I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comic that hates the internet quite as much as Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and I’m 100% on board. In fact, it’s where a good chunk of the magic of this delightful book comes from.
Turning Jimmy into a dickhead Youtube streamer is Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s EXTREMELY funny condemnation of, well, everything. It’s a savage burn on society from multiple angles – our inability to consume actual good journalism at the expense of video of Turtle Boy being tossed into a statue from low Earth orbit, the insane amount of money generated by Timmy Olsen stealing the wheels off the Batmobile and slapping an ice cream cone out of a kid’s hand, the cynical nihilism of getting lol-clicks from installing a revolving door in Arkham Asylum because “…uh…whatever.”
That deep, personal hatred of the absurdity of the internet is on full display in these preview pages DC sent over. We actually get a break from Timmy Olsen for a few pages to start the issue, as we set up a running bit that comes back hard later: Bruce Wayne is on a date with “alpha-influencer Gliminy Tamtam” and, in a shocking revelation, he thinks he’s actually funny. This joke keeps coming back and it works every time, because Batman’s voice is so ingrained in the collective consciousness (not just the growly Christian Bale tone, but the disinterested, extremely dry Bruce Wayne delivery of it) that you pair hearing “No. It’s another one of my hilarious jokes” in your head with the knowledge that he actually believes it’s true and that dissonance is amazing. Also I’ve seen these pages four times now, and I only just now caught that he was asking for a refill on his blended prime rib.
The rest of the magic of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen comes from what has turned into one of my favorite Superman and Clark Kent portrayals of all time. Everything is heightened to turn the comedy up, but this Superman is as pure and earnest and decent as he’s ever been without coming across as a naive idiot. His relationship with Jimmy is genuinely sweet without being condescending – it never seems like he’s humoring Jimmy, just that he’s being the best friend to Jimmy he can possibly be.
In a way, it seems like Fraction’s hype has eclipsed his skills. When you think of his work right now, you probably go straight to comedy or comedy-adjacent work – this and Sex Criminals are two of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and Hawkeye is what everyone’s talking about again now that best-of-the-decade lists are coming out, and that was basically a superhero sitcom. But lost in that hype is the fact that the dude can seriously write. Ody-C is one of the most technically difficult things I’ve ever seen anybody try in comics, and his plotting on his earlier superhero work like Uncanny X-Men (“Utopia” is DOPE AS HELL go read it) and Thor gave us some great stories. This is me taking the long way around telling you that there’s a really interesting story about Gotham and Metropolis being told here, but it’s being told very carefully and out of sequential order, and then hidden under layers of really funny social commentary.
I need to stop myself now so I have more things to talk about next month, so here’s what DC has to say about the comic.
SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #5 written by MATT FRACTION art and cover by STEVE LIEBER variant cover by BEN OLIVER Jingles sell, Batman smells, A prank war goes astray, A Batmobile lost a wheel (literally), ’Cause Jimmy stole it from the valet!
Perfect. Check it out.