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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

3-2-1 Action!


Authors: Kurt Busiek and Mark Evanier
Artists: Brad Walker, John Livesay, Steve Rude, Bill Reinhold and others
Titan Books
RRP: £9.99, US $14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 794 5
ISBN-10: 1 84576 794 2
Available 23 May 2008

Sure, he’s got the likes of Batman and Wonder Woman on his side, but the Last Son of Krypton has always had one friend he could count on no matter what Earth-shattering adventures might come his way: ace Daily Planet staffer Jimmy Olsen! But what happens when Superman’s pal becomes a superman himself? All of a sudden, Jimmy has developed an ever-changing array of incredible powers, landing him on the front lines of the battle against all who would menace Metropolis. But when lethal new threats emerge to strike Superman at his most vulnerable point, can Jimmy step up and save the day as the city’s newest superhero, Mr Action? And will the struggle reveal secrets that even the Man of Steel and his best friend keep hidden...?

This collection turns the spotlight upon Jimmy Olsen, a character who has hitherto been rather underused in this series of late.

The first story, simply titled “Jimmy” (originally published in Superman #665), is a flashback exploring how Olsen met Clark Kent and Perry White, got a job as a copy boy at the Daily Planet and ultimately became “Superman’s pal”. Writer Kurt Busiek gives a convincing account, in which Perry sees the potential in Jimmy (seeing a younger version of himself in the lad), Clark has need of a friend, and mutual needs are fulfilled. My only criticism of this story (and it’s a minor one) is that the plotline of a homeless person squatting on the Daily Planet premises has been done before, albeit almost 20 years ago, in the Christmas special “Home for the Holidays!” (Adventures of Superman #462).

The next story, the three-part “3-2-1 Action!” (Action Comics #852-854), which forms the backbone of this graphic novel, continues the “origin” theme by revealing how Jimmy’s signal watch was first developed. Busiek also brings back a couple of pleasing elements from the Man of Steel’s recent and not-so-recent past - the Kryptonite Man and Krypto the Superdog - and we witness a major turning point in the friendship between Superman and his pal. Meanwhile, Jimmy adopts his new superhero identity, Mr Action. Busiek’s introduction to this volume informs us that this event ties in with DC’s crossover series, Countdown, in which Olsen plays a major part, though fortunately you don’t need to read that series in order to follow this tale.

I was a little confused about what was going on with the green chimpanzee at the start of this serial, but fortunately everything became clear during the second instalment. However, I remained irritated by Busiek’s constant use of the word “monkey”, when a chimp isn’t a monkey, it’s an ape.

There’s a slight colouring hiccup as Mr Action’s mask, removed from him by the Kryptonite Man, is coloured in the same shade as the background, rather than its proper blue.

The collection is rounded off by a Jimmy-themed story from nearly a decade ago, 1999’s “The American Evolution” (Legends of the DC Universe #14), a 56-page special based upon an unused plot idea by the late, great Jack Kirby. Kirby’s influence can be seen not only in the art (pencilled by Steve Rude and inked by Bill Reinhold) and concepts (Darkseid, “The Project”, the Guardian, the Newsboy Legion, Dubbilex) of this strip but also in the chunky, stylised renderings of the opening tale, “Jimmy” (pencilled by Rick Leonardi and inked by Ande Parks).

I give this graphic novel not 3, not 2, not 1, but...


Richard McGinlay

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