By Kurt Busiek, Mark Evanier, Rick Leonardi, Brad Walker, Steve Rude & various (DC Comics)
Here’s a lovely little piece of summer fun for comics fans that spins indirectly out of the Countdown publishing event. Although nominally another collection of the Man of Steel’s adventures the actual star of the book is Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. The main body of the volume reprints Action Comics #852-854, and examines the cub reporter’s trials and travails as the effects of the Countdown reach Metropolis.
Without wanting to give too much away in advance of the inevitable Countdown collections, a massive Crisis is affecting all 52 Earths of the newly minted DC multiverse. One inexplicable side-effect is the “fight-or flight” super-powers that suddenly afflict James Bartholomew Olsen, reporter-at-large. Whenever his life is endangered, sudden inexplicable transformations wrack Jimmy’s body (and older fans will no doubt be delighted to see the not so subtle tributes to such classics of the silver Age as Turtle Boy Olsen, Jimmy the Werewolf and The Human Porcupine). This engaging sidebar to the Countdown Main Event, which is by Kurt Busiek, penciller Brad Walker and inker John Livesay, also features yet another new take on Titano the Super-Ape, and the return of both Krypto and the Kryptonite Man.
This is preceded by a marvellous updating of the kid’s “origin” by Busiek, Rick Leonardi and Ande Parks, originally published in Superman #665. ‘Jimmy’ is a charming and action-packed character piece that updates the lad for the current generation, whilst still keeping the vitality, verve and pluckiness that carried the boy through seven decades and hundreds of his own adventures within the DCU.
Without doubt though, the absolute gem of this collection comes from the wonderful and much-missed Legends of the DC Universe comicbook of the late 1990s. Issue #14, to be precise; 55 glorious pages of wonderment by Marv Evanier, Steve Rude and Bill Reinhold from 1999, which featured a new story crafted from an unused plot Jack Kirby worked up during his tenure as Writer-Artist on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. This story features the Lord of Apokolips, The Evil Factory, The Guardian, The Project and enough fun and thrills to take decades off the most jaded fan.
Kirby’s run on what had become DC’s most moribund title utterly revolutionised the entire DC universe, introducing Darkseid, the Fourth World, Intergang, The Project (later known as Cadmus) and so much more. Nothing on Earth can induce me to reveal any details of this lost epic but if you can’t have prime, fresh Kirby, this loving and beautiful addendum to his work is the Very Next Best Thing.
I’m seldom able to wholeheartedly recommend a modern collection for you to buy, but with 3-2-1- Action I breathlessly do and you really must!
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