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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #2

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #2

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 26, 2009

Cover date: October 2009

"The Death of Jimmy Olsen"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Bernard Chang
Inker: Bernard Chang

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Jimmy relates his fears of Codename: Assassin to Mon-El. Mon-El assures him he will be safe, and offers protection.

Jimmy interacts online with a conspiracy theorist, and agrees to go and meet the person.

General Lane informs Codename: Assassin of Jimmy's interactions, and tells him to live up to his name.

When he does, he finds the house on fire. It's Erik/Erica from Infinity, Inc. He was tortured for information, but used his dual identity to avoid giving up anything important. He gives Jimmy a number to call.

Jimmy calls and is told to meet in River City. Natasha Irons finds him there, and informs him that General Lane is behind it all, and that they have a planet killer weapon, Captain Atom, and they've brainwashed him. She tells him she shouldn't be on Earth, as a hint, and then leaves abruptly.

Outside, Codename: Assassin chases Jimmy, shoots him several times, and he sinks deep into some water. Mon-El doesn't respond to the signal watch.

2Story - 2: You can call running at the mouth when writing logorrhea. I've heard that term a good bit, in college and out. I'm not sure what to call arbitrary decompression in comics. Frank Miller in Sin City is extraordinarily guilty of it, but the images were usually interesting enough to justify it, at least slightly.

In this story, there's arbitrary decompression to no seeming end, and with art that hardly justifies it. This story has a few beats, really. Jimmy is scared, and Mon-El will help. Jimmy finds Erik/a, s/he dies. Jimmy finds Natasha, she warns him. Jimmy exits, and is killed, supposedly.

The problem being, that's about a twenty-two page story, put into a thirty-eight page story.

We have four pages to establish that Jimmy is afraid of Assassin, something we already know. It takes eight pages to establish that there's a house on fire, and that Jimmy is saving someone. That'd be grand if it was linear and the art was wonderful, but the art is confusing in many respects, to the point of which you don't half know what's going on. The gamble of the decompressed writing fails miserably under the weight of the bad art.

But the worst example are the twelve pages of Jimmy leaving the library, being pursued, and being killed. That is, at best, a four page endeavor without extraordinary conversation at one end or another. Here, there's very little. "Heya!" BLAM BLAM!

I imagine it was meant to be startling, or drive up tension, but it does nothing of the kind, because of three problems:

One, as a resolution to this story, it's antithetical to the way resolution typically works, and not in that avant-garde, I'm challenging the trope kind of way, in that, "Oh, he died. That's just stupid." Kind of war.

Two, Jimmy is quite obviously not dead, and not going to die, and this doesn't establish enough tension to make me believe otherwise.


Three, Jimmy IS dead, and this is one of the crappiest, most arbitrary deaths of a major character in comics, so awful that I won't wrap my mind around the potentiality and must refer you back to two.

The best example of the excess is the page where Jimmy leaves the library and walks into the rain. What does that page establish?

In writing, every single element, generally, with rare exception, should have some relevance or point to the plot or character. Same thing with comics. If there was a point to be made about how Jimmy is constantly under a rain cloud, why do we need to spend 2/3 of that page establishing that he's leaving the library with no dialogue? Why page after page of mostly silent chase?

It's either too deep for me to fathom as a reader, or the writer is skating. You know where I'm leaning on this one, and it sucks, because Robinson is obviously talented, and I believe more talented than such a cheap trick. It's not like other writers I critique, where you can tell they're one-trick and can't really do much more than what they do. I see real potential in this man's work, and I want to enjoy it, but I can't with this kind of constant excess and deviation. It's more aggravating than a story that simply sucks, because there's potential.

2Art - 2: Often confusing, many times at odd angles, with emotions that don't really match the dialogue. The fire scene and chase scenes draw you out trying to figure out what's going on.

The emotions of the characters and the characters themselves, along with a lot of the inking work, draw out some good work, but the focus this story draws your attention to is the flow, and the flow is pretty clunky, at least for me.

3Cover Art - 3: This cover is bright, shiny, happy, and the antithesis of what the book was about in many respects. It also indicates that Mon-El does battle with Assassin, which undermines the whole message of the book, the tragedy that Jimmy is not saved by Mon-El in time. The logo is pretty sweet, and the images are okay, but it's about average, generally.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2009

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