Jimmy Olsen’s brother is conspiring to kill him. The Daily Planet might be shutting down. Things are not looking good for Jimmy and crew at the beginning of the final issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. This twelve-issue maxi-series has been a delight: chock-full of twists and turns, with a fun supporting cast, flashbacks to a distant past, and lots of style. Luckily, the last installment maintains the same superb quality as the rest of the series.
Jimmy has narrowly survived being murdered, and he’s spent the past eleven issues trying to figure out who was responsible. Unfortunately, it turns out to be his brother Julian, for the sadly predictable reasons of money and reputation. In this final issue of the series, Jimmy has to stop his brother from getting away with attempted fratricide, figure out how Lex Luthor is tied up in all this mess, and save the Daily Planet. There’s a certain electricity that comes through when a creative team is on the same page and firing on all cylinders. Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Nathan Fairbairn, and Clayton Cowles do some of their best work as they tie up the loose ends of this story’s winding plot and answer the unspoken question: What does it mean to be Jimmy Olsen?
As with many heroes, Jimmy is probably most easily defined by his opposites. The villains of the series, Lex Luthor and Julian Olsen, work well as foils to Jimmy and his values—Lex the corrupt kajillionaire with unlimited power, and Julian the man who turns his nose up at anyone who isn’t obsessed with a very specific view toward preserving his family’s legacy. Compared to their cool plotting and antics, Jimmy’s unwavering determination and frantic attempts to uncover the truth make him stand out as an everyman hero. At the end of the day, he’s just a guy with a camera and a strong moral compass, and that speaks to us.
Throughout the series, Lieber’s art has deftly captured the Daily Planet’s old-fashioned charm while keeping the book modern in style. In this issue, his page layouts are a delight to read as he plays with the story’s pacing to great effect (both comedic and dramatic). Nathan Fairbairn’s colors add to the warmth of the book, helping the reader move between the swift tone changes—and then tugging on our heartstrings when appropriate. Cowles’ letters are stylish and get a particularly funny few panels during a scuffle that takes place in the middle of the issue.
If the conclusion of Jimmy’s tale falls short in one aspect, it’s the series’ dependence on external stakes. While Jimmy’s situation seems pretty dire, we never understand what it would mean to him if he lost. Julian’s betrayal is a great twist, but Jimmy’s previous relationship with him doesn’t make it a particularly emotional one. And while there’s a lot of heart in this issue, the best of it swoops in at the end instead of being threaded throughout the rest of the story.
Still, Jimmy Olsen is a must-read comic. The series breathes new life into this classic character, embracing his wacky history and placing him firmly in modern times, all the while showcasing some of the most imaginative storytelling in superhero comics today.