Review: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 Is Exactly The Comic Book We Need

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen comics from the Silver Age are always a delight to read. Whenever I attend a comic convention, I try to pick up a couple issues of the wacky comic. The premise of each issue pretty much always centers around Jimmy Olsen getting into some sort of outlandish situation. Sometimes the situations are even threatening to Superman himself.

The original comic ran for 163 issues and ended in 1974. DC Comics has now brought the series back as a 12-issue maxi-series with Matt Fraction writing, Steve Lieber providing the art, and Nathan Fairbairn doing the colors. The first issue is every bit as glorious as I could’ve hoped for.

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 cover by Steve Lieber and Nathan Fairbairn.

Fraction and Lieber are the perfect creative team for this book. They manage to capture the essence of the Silver Age books while also making it perhaps the most modern version of Jimmy we’ve seen in regular comics. Combined with Fairbairn’s colors, just glancing at the pages gives you an idea how much fun this comic is.

If you look at some of the other DC titles, there are some big and dire events happening. Tension, doom, and gloom are necessary in telling compelling superhero stories otherwise there is no feeling of suspense. Readers would assume the hero will always win. Even so, reading about gigantic universe-threatening stories one after the next can get a little repetitive. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is a comic book breath of fresh air.

Don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t a simple light-hearted children’s book. The first issue even starts out with showing a dark fate for one of Jimmy’s ancestors. Fraction’s script along with Lieber’s art and Fairbairn’s colors still puts elements of humor despite the dark nature of the opening..

Another fascinating aspect of the book is how it’s broken down into what feels like mini-stories that are really just part of the overall narrative. This gives it a Silver Age feel back when comics contained more than one story within each issue. It also gives a sense to the absurdity of the various messes Jimmy gets himself into.

Still working for the Daily Planet, Jimmy manages to find himself in some pretty strange situations. Fraction and Lieber insert some callbacks while making sure the story is still credible for a regular in-continuity DC comic book. Who would’ve thought we’d actually see Jimmy turn into a giant turtle in the very first issue?!? It feels like something that we could almost see in a regular Superman comic without coming across as pure satire.

The fact that Jimmy is almost a trouble-magnet plays an important role in the story. It gives a purpose rather than just weird or silly Jimmy Olsen situations. Seeing Perry White bark his dialogue at Jimmy as a result of his adventures is priceless. At the same time, Perry needs Jimmy around. The fact is, we all need Jimmy around.

This comic gives readers a different look at the DC Universe. Every moment and story doesn’t need to involved a diabolical super-villain trying to take over the world. Jimmy is the everyman that somehow ends up in insane situation and survives with just a few scratches or bruises. Perhaps that’s his superpower.

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 variant cover by Ben Oliver.

Matt Fraction is a great writer with a superb sense of humor. Lieber’s art and Fairbairn’s colors bring Jimmy’s adventures to life. Every single panel hits the mark. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve already read this issue a few times. I can’t get enough. We need more books that take this approach to storytelling. Jimmy does end up in life-threatening situations and we get a bit of a dreary cliffhanger at the end, but the whole issue is still so much fun to read. If you’ve never read a comic before or if you’ve been reading them for decades, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

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