Superman: 3-2-1 Action!

By Kurt Busiek, Mark Evanier, Rick Leonardi, Brad Walker, Steve Rude & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1680-1

There are a number of big cartoon and comics anniversaries this year and probably none bigger than Seigel and Shuster’s magnificent Man of Tomorrow! Here then is a splendid sample of sheer excellence and bucket of fun for Fights ‘n’ Tights fans that spun out of DC’s epic Countdown publishing event. Although nominally another collection of the Action Ace’s adventures, the actual star of the book is Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen with the main body of the volume reprinting Action Comics #852-854 (September-October 2007), which examines the cub reporter’s trials and travails as the effects of the Reality-rending Countdown reach Metropolis.

Without wanting to give too much away (Countdown is collected, readily available and should be read and enjoyed on its own merits) a massive Crisis is affecting all 52 Earths of the newly-reminted DC multiverse.

One inexplicable side-effect of the cosmic kerfuffle is the “fight-or flight” super-power that suddenly afflicts James Bartholomew Olsen, reporter-at-large.

Whenever his life is endangered, sudden inexplicable transformations wrack the kid’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, Elastic Lad and The Human Porcupine). This engaging sidebar to Countdown’s Main Event – crafted by scripter 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 superdog Krypto and the Kryptonite Man.

This is preceded by a marvellous updating of Olsen’s “origin” by Busiek, Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks, originally published in Superman #665 (September 2007).

‘Jimmy’ is a charming and adventure-drenched character piece which updates the lad for the millennial generation, whilst still keeping the vitality, verve and pluckiness that carried the boy reporter through seven decades and hundreds of his own adventures within the DCU.

Without doubt though, the absolute prize and gem of this collection comes from the fabulous and much-missed Legends of the DC Universe comicbook of the late 1990s.

Issue #14 to be precise; 55 glorious pages of wonderment from Marv Evanier, Steve Rude & Bill Reinhold from March 1999, presenting a new story crafted from an unused plot Jack Kirby worked up during his tempestuous tenure as Writer-Artist on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen in the early 1970s.

This story features the hordes of Apokolips, The Evil Factory, The Golden Guardian and enough fun and thrills to take decades off the most jaded fan as investigative journalist Olsen uncovers an Apokolyptian scheme to de-evolve the inhabitants of Metropolis and takes action to thwart the impending catastrophe…

In 1970 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 (sadly only still available in paperback, and not as an eBook yet) 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 going to be recommending a whole lot of Superman stuff this year and this relatively modern collection is right at the top of that list. Track it down now and learn why you really must…!
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