Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Jimmy Olsen #9

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #9 came out this week. This book remains one of the absolute delights on the shelves these days, a long form nonlinear story filled with all things Jimmy Olsen. You get zaniness. You get mystery. You get intrigue. And you get humor.

Now I am a grizzled comic reader. I've read a ton of books of all genres. And when I laughed out loud, literally, at two different points in this issue, I knew I had a winner.

And, unlike the Lois Lane book, this book has plot progression and pacing! Those two titles were bound to be compared, solo maxiseries of Superman characters out at the same time. But whereas the Lois book has, at times, plodded along, this book crackles with crazy energy. It's just brilliant.

Writer Matt Fraction has really woven a complex story of an Olsen conspiracy and assassination attempt mixed with flat out Silver Age lunacy. And even if I guessed this issue's big reveal a while ago, it still comes off great.

And artist Steve Lieber has to bring all this bizarre action to life visually. From Calvin & Hobbes style childhood reflections to living porcupines to tense conversations, somehow Lieber brings it all to life.

I don't want this book to end. So everyone needs to enjoy it while it is around. On to the book.

We start with one of those Peanuts style comic strips.

In these pages, we always see Jimmy as a dreamer, a silly heart, a kid thrilled to be chasing butterflies and imagining a wild future.

Meanwhile, we have seen Julian Olsen, the older brother, acting as a ruthless capitalist, willing to bilk other kids out of their money to move ahead financially.

Hmmm ...

As for Jimmy, he is on the run from whoever is trying to kill him.

Even so, he keeps dropping stories on the Daily Planet's website. But when you are trying to stay ahead of killers, you take what stories you can get.

Here Jimmy meets Arm Fall Off Boy and his family. Arm Fall Off Boy can't ride roller coasters without his arms falling off. It's a tragedy!

And so we have laugh out loud moment #1! Butt-falls-off Gramma? And her normal human second husband? This whole panel is ridiculous.

Now Arm Fall Off Boy is a deep Legion cut played for laughs originally. This is even more hilarious.

Meanwhile, in another 'Sunday Funnies' flashback comic, we see Jimmy trying to take money from Julian's overstuffed piggy bank to give to his sister Janie to help her. But Julian has an alarm set up. So Jimmy is stymied.

Hmmm ...

We then catch up with the Porcadillo, an odd porcupine-like guy who has been popping in and out of the story for a while. Turns out he is a third generation villain; the family name would have made him The Annhilator Jr. Jr.

Instead he tells Detective Corrigan of the Gotham Police his secret origin. Sitting in a room, a croc flies through his window landing on a statue. He sees it and knows what he must be!

Okay, that is about as twisted a take on the Batman origin I have ever seen!

This was laugh out loud moment #2. But this was a sort of belly laugh. I chuckled the whole time I read the rest of the issue and went back to this moment when done to read again. It's like the theater of the absurd. 100% brilliant.

Turns out he had Jimmy take head shots for any auditions he did for super-villain jobs.

And Jimmy made him promise to help our title character should he ever be murdered in a massive conspiracy.  Nice panel construction here as Porcadillo retells the story, taking the position of Jimmy in his own story.

Check out Porcadillo's feet. He is wearing crocs.

Too funny.

And then, perhaps the most important scene in the book.

The Olsen trust and fortune is being discussed with the three Olsen sibs. We see this scene from Jimmy's vantage point. The legalese is mostly replaced with nonsense 'blah blah blah' words while he dreams of slaying dragons, rocketing of Earth, etc.

Finally, Julian rouses him from the reverie and makes Jimmy sign the papers. Now we do see words like 'trust' and 'annuity' and such which makes me think that the vast fortune is somehow held under some constraints. And maybe Jimmy is the key? Or is in partial control but just doesn't care.

But Julian surely has listened closely ...

Now while it didn't exactly reach the 'out loud' laughing of the prior two scenes, the ending scene titled 'Casino Night' is a perfect example of just how complex and brill this book is.

We start with a True Lies opening, Jimmy peeling off a wet suit to reveal a tux underneath.

But then we learn this is a high school PTA casino night! Why did he need to sneak up like this to a High School fundraiser??

Turns out Lex Luthor is also there.

Jimmy loses all his tickets to Lex at the card table, but I don't think I could tell you the game they were playing or what the rules were. The deck was stacked against Jimmy.

And then Lex drops the big news ...

Julian is the person who has been trying to kill Jimmy.

I knew it!

I am going to have to go back to my reviews to see when I first made this guess. But given the Luthor-ian air that Julian gives off, I am not surprised the elder Olsen wants to bump off his idiotic sibling.

But this was a delicious Lex moment.

He takes Jimmy's picture so he can have the astonished look on Jimmy's face immortalized.

That is evil.

Such a great ending. And such great plot progression. We have three issues to resolve this plot while all the other nonsense plays out around it.

I have loved Fraction's writing on Iron Fist, Iron Man, Casanova, and the X-Men. But I honestly think this is his masterpiece. This book is everything.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"But this was a delicious Lex moment.

He takes Jimmy's picture so he can have the astonished look on Jimmy's face immortalized.

That is evil."

A nod to Superman: Birthright? Probably.

This book is so nuts! A pity there're only three issues left.

Steve said...

1) You left out the part that Jimmy takes off the tux and there is another wet suit under that!

B) I thought it was Julian too but Lex telling Jimmy has me doubting it...

Anonymous said...

"We start with a True Lies opening ...."

It was a "Goldfinger" opening, you young whippersnapper! The text box even references it directly.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

The Fall Off family's dog is named "Elmer". Is that because he's the glue that holds the family together?

Yes, that "Casino Night" opening-Jimmy coming in with the bottle on his head (instead of a duck), then removing the wetsuit to reveal the tux-was straight out of Goldfinger. I wonder why Fraction didn't have Jimmy introduce himself as "Olsen...James Olsen".

Is this the only comic out today that uses thought balloons?

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and I’m sure it was way back that everyone started suspecting Julian. I’m now wondering, though, if it isn’t Janey... she seems awfully keen on that guillotine!

Anonymous said...

I actually couldn't care less who was trying to kill Jimmy, the book's surrealist slapstick is a joy unto itself even if the storyline is a nominal serial. My personal theory is that its the sister who wants him dead, playwriting is an inconstant business...she needs an annuity.