Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (2019) #1

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen  2019  1

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.

Hawkeye 22 (September 2015)

Hawkeye #22

I can’t even remember when this issue of Hawkeye was supposed to come out. I can’t even remember what issue twenty-two was supposed to be when the comic was going to alternate Kate and Clint and then didn’t because… well, I don’t really read the letter pages but I assume people got too busy.

And Hawkeye didn’t sell well enough after a while, which doesn’t make sense, since a lot of the comic is great. And this issue is great. It’s a great last issue. It doesn’t just bring Kate back to it, it integrates her adventures away from Clint. It sets up for a great sequel and there can’t be one.

So Hawkeye will just be that (mostly) great mainstream comic Fraction and Aja did. Hopefully there will be a nice collection, because I’ve been wanting to read it in one sitting since issue three.

Good night, Hawkeye.

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amant; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Satellite Sam 15 (July 2015)

Satellite Sam #15

Satellite Sam comes to a close. A colorful one.

Fraction doesn’t exactly take the story somewhere unexpected or surprising–though there are a couple, post-big revelations last issue surprises (at least one anyway)–and, in many ways, it’s a gentle finish to the series. Chaykin doesn’t get anything lascivious to draw; they are just hints.

The not exactly surprising finish has a lot to do with the television industry. Fraction finishes up all the character plots and still has time for the history lesson. He does a great job with it; Chaykin too. The issue moves beautifully; the series works just as well without all the menace the creators have been imbuing it with.

But that success is the surprise. Fraction and Chaykin quietly created this great cast underneath a sensational story. So when the sensation finished, Sam stands on its own for the characters. It’s rather fantastic work.

CREDITS

Dead Air; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite Sam 14 (May 2015)

Satellite Sam #14

And this issue is a perfect example of how you do a comic book. One thing Chaykin brings to Satellite Sam–even when he’s having an off issue, which he isn’t this issue–is a real understanding of how to make a comic book a comic book. You never read Sam and feel like Fraction’s itching for a movie option or whatnot. The way the story beats work, they only work in a comic.

And there are a lot of big story beats this issue. Fraction deals with all of the major plot lines, along with a couple nods–sometimes with just those Italian language word balloons–to major subplots. These plot lines aren’t resolved (well, probably one of them), but they’re getting close. Fraction and Chaykin pack a lot into the issue and its story threads.

Sam is going out on a rather high note, which is only appropriate.

CREDITS

Bad Actors; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite Sam 13 (April 2015)

Satellite Sam #13

It’s an action-packed issue of Satellite Sam. At least it’s action-packed for Satellite Sam. And not even the kinky sex, which Chaykin must’ve loved getting a crack at. No, Fraction is moving Michael’s murder investigation to what seems to be its third act (and the third act for the series, based on some developments for supporting cast), and there’s action.

There’s revenge and action.

And kinky sex.

The only thing Satellite Sam doesn’t have this issue is television. The television plots don’t come in at all, with the exception of a sort of Godfather homage and TV isn’t the point of that scene. It’s Fraction and Chaykin being a little funny and showy, which they can afford to be; Satellite Sam is good stuff.

Fraction’s character work this issue is exceptional, maybe the best in the series so far. And it’s with practically melodramatic sequences where he excels.

CREDITS

Goodbye, Aristotle; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite Sam 12 (March 2015)

Satellite Sam #12

It’s a good issue of Satellite Sam. Chaykin’s art is definitely stronger this time around. And the issue’s packed once again.

Fraction checks in on various characters and their still active subplots–some are small (like the guy with the Italian wife for a beard), some are much bigger (the black guy passing on TV now getting death threats). But the main plot for the issue deals with the overall story and Mike’s investigation.

In some ways, Fraction’s just cooking Sam. He’s got six burners on the stove and he’s tending all of the pots, but only really concentrating one one. And it’s an accompaniment subplot concerning Mike’s love life.

The conclusion of the issue gets back to some of the toughness the series imparted way back at the beginning, when the shock value was still part of the comic. Fraction and Chaykin do tough well. Even with Chaykin’s supermen.

CREDITS

Four Keys, Two Reels; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Satellite Sam 11 (February 2015)

Satellite Sam #11

The writing on this issue of Satellite Sam is excellent. Fraction hits every subplot, sort of checks its temperature, stirs it a little, then combines a couple of them into the final scene of the comic.

There’s a lot of plotting and a lot of unfortunate choices and situations. It’s soapy without seeming too soapy. The S&M and drug abuse and swinging certainly give Sam some edge, but there’s also how Fraction approaches the subjects, sans exploitation.

This issue has some character development, a bunch of surprises, another really good scene for the black actor passing as white. He’s practically Fraction’s only sympathetic character in the whole comic. Everyone else has issues. He’s also one things distracting from the comic’s soapiness.

This issue also has Chaykin’s worst art on the comic so far. He’s getting lazy, relying way too much on bad digital effects. But, otherwise, Sam is rocking.

CREDITS

Good Morning, Good Morning; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Howard Chaykin; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Thomas K.; publisher, Image Comics.

Hawkeye 21 (April 2015)

Hawkeye #21

What’s confusing about this very late issue of Hawkeye is how little anyone is invested in it; Fraction has the most fun when doing a one page scene between Clint and Jessica Drew and Aja manages to do some great design, but not turn it into great art. So what does Fraction do? He goes for a gut shot at the end, just to make Hawkeye feel like it matters.

Only, it’s been so long since Fraction’s done anything interesting with Clint, he’s got way too big a hill to climb.

Strangest is how they handle the “meat” of the issue. The regular tenants of the building fighting the Eastern European mobsters Home Alone-style, as one character puts it. It seems like a very small fight with only a handful of participants. The coordination, both in writing and art, isn’t there.

Maybe Fraction should’ve let someone else finish it.

CREDITS

Rio Bravo; writer, Matt Fraction; artist, David Aja; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Devin Lewis and Sana Amanat; publisher, Marvel Comics.

ODY-C 2 (January 2015)

ODY-C #2

With the second issue of ODY-C, which is definitely easier to follow than the first, it’s still unclear why one should read the comic. Unless he or she is really, really interested in Homer and The Odyssey. Because Fraction and Ward moving the story to a matriarchal galactic adventure really isn’t enough.

Not with Fraction relying on occasional curse words and breaking out of the “space classical” language of the regular exposition to wake up the reader.

For people who love Ward’s art, it might be worth it. But Fraction isn’t doing anything new here. A distant Odysseus who comes off as unlikable? No, that one’s never been done before. Fraction doesn’t have a different take on the characters, he just puts them in different clothing. And it’s not like it’s Gone With the Wind or something subtly familiar.

It’s The Odyssey. It’s been adapted for hundreds of years.

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artist, Christian Ward; colorists, Ward and Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

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