Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 // Review
In 2012, Marvel Comics produced one of the funniest superhero comics of all time, the Hawkeye run written by Matt Fraction. In 2013, they produced another of the funniest, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man with art by Steve Lieber. Now, in 2019, DC has begun publishing a worthy successor to those works by uniting Fraction and Lieber on Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.
The first issue of the 12-issue maxiseries, arriving this week, is a wonder of world-building and character setup as Jimmy accidentally turns himself into a giant turtle and destroys a Metropolis landmark, leading to a dilemma at the Daily Planet offices. Superman and most of his supporting cast at the Planet appear in the issue (Lois Lane is conspicuous in her absence), as well as some new faces.
Fraction and Lieber are clearly taking steps toward making Metropolis as fleshed-out a locale as Gotham (which gets deliciously lampooned in the final pages of the issue), including establishing the Olsen family as being as old as Metropolis (unlike the nouveau-riche Luthors). Fraction loads each mini-chapter of the issue with astonishingly funny narration and has already begun seeding the story with recurring jokes that are sure to pay off later. Lieber’s character design, facial expressions, and physical acting are top-notch, keeping pace with Fraction’s non-stop comedy. A two-page spread of Jimmy as a giant turtle plummeting to Earth is gorgeously rendered, but so are more personal moments like Jimmy and Perry White arguing over Jimmy’s continued employment.
Colorist Nathan Fairbairn smartly works with a simple, flat, graphic style (as opposed to the lush rendering that has become trendy for some more “serious” modern superhero comics). Fairbairn gives each locale its own specific palette, whether it’s outer space, the Planet offices, or a run-down motel in Gotham. Clayton Cowles has a difficult task lettering the dialogue- and narration-heavy issue, and handles it beautifully--the book never looks wordy or overcrowded with word balloons. Cowles clearly has some fun with the captions and chapter titles, as well.
It’s no secret that Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, along with the currently-running Lois Lane mini and the upcoming Legion of Superheroes relaunch, is part of the renaissance of the Superman titles that began last year with Action Comics #1000. The first issue is a comedic masterpiece and promises great things to come.