[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]
Jimmy Olsen #137 “The Four-Armed Terror”
Sound is the theme to this issue featuring the unknown Wild Area inhabited by the Hairies and the Outsiders. This makes sense because these groups are a take on hippie counterculture, but the beauty of music is tough to represent in a medium devoid of sound. Kirby succeeds in this challenge, but the remainder of this issue is largely forgettable.
The prologue involves the Outsiders (who apparently have been hanging outside the Mountain of Judgement all this time) being ambushed by the four-armed terror that was created by Mokkari and Simyan last issue. The Outsiders lament the loss of their leader Jimmy who apparently was their greatest leader yet despite his very short tenure. The concept of The Outsiders don’t seem fully realized and I expect this might be their last appearance. They’re ambushed by the DNAlien (a.k.a. the four-armed creature) and flee to warn the others.
In the meantime, Jimmy and Supes are hanging out with the Hairies at their Friday Night “sing in”; a clever take on the sit in protest. It involves a “solar phone” which gathers radio-signals from the stars and converts them into mental images. It looks like a psychedelic experience as the characters soar through the mental images they’re receiving. These images again are a pastiche of photographs distorted by DC’s limited printing capabilities. After the warning from Orion last issue, it would seems Superman, the protector of earth, really needs to get back from this mental vacation. Kirby’s intentions might be to sideline him so his New Gods can take center stage, but what about DC’s other 100 superheroes? Anyways, the kids are shaken up when the Life Project walls begin to shake. Superman receives a distress call, zooms away and tells the kids to stay out of it which of course they do not. The DNAlien continues his mindless rampage feed for energy. He destroys a power unit, causing the Tree City to begin to collapse. Superman attacks the DNAlien feeding off radioactivity and proceeds to be pummeled by it’s four arms. The DNAlien is one of Kirby’s least inspired creations, with it’s monochromatic color scheme and mindless motivation. Superman breaks loose as the Newsboy’s and Jimmy arrive. Jimmy suspects this creature is susceptible to his new sound gun, however Superman deliveres a suspect warning that the gun will have no effect on the monster’s two brains. The DNAlien counter attacks by shooting an electric cage which traps the heroes in a pink egg similar to the one that spawned the monster. With it’s enemies out of the picture, the monster makes it’s way to the Atomic Pile which supplies the power to the entire Project. Simyan and Mokkari track his progress as many more DNAliens begin to hatch in their incubation room.
Kirby continues the establishment vs. anti-establishment conflict, but the villain is uninspired and the Life Project pales in comparison to the space saga of The New Gods. If done in modern times, the Olsen title would be better suited for a man on the street type book akin to Marvel’s Front Line series. This issue is not a complete throw away for me as it again adds depth to the work of Grant Morrison. The description of the solar phone is something that would be entirely at home in a Morrison script. Scientifically, there’s little merit, but the purity and natural poetry to utilizing the light from the stars to create beautiful music is a magic I’ve only seen from comic books. I’m also reminded of Superman’s use of a song to solve Final Crisis.
I’d like to see the Jimmy Olsen title delve into more detail on the clones and what makes the Hairies special. Play up the social dropout story line or the morality of cloning. Although I’ve peeked further into the book and apparently Draculas and Don Rickles await me. Nertz. Thank goodness Mr. Miracle #2 is up next.