Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #2 Review

Already Slipping

Written by: Matt Fraction
Art by: Steve Lieber
Colors by: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover price: $3.99

I enjoyed this book last month. It was silly and a little disjointed, but it was a lot of fun and the art was wonderful. Will we get more of the same this time around? Let's find out…

The short answer is yes. Sort of. Last month's dividing up of the issue into small discreet chunks continues this month and, to be honest, I think that might be a problem. I wasn't expecting to see Joachim Olsson again, but there he is, fresh from his near-death experience, plunking down a sizeable nugget of gold on the counter of the local drinking house. The following section continues to deal with Jimmy's relationship with his brother – although in neither as interesting nor as entertaining a way as last month – and the end section picks up from where we left off the last issue with Jimmy hiding out in Gotham pretending to be dead, although we're still no closer to finding out why.

The structural and thematic heart of the issue is the rather affecting section in which Jimmy interviews Superman for his web series and the man of steel essentially 'goofs off' in a series of panels that represent screenshots with Supes' dialogue to the side. I'm sure there'll be some readers who'll find the sight of Superman in a blonde wig or trying out card tricks on Jimmy as irredeemably silly, but I really do like it. Mainly, it's because the core of Jimmy's character is laid bare here. Jimmy is the friend of Superman whom nobody takes seriously and has learned to see himself as a bit of a clown and waste of space. Superman, however, sees him differently. He values Jimmy's friendship and sees something much more serious and courageous in his friend. There's the kernel of some interesting character development there, but the creative team has got too many hip, clever, witty ideas to pursue it with any urgency.

As the self-conscious alliterative pastiche of "Our man, Jimmy Olsen, looks deeply invested in unraveling… the puzzle that's put a price on his freckled forehead" might suggest, very little of this comic is taken seriously by its creators and there is consequently a noticeable distancing effect when reading it. If the funny bits were as effective as they were the last issue it wouldn't matter so much, but unfortunately, they're not, at least partly because they feature ideas recycled from last month.

Although I still love Steve Lieber's art and Fraction's script is clever enough, the problems caused by telling several stories (or strands of stories) piecemeal in the same issue are already making themselves felt. The lack of forwarding momentum is noticeable. With less panache and inventiveness than last issue and one section (the second one) that feels distinctly flat, this is a disappointing reading experience, although one not without some charm.

Bits and Pieces:

Like last month's issue, this is divided up into four discreet sections. Consequently, the sense of things moving glacially is palpable, particularly in the final section which ends the issue on a decidedly abrupt and unexciting note. Worse, the charm and joy of the last issue are less prominent this time around and, although there is some real heart hidden away amongst the knowing silliness, it's not enough to make this issue memorable.


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