Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Gods 3: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #136

[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.]

“The Saga of the DNAliens!”

By the end of this issue, the genres of each book have become evident. Jimmy Olsen is Kirby’s monster book which allows him to draw weird and distorted creations like the ones he used to draw at Marvel in the 40’s and 50’s. The New Gods starring Orion is his purest cosmic odyssey. Mr. Miracle is his classic Superhero affair and Forever People is a Teen Titans/fish-out-of-water type book. This might explain why Olsen is my least favorite title as I’m not much of a fan of the creature feature.

The story picks up in the middle of a battle between the giant Jimmy Olsen clone and the recently resurrected Golden Guardian. Kirby depicts the struggle between the two figures with bold clean lines and bright pure colors. As the opponents contort their bodies into fluid and dynamic shapes, the Newsboys and Jimmy look on, posed in the classic Kirby crouch. The dialogue is again a mixed bag. The Newsboys speak in hokey catch phrases and describe the action which is quite apparent. There are quotes, particularly from New Gods or the Guardian, that have a heightened clarity to them which fits with their appearance. Superman joins the fight, however it is cut short when a mysterious burst of gas envelopes the giant’s head and he passes out. Could the victory in this battle be seen as an indication of the new direction in the comic? Upon investigation, a small cloned paratrooper released the gas bomb from the monsters neck. Several more troopers, all cloned from Newsboy Scapper’s DNA, parachute in to subdue the Jimmy clone. The appearance of animated toy soldiers dousing a giant green Jimmy Olsen clone with liquid nitrogen is bizarre, but apparently business as usual at the Life Project

The narrative shifts to Mokkari and Simyan getting a dressing down for their clone mishap from an off-planet Darkseid. The two renew their vow to bring Chaos to earth and make their way to a replica model of the Life Project which seems like a high school diorama project with a million dollar budget. Truly, Darkseid has hired some really weird nerds. They make their way to another experiment involving human tissue which has been modified by their Beta Gas with unknown results. They believe the humans grown here could be their key to victory.

Back at the Life Project, the senior Newsboys arrive to declare their cloned Guardian a success. The junior Newsboys want answers and the fathers tell the story Jim Harper, the first guardian. I’m predicting the junior Newsboys are clones as well with the absence of any mothers. Superman uses this time to take Jimmy on a tour of the Life Project. It would appear the Superman/Jimmy dynamic is back to a father/son relationship. He explains that he was the first to donate cell tissues (which seems wrong for a human DNA project) and that the project has had many different results. There appear to be mindless clones for grunt work, advanced intelligence clones such as the Hairies from the first issue, and even clones that are so distorted, they appear alien in nature. One such clone is Dubbilex, a researcher and conversation piece for the project. Dubbilex has purple skin, a distended face, and horns. Jimmy is startled by his visage and finally calls Superman out on the moral and dangerous implications a project of this magnitude might have. Superman reacts bizarrely by turning the conversation to their unseen enemy. Where’s the cautious and worried father figure that warned Jimmy in issues prior?? Oh well, at least he sets up our final page which takes place back with Mokkari and Simyan who are watching their experiment come to fruition. The Beta gassed humans break from their alien cells with four limbs attached to their bodies and terror in their hearts.

Returning to the Olsen issues is a regression from the explosion of New Gods material from the past two issues. After being left with the impending showdown between Orion and Darkseid, we’ve returned to Darkseid’s lackeys prepping another monster to destroy Earth. It is a 4 book saga so I don’t expect Darkseid vs. Orion soon, but I’d have enjoyed seeing a new denizen of Apokolips more. Jimmy has taken a back seat in his own title but he does have a strong moment where he expresses apprehension about the cloning process. It would be effective to have some repercussions for these experiments later in the books. They are irresponsible and unethical to me, however I live in a world where cloning is much more real that it was 35 years ago. Clones can be a cheat for a writer and the stories can end up without consequence (or a source of great humor in the Adult Swim cartoon, The Venture Brothers). I have faith Kirby will not resort to a cop out.

Next up, Forever People #2 featuring Infinity Man vs.Mantis!

[Matt Fraction is a big fan of a line from this issue that jumped out at me because he quoted it on his website (with no context): "What KIND of humans will emerge from these egg-sacs, Mokkari!"

Also -- the little trooper taking out the big guy is a beat that pops up when Morrison uses the New Gods in his JLA run -- Atom shrinks and gets into Darkseid's brain I think. Atom's wife does a similar trick in Meltzer's junky Identity Crisis. Is this an origin or is this just an extreme version of the David and Goliath fight that played out in comics before this all the time?]

1 comment:

Mikey said...

Geoff - I think it is on some level always a David and Goliath story, the same way it's a Resistance vs. The Empire story.

In JLA it turns out that it's Green Arrow and The Ray who deliver the coup de grace to Darkseid in the Rock of Ages story (this is the same humble, ridiculous Green Arrow who defeated The Key, who'd just dismantled the entire JLA, with a boxing glove arrow in a previous arc). Just before they finish off Darkseid, The Ray says something like "You and me, Connor. Who would've believed it?"

In Morrison there is a kind of - - I don't know, humanism? Doesn't seem quite right - - wherein victory comes from the underestimated or the overlooked. It's the "small" people and the quiet moments that matter often in Morrison. Remember Audrey Murray? I like that with The Ray and Green Arrow in that scene that's actually a literalisation of this. And the characters acknowledge it as well.

On the subject of Adult Swim, let's not forget the Aqua Teens' use of cloning equipment: "Answer me! No - Answer my clone! I COMMAND it!!"