Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #7

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7 came out this week and was a nice little breather by the creative team of writer Matt Fraction and artist Steve Lieber. I applauded last month's issue for pulling tight on the plot threads and bringing the bigger picture into better focus. This month was more of a look at Jimmy as a person. Yes, the plots were nudged forward. But the big thing about this issue was when I was finished I felt like I understood who Jimmy is a little bit better.

Because one of the things about Jimmy Olsen as a character is that he is hard to pin down. Is he the hard-hitting investigative journalist Mr. Action? An 'in the right place at the right time' photojournalist? A Silver Age wacky transforming man? An action hero enmeshed in Kirby-esque plots? A cub reporter trying to break in? All of these things?

Somehow this book has shown him as sort of being all these at the same time. And in this issue, Fraction and Lieber double down saying he is all those things. And he has been dreaming of being all those things since early on in life.

Between the grittiness of the mainstream DCU and the inky noir of the Lois Lane book, this title has been a refreshing palate cleanser. I have said it before and I'll say it again. I hope we see more of Jimmy from these creators once this maxi-series is over.

On to the issue.

Most of this issue seems to be flashbacks to earlier in Jimmy's life, before the death of his life model decoy and his being on the run.

We start with him on his therapist's couch. She says what we all have been thinking. Jimmy is a lot of different people in one. It is all laid out nicely by Lieber, including one very Tintin-esque look at Jimmy the Prankster.

And yet, there is a touch of self-loathing as Jimmy admits that he doesn't like himself as some of those.

Just a nice tidy way of showing us the multiple aspects of Jimmy as a person.

But then things take a weird little turn as we get to see the Olsen clan as a sort of Calvin and Hobbes style strip. We hear each of them say what they want to be when they grow up.

His brother wants to be a builder. His sister wants to be a performance artist. Both achieved their dreams.

As for Jimmy, it is a bunch of silly, over the top, dreams. Eating pie on the moon. Fighting in giant robots. And let's face it, he also has reached his goals.

Still, interesting to see that a 'life less ordinary' was something Jimmy has wanted since he was a wee lad. And I think doing this segment in this art style was a good choice, showing how silly it all sounds.

We then leap back to the present.

Jim Corrigan is still investigating Jimmy's Gotham apartment when Professor Mantel runs in to try and tell Jimmy he is in danger. Immediately after, intergalactic jewel thief Jixelle crashes her ship into Jimmy's apartment to warn him as well.

And then the big plot progression! Jixelle is Mantel's daughter!!

Now how is Mantel the father of an alien princess? And did they come into Jimmy's life separately? Without knowing the other was meddling in Olsen affairs?

Hmmm ... a lot to puzzle out here.

I do like that now that there is a huge hole in the wall, Jimmy's old landlord understands why everyone wants Olsen dead.

But then we slip back in time again to when Jimmy was hired.

We see a number of photos in his portfolio showcasing how he has an excellent eye and is willing to go all out for a good picture.

At first Perry seems uninterested but Lois points out that one pic shows the mayor with a mob boss, someone the mayor had denied in court.

It then dawns on Perry.

Jimmy came into this interview with a scoop already. He wanted to earn his way onto the staff with his work, not his family name. And when he says all he needed to do to get that shot (schmoozing with an affair's work staff, climbing an outer wall to the second story, etc.) Perry and Lois are sold. Jimmy has talent.

And he is so rich he doesn't even want a salary. He just wants the job.

This was a great look back at the secret origin of Jimmy, a young guy working the angles and willing to make it on his own. I loved it.

And then this scene.

Hard for me to know exactly when this is taking place but I assume it is the past.

It looks as if Lex is having a confrontation with Jimmy's father. The two squabble over which family really has the power in Metropolis and it seems (based on Lex's outburst) that the Olsen's are in the catbird seat.

What is interesting is that while we see Jimmy taking this pic, the last panel as the more Calvin-esque interpretation of Jimmy run out of the room. Perhaps this was something Jimmy saw as a child?

Hmmm ...

I rarely include whole pages in reviews but I loved this one so much I included it (while overall cutting down on scans).

Back in the now and on the run, Jimmy is brought by his sister to the perfect hideout place, Opal City.

Once there, Jimmy sees the citizens all decked out in sweater vests, bow ties, and strangeness. In this place, he wouldn't be special. And I don't think Jimmy likes that. So he refuses to stay, much to Janie's chagrin.

This book is such a delight. I don't always love nonlinear storytelling but when you soak in the madness and joy of this book, it is a ride in a wave pool. Pure fun.

I hope we get back to the current plots next issue but seeing that therapy scene, the hiring scene, and that childhood scene really filled in a lot about Jimmy for me, both his internal insight and how he is viewed by others.

More people should be buying this book.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Fortunately Wonder Comics also provides light relief, though Dial H and Wonder Twins are ending soon.

While Amethyst and Gemworld have been fine in Young Justice, I'm not sure what the audience is for her upcoming solo book. Who read her old series?

Justice League Odyssey has also suddenly started to be funny. I hope this tone lasts.


Anonymous said...

I want Matt Fraction on Supergirl, I can pay him no higher compliment...



William Ashley Vaughan said...

I give Fraction credit for filling a surprising hole in the Superman family mythos. Jimmy Olsen was created eighty years ago and no one has thought to tell the story of how he got his job on the Planet. Fraction's Olsen origin is up there with any of the classic superhero origins. Clear, simple, compelling, and makes perfect sense. Fraction has also given Jimmy siblings and a family connection with the history of Metropolis. He is the best and most imaginative Olsen writer since Kirby.