Superheroes, by their very nature, offer fans a chance larger-than-life escapism; especially young, impressionable readers that may be looking for a furlough from the tedium of their daily lives. But what if superheroes were not only real but abruptly collided into the lives of their fans, with all the earth-shattering danger they often confront following close behind? That's the premise of the latest Image Comics miniseries Olympia, by Curt Pires and Alex Diotto. The opening issue blends that superhero escapist action with small town, coming-of-age tropes that covers well-worn territory with its own fresh voice.
In a double-sized first issue, we meet Elon -- a young, unassuming wallflower of a kid growing up in a nondescript vision of small-town America. Spending his free time alone reading comic books about a cosmic god superhero named Olympian, Elon is shocked one night when the divine hero suddenly crashes through the sky right next to him through the apparent walls of reality. Faced with his favorite hero, Elon has to find a way to help the once-fictional character to recuperate while keeping knowledge of Olympian's arrival a secret from his parents and classmates before the situation inevitably escalates.
Pires conceived the initial story idea with his late father, and there's something oddly muted about Elon in the opening issue, likely in denial of a grave loss in his own personal life. This initial and intentional disaffection is clear throughout the issue, as Elon is relatively unfazed after quickly adjusting to Olympian's arrival and the bullying he endures at school by day. The series has been described as a meditation on hope and grief, and the opening issue wastes no time in establishing Elon as something as an outsider whose lethargy is apparent even in the face of his greatest hero's appearance.
The idea of schoolchildren stumbling across a familiar superhero in the woods is not necessarily a new idea, nor is it even a new concept to an Image title. However, that slow-simmering emotional catharsis under the surface is what sets Olympia apart from the other stories that utilize the tropes. And that isn't to say there isn't a biting sense of humor to it all; the titular superhero provides fish-out-of-water comedy while Pires has a strong handle on dialogue throughout, especially from Elon's sympathetic principal in his regular life.
Diotto, joined by colorist Dee Cunniffe, offers two different art styles in the first issue. For sequences set in the comic Elon is reading, the art team is clearly channeling the work of Jack Kirby, complete with deliberately aged comic pages to extend the verisimilitude visually. That said, their work here is very much a labor of love to King Kirby and draws readers in right from the first couple pages. Meanwhile, the sequences set in the real world mark a subtle shift, employing a more muted color palette to reinforce the realism and make Olympian's eventual appearance even more noteworthy, as he pops from the pages in which he appears.
Olympia doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, but that's not really the point either. Pires and Diotto have staked their own Stranger Things/E.T.-esque adventure as a teenage outsider stumbles across the fantastic. Intentionally detached from the outset, the miniseries has plenty of heart and humor to keep readers invested in its disaffected protagonist while weaving in classic comic book visuals harkening back to the medium's Silver Age to bring in a sense of colorful escapism to a muted world.
Olympia #1, by Alex Diotto, goes on sale Nov. 20 from Image Comics.