I think we’re all missing the point on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.
Sure, it’s ridiculously funny. Maybe the most purely funny comic that’s come out in years. The Arm-Fall-Off-Boy bit in the exclusive preview of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #9 is so good it had me actually texting people as I read it. There’s a Van Halen joke later on that made me bark a laugh loud enough that I was afraid I would wake my family up. And this is on top of all the other amazing bits from earlier in the series, like Cyborg Jimmy Olsen, or Timmy Olsen stealing the Batmobile’s wheel, or the way the book savages Bruce Wayne.
But underneath the blazing fast vignettes, bits, gags, references and absurdism, Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber are piecing together a fascinating character study of Jimmy. They’re giving him depth and building his universe out in a way that is both unexpected and separate from Superman, centering his story as opposed to developing him in contrast to Big Blue. They’re adding several layers to Metropolis that weren’t there before, background that will remain there for other writers to play with even if Jimmy Olsen ends up part of a looser continuity. And the best part is how nonlinear the story is. Fraction and Lieber are so good at giving us the pieces we need for the plot when we need them, but not necessarily in sequence. And I don’t know that we’re going to be able to fully appreciate the technical feat that this book has been until it’s all in our hands together.
On the subject of technical feats, Lieber is doing the book of his life here. His ability to shift styles from page to page is incredible. In a just world, we’d be getting a Wednesday Comics 2 with Lieber doing an entire Lil’ Olsens story, because everything about those pages is perfectly Sunday funnies: the pacing, the action in the panels, the humor. But it fits snugly within the overall story, and even with the style changed so completely, it’s still very clearly Lieber’s art.