Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jimmy Olsen #145

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I make a brief comment about pop culture from generations past at the bottom.]


When we last left Jimmy and the Newsies, they were investigating a report of the Loch Ness monster. As we open the issue, the boys have discovered many more mythical creatures are housed in the legendary Scottland Yard. A Griffen, a Chimera and a Unicorn are all on display as well as a beast that has been dubbed “Angry Charlie” by the authorities. The rumored source of all these monsters is another mythic entity, Brigadoom. The boys decide to split up to investigate. Everyone except Jimmy and Scrapper take to the seas again to hunt for the scottish fairy tale city. The bulk of the story involves Jimmy and Scrapper getting shrunken down by compressor waves to about the size of an ant and discovering the source of this mischief is not Brigadoom, but instead the Evil Factory. Yes the same evil factory we saw in the beginning of Kirby’s tenure has moved to Scotland and shrunk in size. After entering the building, the boys are zapped by Mokkari and Symian and Jimmy is brought to their lab for direct experimentation. Jimmy appears to have a appealing genetic code to these two, as they’ve experimented with Jimmy’s DNA in previous issues. Scrapper, however, is of no use to them and is jettisoned off to a genetically manipulated lizard (translation: dinosaur). Antics ensue.

Meanwhile, the remaining Newsies again encounter the Lock Ness creature and cause him to retreat with the help of some mini-shock missiles. The boys pursue him into the previously seen compressor waves which miniaturizes them as well as the monster. They then find themselves inside the Evil Factory in the pen where the monster is kept. Antics.... ensue.

The Superman ‘B’ story is only allotted two pages and has the same number of reveals. We discover Dubbilex, creation of the Life project’s genetic manipulation, has mental powers including telekinesis and limited telepathy. This allows him to detain the San Diego Five String Mob, the group of musicians that caused the collapse of the Cosmic Carousel. It also allows him to sense Superman’s shock and awe when he recognizes the boom tube the band uses to escape. Of course, Superman does not pursue, because that would give me the story I actually want to read. *ahem* No antics ensue.

There’s not much else to report on. The final page reveals Jimmy has once again gone under a transformation (one that has left him with He-Man hair) and no doubt the next issue will involve his buddies curing him. The art is capable, but nothing noteworthy. The story is certainly eccentric, but not thought provoking. However, this issue marks the end of the 2nd Kirby Omnibus which does warrant a review.

The 2nd Omnibus makes it clear that Kirby’s Fourth World tale is going to be hit or miss for me up until the end. Even removing the Jimmy Olsen title from the equation, I’ve been disappointed by formulaic plot structure and lack of forward momentum to the overall saga. However, I have enjoyed the subtext, especially in “The Forever People” and “Glory Boat” is currently my favorite piece of work Kirby has ever generated. My thoughts return to my pledge to look at the work as objectively as possible, which is difficult to maintain. I have seen Darkseid’s invasion of Earth reinterpreted and each time it becomes more streamlined and modernized. So even though this is the source material, it often reads like treading water. Yet I cannot deny Kirby’s creativity and willingness to take risks. My interpretation is also altered by the fact that I’ve read every issue Kirby released in chronological order. This is the standard today for major crossovers like Dark Reign and Blackest Night, but when these issues were on newsstands, most kids probably just bought whatever they could afford or what was available.

Although I cannot experience many of these characters an concepts as new ideas, these comics reveal their origins which gives me a more robust understanding. I will continue into the back half of this saga, with adjusted expectations and a critical eye.

[I have to agree here, and I feel this way about a lot of pop culture from generations past (and I also feel bad about it, especially when you read people like Grant Morrison who seem to experience it so freshly). With a few super-classic exceptions (I just saw Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and forgot how much I loved it) I can find it hard to get into the head space not to be just a little distanced by the fact that, as Bentley mentions, I am used to a more streamlined story -- even though I can see, on an intellectual level how VITAL all this Kirby is. I think The Pact and Glory Boat and the Death of Terrible Turpin are the ones where this distance is closed, but they can't all be like that.]

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