Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 1

It’s been a few years since Jimmy Olsen had his own title – well, three decades – so as a card-carrying member of the Fourth Estate, I’m glad to see him get another shot at glory.

The cover illustration is a rich confection, courtesy of Ryan Sook, but it’s too retro for this comic, with Jimmy dressed for the Silver Age rather than the hard-hitting mystery provided by writer James Robinson. Mind, it does give us our first look at the story’s bad guy, and Jimmy gets a cracking new logo. The story is a spin-off of Robinson’s current Superman work (and moves on to the upcoming Superman: New Krypton Special 1), with Jimmy attempting to track down the floating fella who blasted Supergirl when she tried to help her cousin against Atlas.

There are twists and turns aplenty in a tale that hearkens back to the days when Kirby was King and Jimmy hung out with the Newsboy Legion and Guardian at Project Cadmus. There are also a few shocks and the surprise return of a character from the Seventies’ First Issue Special series – given that Robinson has already revived Atlas and the blue Starman, I guess he liked that book.

Another thing Robinson does here which he’s done before, and I couldn’t be happier, is invent a new city for the DC Universe, Warpath, a place as tough as it sounds. Luckily it has a guardian angel, another character from DC’s past. I’ll keep a watch out for more of both in DC’s titles.

I was wary, as I began this book. I’ve seen too many comics in which Jimmy is presented as a clod, but here Robinson gives us the best Jimmy in years, one true to Olsen at his best. He’s a young man not entirely sure he’s worthy of playing with the big boys at the Daily Planet but once he smells a story, his instincts take over and he’s like a dog with a bone in his pursuit of truth. The narration rings true, with Jimmy coming across as a smart, likable fella well deserving of his own book, or at least the occasional special. The dialogue’s snappy too, with a scene between Jimmy and the mayor of Warpath a real sizzler.

One thing I liked here was seeing that he reveres Clark and Lois almost as much Superman, which makes sense – they’re heroes to him and, unlike Superman, they win their victories without powers. It’s clear from this issue that the knowledge of Clark’s secret ID Jimmy gained in the execrable Countdown series is forgotten, but Jimmy’s amazing transformations are acknowledged, and used for a clever bit of story business.

It was also good to be reminded that Jimmy has pals his own age and isn’t pining over his stupid Countdown alien bug girlfriend or waiting for some DC god of continuity to write Lucy Lane back into his life (given the recent unexplained ageing of her husband, Ron Troupe, I wouldn’t be surprised were she to show up as the little old lady she was for a while in the Seventies).

Steve Lombard appears in this book and that’s annoying; there’s no way a guy with his boorish, sleazy attitude would be tolerated in an editorial meting, never mind one presided over by Perry White. Lois is given a killer rejoinder to his harassment, but that’s not the point.

The biggest quibble I had with this cracking book was Jimmy’s signal watch. I’m delighted that Superman didn’t appear here to save Jimmy, but some reason should have been given as to why our hero doesn’t use his zee-zee signal, at least early in the story, when things get really tough.

The artwork, by Jesus Merino, Leno Carvalho, Steve Scott and various inkers is a treat, with the workaday sequences carrying an everyday truth and the action moments appropriately powerful. Favourite bits include Perry’s summons to Jimmy, drastic action to escape pursuit and the dignified demise of . . .

. . . sorry, not telling! This is the type of special that could easily be overlooked and if I can intrigue a few people enough to buy it, great. That way, I might get more Jimmy Olsen – did I tell you he’s my pal?

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