Friday, January 22, 2016

The Superman/Olsen War! (DC)
All-Star Superman #4 When: July 2006
Why: Grant Morrison How: Frank Quitely

The Story So Far...
A daring solar rescue mission has left Superman with a genetic death sentence! PROJECT think tank director Leo Quintum is in a race to find a cure for the Kryptonian's sun soaked cell degeneration, and while he's away, Daily Planet columnist Jimmy Olsen will step in as Director For a Day -- and what a day it will be!

Happy to help out with a wayward experiment, Superman finds himself accidentally exposed to a chunk of Black Kryptonite embedded in the perilous Underverse! The mysterious mineral appears to have no effect, but looks can be deceiving!

PROJECT is about to find itself with a bad case of bad Superman! Everything's going topsy-turvy in the Man of Steel's brain, which means Director Jimmy Olsen and the rest of humanity is enemy number one! Looks like desperate times will call for desperate measures -- but will Diretor Jimmy be able to survive what lies behind the door that says Do Not Open Until Doomsday and complete his column before deadline?!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Superman 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! He may be his best pal, but Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen is about to find himself in a set of circumstances where he'll have to beat down The Man of Steel: Superman!

This may sound like an absurd premise, but there are a few factors you need to know! For starters: Superman's got himself into a bit of a pickle!

During a rescue mission into the sun, Superman saturated his cells in so much solar energy they're bursting from within - slowly killing him! It sounds bad, but it means some unusual side effects that include new and increased powers. Believing one of them to be immunity to Kryptonite - Superman doesn't even suspect anything is wrong when he's exposed to a weird piece of Black Kryptonite extracted from the Underverse! Its effects? Gradual Bizarrofication of the brain! Superman's seeing things in opposite and it's making him a jerk!

The Underverse experiment is conducted by PROJECT - a super-science initiative monitored by dandy genius Leo Quintum from their base on the moon. Jimmy Olsen thought running PROJECT for a day would punch up his weekend column, but its meant he's the reason Superman was exposed to the Black K, and is about to become Superman's worst enemy - very literally!

How will Jimmy achieve that? PROJECT's origins are founded in the US Army's Cadmus Division -- housing experimental weapons of extremely hostile nature. One such formula contains a stem cell accelerator that'll turn a soldier into the ultimate living weapon! A dangerous mutation delivery system stored only in case of Doomsday! A super-charged Superman running amok is as good as - and PROJECT Director for a day: Jimmy Olsen is gonna pull out all the stops to bring his best pal in before he does something everyone will regret!

Can Jimmy possibly pull it off? As you'll soon see - the Doomsday gene weapon is no joke! With the risks attached, the real question may be - will Jimmy be able to come back, or is this going to be the death of Superman?

The Tape: Superman Ranking: Superman (#6)

What Went Down...
It started with a change in expression. An arrogant glance. A heat vision burned S shield on a table. Black Kryptonite has taken effect and it's making Superman bad! He fires a beam of heat vision at his pal Jimmy Olsen, before a final clear moment. He asks for help. What could Jimmy do? Nothing. He's going to Earth to do what ever he wants and Jimmy's going to do nothing!

PROJECT's Voyager Titans and Bizarro Clones are no match for the powered up Man of Steel. Director for a day Jimmy sounds the alarm. A contingency weapon of Superman's own design is inoperable. The Phantom Zone Cannon is taking too long and has no undo. The threat of an evil Superman is great, but Jimmy isn't about to give up on his friend. Option three it is - Doomsday is upon us!

In Metropolis, Superman touches down and disrupts traffic. Lifts a limousine. Still strong as ever. Looking for Lois Lane. Jimmy's on Earth, too. He won't let his hero embarrass himself because of a little poisonous radiation! Superman doesn't seem please to see him. Uh oh!

His mind slipping away; Superman hoists the limo above his head and peppers the street with heat vision. The car's heading his way any second now - Jimmy's gonna have to jump. Touch and go as PROJECT G-Type Agatha warns Jimmy of the dangers of the course he's about to take - the Doomsday option!

Superman spots the "gun" Jimmy's brought with him and gets real mad! He's gonna take the hand with a focus beam of heat vision - but quick thinking Jimmy uses the invincible signal watch Superman gave him to reflect it back to the source! Superman cops it in the throat and Jimmy commits to his plan.

The gun isn't for Superman! It's the Doomsday delivery vessel! Meek Mister Olsen puts the needle end to his neck and pulls the trigger! Say bye-bye bow tie, hello hulking mountain of muscle! "Oh, no." Oh, yes! Jimmy is Doomsday!

His skin greys and his muscles quadruple! Boney protuberances grow around his body. Still has the ginger on top! "Hurrr. Cool." he says. Not for Superman! Doomsday Jimmy leaps into action - driving Superman's head into the road with a brutal punch!

His mental state deteriorating: Superman is stunned to feel pain - confused even! No fun. He's gonna make Jimmy feel pain - a left uppercut to the jaw!

