The initial run of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen lasted for over a hundred and fifty issues across twenty years during the Silver Age. The series was funny, outlandish and built its own unique and quirky world that could operate outside of the superhero exploits happening in titles like Action Comics. Looking back, it can all seem a bit quaint in comparison to the current state of comics. Some stories hold up; others, not so much. Certain facets of the original series could be used as examples of fuddy duddy comic book lameness, which tends to be the butt of many jokes levied against the medium. Thankfully, the relaunch of this classic DC Comics relic by writer Matt Fraction and artist Steve Lieber embraces the more hokey aspects of the original series while filtering them through the lens modern storytelling, making Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #1 a brilliant piece of comedic fiction.
Let's cut to the chase: this comic is fantastic, thanks to the amazing team working on it. Fraction's writing is as sharp and funny as ever. His dialogue is big, bold and often declarative, but he writes with enough self-aware humor and cultural references to make the comic feel modern. Similar scripts can sometimes devolve into self-deprecation or even satirize how comics used to be made, but Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen never falls into those traps. Aesthetically, it's perfect. Steve Lieber was born to draw this book. His style hearkens back to the Silver Age, but his delivery is very clean and modern. It has a retro vibe, like Darwyn Cooke or David Lapham. It never tries to emulate the broad comic style of the '60s and '70s, but it does echo it from time to time without feeling derivative.
If anything, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #1 is a love letter to days of comic yore, both in story and visuals. Regardless of the subject matter, each vignette uses a very similar tone, which benefits the comic. Maintaining the same vibe creates a through-line for Olsen and the rest of the cast in terms of broad characterization and pacing. Yes, you could argue that every comic should maintain a consistent tone, but this can be difficult when juggling various short stories between the covers. And yet, the work on the page in this debut issue makes the reader believe all the craziness on display could actually happen to just one guy. The desperate scenarios never betray that notion. If anything, expanding Jimmy Olsen's impact on the city of Metropolis helps solidify the idea that one man could lead such an extraordinary life. It turns out, it's in his blood.
Fraction and Lieber normalize the extraordinary. The two titular characters of this book have been through practically every scenario you could possibly imagine, so anything this issue has to offer is par for the course. Now this isn't to say the well of potential exploits has run dry. Quite the contrary. Characters with such deep, storied histories carry a a certain credence in the things they say and do. As long as Jimmy keeps his head up and Superman loves him unconditionally, there isn’t much a creative team could do that would betray either character in terms of story beats. Sure, Jimmy doesn’t speak like he marched off the set of The Andy Griffith Show, but his plucky optimism and infatuation with the Man of Steel are still intact.
Again, this issue is wonderful. We could drone on and on, but this is one of the more delightful titles DC Comics has published this year (right up there with Dial H for Hero and Young Justice), and we do not want to spoil anyone's experience. The dire end of the world stakes so many broad superhero books employ as their main draw is mostly absent and a more cheerful, fun, and hilarious aspects of comics eat up every panel of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #1 and it's a welcome change of pace.