Last month’s opening instalment of Jimmy Olsen’s new series was a hoot, a hugely enjoyable look at the madness of life as Superman’s Pal. This time we get more of the same. And something more…
More of the same is the division of the book into four chapters: the prehistory of Metropolis with Jimmy’s ancestor Joachim Olsson; the urban adventures of his brother Julian Olsen; a sequence of Jimmy and Superman just hanging out on the roof of the Daily Planet; and Jimmy on his Gotham assignment.
The ‘something more’ is the insight we get into how Jimmy is really feeling about the way life is going. Last time we saw that video clips of his crazy adventures are the only part of the Daily Planet production portfolio pulling off a profit. You might think he’d be happy about this. But among a couple of pages of panels referencing random adventures we get this.
Which explains this.
Jimmy misses being respected. Heck, he has a Pulitzer. Not that this impresses Julian, who, we learn, isn’t just a random relative of Jimmy’s, he’s a close one – his big brother.
But the Jimmy who could do serious as well as silly is gone. Neutered by boss Perry White and brother Julian, his true abilities as a photo-journalist are being wasted.
The trip to Gotham, though, could be a chance to remind people of his professional chops.
The pictures we see of the ‘dead or missing’ look to include dear old Steve Lombard. Surely he’s dead – no one would wish to keep that annoying blowhard.
Writer Matt Fraction and artist Steve Lieber are really impressing me here. The way they’re intertwining the four slices of Olsen Time is compelling, and I’m delighted to see Jimmy’s talents acknowledged… sure, luck played a big part in his winning a Pulitzer, but who’s to say he’d not have nabbed one had Fate kept its sticky fingers out of things.
I’m pretty sure Jimmy’s brother is new, which is fine – he had a Dad in the Silver Age, gained a Mom post-Crisis, and now has a big brother. Their parents get a mention but it’s not clear if they’re still alive, which is a nice tease. While Julian is a jerk to Jimmy, he really cares about Metropolis, and the mere mention of their parents has him visibly upset. I want to know more about this chap – is he actually sad that Superman has a better big brother relationship with Jimmy than does he?
As with Jimmy, we see that Superman has different aspects to him – here, he embraces his goofier side without losing his dignity; with Jimmy he can be daft, but their friendship allows both to show vulnerability.
If you’re a fan of comics playing with the form you may be as tickled as I was by the way Fraction bookends the Pulitzer flashback. And if you’re a fan of great comic art, you’ll be grinning throughout – Lieber, working with colourist Nathan Fairbairn, captures the many moods of Jimmy with real elan as he moves through the two most famous locales in the DC Universe. Julian (I wonder if Jimmy calling him ‘Julie’ is a nod to longtime Superman Family editor Julius Schwartz) is also far more than a one-note wonder, while Superman is singularly delightful. Little touches such as Jimmy having a haircut between chapters, and a Post-It note nod to another current mini-series just add to the fun. As for the cover, from composition to copy and colours, it’s a winner all the way from Lieber and Fairbairn. And Clayton’s Cowles’ lettering adds to the manic personality of the book, especially in Fraction’s waggish narration.
I know it’s the super-serious comics that usually get the gongs, but two issues in I could easily see a discerning Eisner Awards judging panel give Jimmy Olsen a nod.
Who needs a Pulitzer?