At this point, it’s become clear Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber are using this series as a collage of riffs. If this was a rock album, it’d be the noodliest noddle to ever noodle. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you can get into the rhythm.
I’ve been wanting this series to focus more on Gotham, since that’s where Jimmy is a fish out of water, and #5 gives us a heap of Batman jokes. Many writers try to make fun of Batman’s self-seriousness by just having him say, “I’m Batman.” But luckily for us, that ain’t good enough for Fraction and Lieber. From Batman’s very first lines when he meets Superman and Jimmy, the Caped Crusader got me to laugh with his ad-libbed attempts to always, always sound grim even when he has nothing to say.
Because this is Jimmy Olsen, and jokes are king, we’re treated to a terribly awkward dinner where Bruce tries to hang with a social media influencer (the very fact that we all understand what that “job” is, frightens me). Also—Batman gets into a prank war with Jimmy. Does that tie into Jimmy’s main quest to solve the assassination attempts? Eh, not really. But any plot or character through-lines are just a foundation to joke around on. Would I prefer a tighter narrative? Certainly. Yet, at this point I have to acknowledge that Jimmy Olsen is intentionally trying to be as “all over the place” as its titular hero.
Another thread that’s not developed but pops up is Jimmy as Timmy, his even more obnoxious alter-ego. It’d be nice to see more development about how Jimmy is being warped by the demands of TMZ style journalism, but again, that’s not the main point of this series. It’s just another little detail sure to pop up later whenever Fraction and Lieber feel like it.
In a previous issue, I believe it was #2, Jimmy visited his not-so friendly brother. To continue the theme of family, #5 ends with Jimmy connecting with his sister Janie, which gave the issue and series a much needed breathe of “feels.” Despite putting on a play, I Hate My Dad, Janie can’t help but break her goth deadpan and leap into her brother’s arms when he reveals he’s not dead. Oh, and speaking of that, there’s a funeral scene where characters find out Jimmy isn’t, well, dead. It comes across as more of a plot necessity and doesn’t have much gag potential, and neither does yet another flashback to the history of the Olsen family.
I adore when this series goes for meta gags, because like how this issue deals with Batman, they don’t go for cheap shots. An entire page is dedicated to replicating The Godfather’s iconic opening shot that moves from a close-up of a father’s face to an over-the-shoulder shot with Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. Who else would go to such lengths for a reference like this? Brilliantly, this isn’t just a reference, it’s actually a clever way to communicate important plot exposition in a way that distracts us from the info dump.
This serves as a good transition to discuss Steve Lieber’s virtuosic, chameleon talents. You want him to pull of a Godfather reference for a whole page? He’ll nail the facial expressions and blocking. Want him to draw Superman and Batman in disarmingly un-heroic ways? He’ll give Superman a continual dazed look and subtly turn Batman’s chiseled, grim resting face into a joke in and of itself. Whether Lieber is illustrating Gotham at night or a 19th century ballroom dance, he makes whatever locations, props, and characters believable and effective.
Those looking for a solid, straightforward narrative will be disappointed. While I wish this series was more consistent and focused, its unpredictability makes it a discovery with every issue.