Monday, June 29, 2009

Andy Bentley on Jack Kirby's New Gods: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #141

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series, see the labels at the bottom or the toolbar on the right.]

“Will the real Don Rickles Panic?”

I didn’t mince words about last issue’s bizarre appearance of a Don Rickles twin. It was a useless side step from the main event the jokes fell flat. Which is why it was such a surprise when I found myself smiling at the conclusion of the issue. The real Rickles brand of humor won me over and the action became so silly, I gave up worrying about Darkseid and ended up just having fun.

The heroes have been divided and conquered with Clark ‘Superman’ Kent trapped in a ship en route to Apokolips while Jimmy, Goody and the Guardian have been poisoned on Earth with pyro-granulate, a fictitious element that will burn them alive within the hour. Clark’s story is the shorter of the two, but certainly promising with his introduction to Lightray, the young New God featured in the main New Gods title. Lightray explains his powers and explains to the lost earth man that Apokolips is not a desired destination. Clark agrees and takes the suggested Boom Tube off the ship. Superman actually seeing both New Genesis and Apoklips increases the connection between Kirby’s titles and also takes a step closer to Superman being involved in the main battle between Earth and Apokolips.

The resolution of the two Rickles begins with Guardian deciding to tail Manheim’s vehicle in search of a cure while Goody and Jimmy, make their way back to the planet for assistance. One must assume the Daily Planet has a full staff of caretakers with all the disasters that surround it. Although only a few panels, Kirby illustrates the Guardian’s leaps and tumbles across the buildings with with dexterity and ease. His subsequent battle with Manheim and his goons is effective but cluttered. The characters almost seem too big for the panels they inhabit.

The issue truly shines in the confrontation between Goddy and Don Rickles with Jimmy and Edge playing the straight men. The whole setup is still absurd, but it’s absurd on a “Muppet Show” level of surreal chaos which allowed my suspension of disbelief. It also turns out Kirby did have a good ear for Rickles’ pattern of humor as he dishes out insults left and right to the planet staff. The subway scene that proceeds all this is a well executed sitcom gag on the level of a Dick Van Dyke Show. The chaos builds to a crescendo as Jimmy and Goody start on fire in Edge’s office and Edge gathers his wits and tosses Don Rickles out for safety. Don, assuming he’s seen it all, sits down only to see the Guardian burst through the window and run into Edge’s office. Rickle’s reactions are spot on and hilarious as he throws up his hands in a sign of defeat. The antidote the Guardian provided neutralizes the pyro-granulate and all parties breathe a sigh of relief. Until Clark Kent arrives on a Boom Tube, which causes Don Rickles to be asked to be taken to the nuthouse.

Not much else I can add to that, other than to cue the Looney Tunes final credit drum: ‘that’s all, folks’

Next issue, vampires. See you then.

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