Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #7 Review

by Jay Hill on January 15, 2020

Written by: Matt Fraction
Art by: Steve Lieber
Colors by: Nathan Fairbairn
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
Published by: DC Comics

Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen has survived long enough to reach the second half of his maxi-series. After being relocated by his new friend and former prank rival Batman, Jimmy (or Jimphony) is on his way to his new home that will hopefully be safer than the previous ones.

This series has done a great job of delving into the family history of the Olsens. It has been one of the hallmarks of this series and could be one of the key ideas this series has added to the character’s legacy. In this issue, time is now taken to dive into the history of Jimmy Olsen himself. It is done in three ways. The first is a psychiatrist session exploring the many iterations Jimmy’s personality has gone through, another is multiple vignettes of young Jimmy and his siblings as the “Li’l Olsens”, lastly, the one that I found to be the most in-depth display of his character, a look at Jimmy Olsen’s job interview at the Daily Planet.

The opening psych interview was a good way of getting introspective about the many different psyches and personalities Jimmy has and could represent. Anywhere from a savvy modern journalist with a futuristic floating camera, the body morphing boy at the center of strange happenings, all the way to a hard-hitting investigator who is out to pull the truth from behind the shadows. This is a great way to be deconstructive of the character, but this series isn’t deconstructive at its core; it is reconstructive. It’s reconstructive comic book fun and this segment shows the level of detail that goes into crafting a story like this, especially around a character with such a backlog of history. You can’t put something like this together without first taking it apart. Matt Fraction shows the thought he put into the idiosyncrasies of the character, and that thought is what makes this series so great and truly special.

The Li’l Olsens scenes are nice little odes to Schulz’ Peanuts, a comic known for the cerebral undertones hiding behind its cartoony exterior. Lucy van Pelt’s iconic “the doctor is in" booth makes a cameo on the cover and wraps around beautifully with the storyline (also there’s a red playhouse in the comic that looks like a certain doghouse/fighter plane). The first tale of the youngsters shows what they think they’ll grow up to become. The three siblings answer with startling accuracy as to where their personalities will end up and this scene acts as a way to reveal more than appears at first glance, not unlike a Peanuts strip. They make a couple more appearances in the issue and stay entertaining throughout. These vignettes also reminded me of a similar method used by Daniel Clowes in his book Ice Haven. Although, the ones in this comic are much more family-friendly.

The third exploration of Jimmy Olsen comes from the flashback of how he landed his gig at the Daily Planet. This is the perfect example of the reconstruction Fraction does of this character. After showing he can pick apart the various layers of Jimmy Olsen, he lets the character speak for himself. This is the mission statement of this character. With this scene, and the others in this issue, everything Jimmy's done throughout the series is clearer than ever, and this makes his future stories and actions more substantial.

While the majority of the issue was dedicated to Jimmy there was a particular scene that was able to focus on multiple supporting characters and by the end of it, every one of the characters became more interesting. Dr. Mantel meeting up with his daughter, the vengeance-fueled interdimensional jewel thief, Jix gave both of these previously introduced characters an even more interesting role going forward. And, Det. James Corrigan (no, not that one) is closer to the trail of Jimmy Olsen and I’m sure has a role to play that is yet unrevealed.

From the front cover, the team of artist Steve Lieber and colorist Nathan Fairbairn got to go some interesting places and explore some different Jimmy's (and a Timmy); it’s a cover that immediately grabs your attention. Then, the first scene features many face and style changes. That segment along with the Li’l Olsens scenes allowed this to be the issue where the art team got to show what variety they’re capable of doing. The nice ode, but not imitation, of the Peanuts style was pleasant. I also noticed the subtle change in the coloring to fit the style. The daydream backgrounds that followed each kids’ speech also showed off more diversity and creativity in the visuals. The humor in those scenes also popped. I liked the adults being seen only by their legs, another reference to Peanuts. Speaking of the visual humor, the scene with Dr. Mantel and Jix had some great visual gags. Mantel being overdramatic and Jix not at all being able to conceal her dishonesty made for laugh out loud moments. Along with the opening scene that featured a host of different Jimmy Olsen personas, the flashback to Jimmy’s Daily Planet interview featured a younger model of him (or maybe he combed his hair for the interview?). With all these elements this was no doubt the most visually eclectic issue yet. In the interview scene, there is this shot of Perry White looking at Lois that feels very Norman Rockwellian. 

But, some of my favorite shots in this issue weren’t the scenes where anything particularly “flashy” was happening. I loved the shots of Janie & Jimmy in the car. They were framed close up, so the character’s features were very distinct. And, the colors were great. The combination of the Olsens’ ginger hair, Janie’s yellow jacket, and the blue cat created a great composition of colors. The scene of Lex in Jimmy’s dad’s office stood out to me. And, the Opal City scene had some of my favorite art of the series. The tunnel scene with the wild foliage above it was great. And, the splash-page of the modern architecture of the city along with gorgeous colors of turquoise and gold was impressive. My favorite shot of the issue may have been on the last page when Jimmy’s saying, “No.”x7 with Janie in the background. That was such a cool shot to me, and it leads to a hilarious end shot to close out a phenomenal issue.

This issue is an odyssey into Jimmy Olsen. It’s also one of those special issues that not only does a lot but manages not to have a single dull panel. While it explores the main character it also has subtle ways of exploring earlier plot lines, moving forward the story and revealing things to further make it interesting. As the cover shows, the art also goes plenty of unique places while exploring the psyche of Jimmy Olsen. This may be the defining issue for this series, and it’s definitely the defining issue for this character. 

Our Score:


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