Monday, June 08, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 13: Jimmy Olsen #138

“The Big Boom”

Kirby’s explanatory dialog has been redundant and inconsequential in the past, but in the opening pages of this issue it effectively reminds the reader of the events prior. The Evil Facory’s DNAlien has trapped Superman, Jimmy, and the newsboys in an energy egg and is about to feed off the opposing Life Project’s atomic power plant which will cause far reaching devastation. Kirby conveys the claustrophobic atmosphere inside the egg deftly by drawing a close up of Superman and the boys straining to break beyond the borders of the comic panel which represents the egg. After several attempts to break from their prison (and several lame puns), the boys deduce that the monster made the egg with ‘body electricity’ and therefore a super human like Superman should have the energy to break it. A convenient explanation to be sure, but it allows for a moment Marvel zombies of the 1960’s thought was impossible: Superman channeling the infamous “Kirby crackle”.

As Superman races off towards the DNAlien, the narrative emerges from the underground to focus on Metropolis. There’s a one page discussion between Perry White and Terry Dean about the whereabouts of Jimmy Olsen and the character of Morgan Edge, the man that sent him there. Edge’s sinister qualities are confirmed when he’s tipped off by Intergang about the impending explosion at the Life project and high tails it out of Metropolis via helicopter. Back underground, Mokkari and Simyan complicate matters by hatching all their DNAliens and sending them towards the impending disaster. Things seem bleak until Superman takes his cue from the animal, the lemming. Superman hoists the massive atomic reactor up and tosses it down a test tunnel the project was drilling and all the DNAliens jump in after their food supply. The generation gap rears it’s ugly head again as the boys resent not being part of the action and Superman refers to them as ‘you young people’.

Again the Jimmy Olsen title seems the least consequential to the overall Fourth World story because it lacks the themes Kirby has been wrestling with since he arrived at DC Comics. It was good to see Superman take initiative and save the day, but I hate how he’s just considered a ‘fuddy duddy’ by Jimmy and the Newsboys. To paraphrase Frank Miller, he’s the goddamn Superman. Were kids really identifying with Jimmy and the 1940’s stereotypes that were the Newsboys? One of my favorite aspects of the Fourth World in the Superman animated series was the fact that Superman led earth’s resistance to Darkseid’s attack. I’m left wondering if he’ll ever get out of this Life Project and deal with the incoming threat.

Final Musings

Both the Life Project and the Dahrma initiative (LOST reference) were digging tunnels to harness the earth’s energies in the 1970’s [editor's note: !]

I was dismayed when I realized the black haired woman was Terry Dean and not a Kirby-drawn Lois Lane

I guess we’re to assume Metropolis is somewhat close to the wild area. But it is an atomic blast so who knows.

Bruno Mannheim is the analog Timm and co. used for Morgan Edge in the Superman animated Series

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