. And Luthor ruthlessness seems hardwired.

Lastly, is this the explanation for the Olsen billions which we have seen from time to time. 

We transition to a news show panel where the current generation of the families debate which lineage has had a bigger impact on Metropolis. On one side, Lex Luthor. On the other, Julian Olsen, a slick back business man. He seems more comfortable here than Jimmy ever would. And I like how both men's sport coats blend into the black background.

The discussion is around the destruction of the 'Monarch of Metropolis', a gigantic lion statue constructed by the Luthors.

Have we heard of Julian before?

 It turns out that the Monarch was destroyed by Jimmy.

Jimmy has a social media presence where he asks his readers to send him a challenge. Today's event was to dive from space to Earth without a satellite. To aid survival, Jimmy gets an infusion of Metamorpho stem cells. Unfortunately, it was also mixed with turtle genetic material.

In a definite throwback to the Silver Age, Jimmy turns into a giant turtle and slams through the Monarch. Of course, that's better than the city itself. He was deflected by Superman.

How ridiculous is it to see Superman and a giant turtle boy skip across the water like a stone. Hilarious.

 Back at the Planet, Perry White and newspaper owner Mama Leone try to fire Olsen for the cost of this event. Jimmy's antics are so costly that the Planet needs to have a separate insurance rider to cover the cost.

Knowing what we know about Jimmy's historical antics, this makes sense.

But just in case ...

When Jimmy asks for proof of how much he costs the Planet, we get a silent montage of some of his adventures. Gorilla marriage? Wading into gunfire? Life as a ghost? T Rex attack?

That's Mr. Action!

What I like about this is that third panel of simple crime reporter photography, that real world news story, is mixed in with the insanity. Perfect way to ground this in some semblance of reality. And Lieber shows that range.

 Ultimately though, Olsen's stories always go viral. That means his ad revenue on the Planet website more than cover his costs. He is a profitable commodity. And just like that, Perry changes his mind.

My favorite moment is the Silver Age wink to the readers by Clark. Almost as good as that is Leone being flummoxed, wondering who Clark is winking to. Definitely a laugh out loud moment.

I do have to ask, is this the first place we have seen Leone be revealed to the rest of the characters as the Planet owner? I didn't expect to see her so out in the open as this.

 Despite bringing in money, Leone doesn't like the damage Olsen brings to her city. So she ships him off.

Olsen, now holed up in a dingy apartment, gets the run down from his landlord. Ignore the holes in the ceiling. No murders. If Jimmy dies or doesn't pay his rent, the landlord gets Olsen's stuff.

It reminded me of a scene in the movie Stripes. "If you call me Francis, I'll kill you. You touch my stuff, I'll kill you.'

But where is this place?

Why it's in Gotham!

And Jimmy has a story to investigate. His own murder.

I really loved this issue. It was an accelerated pace through different aspects of Jimmy's life. I love how we hurdle from one thing to the other, appropriate for the zaniness of Jimmy's life. And it is weird and wild and funny.

If Lois Lane is a shot of bourbon and a cigarette, Jimmy Olsen is pop rocks and coke.

Overall grade: A-


Elias said...

I will definitely have to go back to my LCS and buy this...Jimmy is really the ultimate "s**t magnet", he brings trouble into the super-verse, glad he is still in that vital role.


Martin Gray said...

Wouldn’t it be great if Jimmy met DC’s official Weirdness Magnet, the Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy back in non-demon form? Heck, wasn’t Metropolis one of the House of Weirdness’s locations?

I don’t recall Julian Olsen, but so many of his relatives appeared on the Silver Age that he may be pre-existing. I’m certainly intrigued to see more of him. Just so long as he isn’t a never-before-revealed twin!

‘Superman’s Problem, Jimmy Olsen’ - brilliant!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

Loved it. I would think that Jimmy is the Joker's favorite vlogger. His stories contain everything the clown prince of crime loves-pratfalls, belly laughs, innocent bystanders in deadly peril. Of course, with Jimmy the peril isn't deliberate.

SimB said...

Great review Anj.
There's no longer a comic shop where I live but instead of trade waiting I'm going to buy digitally. Ask DC for a commission!