Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen has fairly unsurpassable creator pedigree. Steve Lieber’s mainstream superhero outings are always visually delightful since he’s able to infuse a bit of Silver Age glee into his otherwise hyper-realistic (but still very artful) style. There’s this great page where Lieber drops the background at the Daily Planet newsroom for some effect (comedic effect, actually) and it’s all the better since every panel around it has extreme detail on the setting. It’s also a fun scene because you get to see Perry White have to praise Jimmy over Jimmy’s viral popularity. Updating the Daily Planet for new media always seems like an iffy proposition but of course writer Matt Fraction can do it.
Even though Jimmy Olsen doesn’t have a grandiose story yet—in his latest stunt Jimmy destroys a bunch of the city and has to get out of town; they can’t fire him because he’s so popular his YouTube ad revenue is keeping the lights on, so they fake his death and ship him out to Gotham, presumably to reveal the stunt later on for hits. The Gotham stuff gets summed up in three panels out of a three page scene with Jimmy’s new landlord terrifying him. It’s unclear it’s Gotham until the last page, which is fine. On first blush it seems obvious, but then it seems smart. Fraction’s got a simultaneously grounded and outlandish (which Lieber does exceedingly well) reality for the series and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Gotham. Though it’s not a really satisfying last page reveal. It sets up the series but, depending on if Jimmy’s actually staying in Gotham or going on a DCU road trip… the issue feels like someone left a window open. It’s simultaneously constrained—Fraction does it in little Silver Age-esque chapters, all have their own epical structures (very neat, it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep them going for eleven more issues)—and a little too open. The reveal at the end manages to be narratively solid but thin; it’s good for the series, not the comic. The jump from Perry plotting Jimmy’s working exile (to keep insurance down but views up) to the new location and then the further jump to the fake death? Too many hops. Efficiently done, just… leveraging a lot on shock value and goodwill.
But the book does generate a bunch of goodwill, every page, almost every panel. Fraction knows how to write this comic, Lieber knows how to visualize it. Jimmy Olsen is a can’t miss so it remains to be seen how far Fraction wants to rock the boat. Is he going to try to do anything he knows he can’t get away with… and does it matter either way. It’s still going to be Lieber and Fraction doing a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen homage. That setup is more powerful than a locomotive.