On the moon, PROJECT continues preparing the Phantom Zone Cannon. Jimmy's got thirty seconds before Doomsday overloads his nervous system and he's lost forever. Superman's punch didn't phase him. Thirty seconds is all he needs!

Jimmy sends Superman hurtling across the street with a blast of his own Doomsday heat vision! He smashes through a nearby storefront. The Man of Steel is getting weaker! Scared! He's losing the fight, losing his grip.

Doomsday Jimmy stalks toward his downed opponent. The moment is familiar. In his black kryptonite addled brain, maybe Superman thinks so too. He fears his death at the hands of this creature. He's scared. He doesn't want to die.

Jimmy won't let him die. His invincible Superman signal watch starts to sound. Not a bad substitute for a hypnotic trigger. Time's up! Doomsday is over!

As Superman curls up in a weak and frightened ball, the boney protrusions begin to retract. Jimmy's bulging muscles start to shrink, and the color starts to come back in his skin. Still has the ginger on top! No clothes, though. It isn't weird, though. Just another day in the life of Jimmy Olsen - Director of PROJECT, Daily Planet weekend columnist, and Superman's best pal!

The Hammer...
Woo! Did you see that one coming? The winner by knock out, submission, and unanimous decision is: Jimmy Olsen!

I feel like I'm a winner, too! I thoroughly enjoyed that! It was a last minute switcheroo. Probably the only opportunity we'll have to talk about this issue before a similar concept finds its way to theatres in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I like this issue because it's how Superman comics should be. A definitive mix of elements, juggling contemporary savvy with the wonderful wisdom of accepting Silver Age imagination. When some writer/artist teams dip their quill in the past, it's pure nostalgia. When Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did it - it was the future we never got. A rollicking good time like the good old days, with a layer of sophistication that exploits madcap sci-fi and fantasy to a fuller extent.

I wish this was the Superman Warner Brothers chose to show the world in their high rolling attempts to build a superhero movie universe. It is not.

In All-Star Superman, the hero and his world are at the height of their powers -- an accumulation of gains assumed over almost seventy years of adventures. Anything is possible! In 2013's Man of Steel - nothing was possible. Time and its fruits are the enemy. There is no miracle of science, daring, or imagination to save the day. It's kill or be killed. Base instincts. A simplistic level of storytelling equal or greater to what moviemakers, and even conditioned audiences, would consider hokey, old fashioned "comic book" style.

Watch your back, 21st century. The future waits to judge you harshly.

We first opened the vault to Doomsday during last month's 10th anniversary of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. It was a left-of-centre flashback to the definitive, Death of Superman incarnation of the original character [Superman #74].

While acknowledging the lasting significance and intrigue of the villain-as-event, I also lamented the limit to its impact. Doomsday as he was conceived makes sense to me. I like the idea of a mindless, unstoppable, brutal monster whose mere appearance signals a major event. It's just a shame the best idea gets less interesting the more you see it. Or does it?..

All-Star Superman #4 really challenges my notions about the best way to get the most out of Doomsday. Repurposing the evolutionary concept of his origin into a stem cell, super-soldier mutation is a cool idea. It is helped along by the subtleties of the entire series, though.

Frank Quitely's lumpy naturalistic lines walk a curious line of credibility and fantasy. For all intents and purposes, the figures are all wonderfully expressive, slightly puffy human beings. The streets of Metropolis are consistent and real. Yet the fantastic is right around every corner. Jamie Grant deserves a lot of credit for his inks and colors. Colors go a long way to grounding All-Star Superman's dancing feet in realms of reality and fantasy, from bubble gum brightness all the way back to Kansas as nature intended. No place like home.

This blanket of color simply helps to sell the bouncy, unabashed playtime of classic concepts laid out by Morrison. It's like playing hopscotch with reduced gravity. From the 50s, to the 60s, to the 90s, and beyond. It all has integrity, but it breezes by effortlessly like clouds of fun. Jimmy's Doomsday injection is an event of protein pill proportions. Superman's best pal in his worst enemy's clothing, carrying his death shroud. The world stops just like the first time, but only for a few minutes. It's as serious as hell while it lasts, but all fun and games in the end. Do American teeth grind? Puritans need not apply. This ain't pretention - it's interesting and cool!

Like the original concept; injecto-Doomsday could get real old, real fast if abused by creators with less finesse. Does Morrison know that? It's too dangerous, Agatha says. Jimmy's seconds from disaster as the doomsday clock counts down. They would've had to Phantom Zone him (and Superman) had his plan failed. Do you think Scott Snyder and Jim Lee have anything to worry about? 2014 was a while ago. Maybe the cannon's still warming up?

I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did. If you're waiting to make the All-Star Superman jump - I strongly recommend it. Expect nothing, accept everything. Amazon purchase links are provided for your convenience [embedded right].
I'm sure we'll revisit the series in the future. Next Friday - a fifth week spectacular with an unstoppable villain making a return!

Winner: Jimmy Olsen
(--) #6 Superman
(new) #276 Jimmy Olsen

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