Steve Lieber

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen (2019) #1

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen  2019  1

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen has fairly unsurpassable creator pedigree. Steve Lieber’s mainstream superhero outings are always visually delightful since he’s able to infuse a bit of Silver Age glee into his otherwise hyper-realistic (but still very artful) style. There’s this great page where Lieber drops the background at the Daily Planet newsroom for some effect (comedic effect, actually) and it’s all the better since every panel around it has extreme detail on the setting. It’s also a fun scene because you get to see Perry White have to praise Jimmy over Jimmy’s viral popularity. Updating the Daily Planet for new media always seems like an iffy proposition but of course writer Matt Fraction can do it.

Even though Jimmy Olsen doesn’t have a grandiose story yet—in his latest stunt Jimmy destroys a bunch of the city and has to get out of town; they can’t fire him because he’s so popular his YouTube ad revenue is keeping the lights on, so they fake his death and ship him out to Gotham, presumably to reveal the stunt later on for hits. The Gotham stuff gets summed up in three panels out of a three page scene with Jimmy’s new landlord terrifying him. It’s unclear it’s Gotham until the last page, which is fine. On first blush it seems obvious, but then it seems smart. Fraction’s got a simultaneously grounded and outlandish (which Lieber does exceedingly well) reality for the series and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Gotham. Though it’s not a really satisfying last page reveal. It sets up the series but, depending on if Jimmy’s actually staying in Gotham or going on a DCU road trip… the issue feels like someone left a window open. It’s simultaneously constrained—Fraction does it in little Silver Age-esque chapters, all have their own epical structures (very neat, it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep them going for eleven more issues)—and a little too open. The reveal at the end manages to be narratively solid but thin; it’s good for the series, not the comic. The jump from Perry plotting Jimmy’s working exile (to keep insurance down but views up) to the new location and then the further jump to the fake death? Too many hops. Efficiently done, just… leveraging a lot on shock value and goodwill.

But the book does generate a bunch of goodwill, every page, almost every panel. Fraction knows how to write this comic, Lieber knows how to visualize it. Jimmy Olsen is a can’t miss so it remains to be seen how far Fraction wants to rock the boat. Is he going to try to do anything he knows he can’t get away with… and does it matter either way. It’s still going to be Lieber and Fraction doing a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen homage. That setup is more powerful than a locomotive.

Hawkeye 7 (March 2013)

892831What’s Fraction doing writing a story set during Hurricane Sandy? Being awesome.

He splits the issue between Clint and Kate, with Clint in Far Rockaway (I think) and Kate in New Jersey. She has the more dangerous adventure, but Clint gets to witness moments of profundity.

Steve Lieber handles Clint’s part of the issue, which has him helping out one of his tenants who is helping out his dad. There’s stuff between the father and son; Fraction’s able to get humor and tenderness in the pages and Lieber does a good job mixing family drama and natural disaster.

Jesse Hamm draws Kate’s story, involving her misadventure as a bridesmaid. Fraction doesn’t go for much humor, since Kate’s stuck running the recovery effort. She gets the positive human experience though, the people helping people.

It’s a neat issue. Hamm’s art is occasionally loose, but Fraction does well marrying superheroes to reality.

CREDITS

Writer, Matt Fraction; artists, Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Chris Eliopoulus; editors, Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 88 (August 1994)

35899.jpg
Is this issue the first appearance of Hellboy? I think it might be my first full Hellboy (not B.P.R.D.) story. It’s good, but Mignola does something weird with the conclusion. He sets the whole thing up, then has Hellboy come in and reveal it all before the first installment’s done. Makes all the setup a little unnecessary.

Then Lang and Lieber have another of their charming Nanny Katie stories. In this one, she’s revealed to be—at least I assume—an immortal storytelling nanny. It’s a gentle story about an old man waiting for his sons to arrive at his deathbed. Nice art from Lieber—there’s a lot of work on some of these panels, lots of mood.

So after two strong stories, how does it end? Paleolove.

Davis is inexplicably tying together some of his Paleolove storylines here. It’s pointless and trying—even weaker art than usual here too.

CREDITS

Hellboy, The Wolves of Saint August, Part One; story and art by Mike Mignola; lettering by Pat Brosseau; edited by Barbara Kesel. Nanny Katie, Sir John’s Passing; story by Jeffrey Lang; art by Steve Lieber. Paleolove, Part One; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Edited by Bob Schreck and Edward Martin III.

Dark Horse Presents 77 (August 1993)

35888.jpg
Oh, I finally get it. Paleolove means love in the Paleolithic era. To pay Davis a complement (my first?), he’s never tried so deliberately to tug on the heartstrings until now so I never really gave the title a thought. What amazes me is the artwork. He hasn’t gotten any better with figures since his first Paleolove story, sixty or so issues ago in Presents. At least he’s not getting worse.

Campbell and company don’t explain everything this installment of Hermes and Eyeball. I fact, I don’t think they explain anything other than the Eyeball Kid and the false oracle are in cahoots together. Again, it’s excellent work, very self-aware and very charming–which isn’t easy given the Eyeball Kid. He’s kind of gross looking.

Lang and Lieber’s Nanny Katie story is a lovely little story about an English nanny who can commune with nature. Delicate writing, great art.

CREDITS

Paleolove, Part One; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Hermes versus the Eyeball Kid, Part Two; story by Eddie Campbell and Wes Kublick; art by Campbell, Peter Mullins and April Post; lettering by Campbell. Nanny Katie, An Edwardian Nursery; story by Jeffrey Lang; art by Steve Lieber. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Underground 5 (March 2010)

ug5.jpg
I wonder if Sandra Bullock will dye her hair for the movie. She and Keanu Reeves would be just perfect for it.

Parker’s script lets the bad guy get away–I guess that turn makes it grim and gritty, though it’s otherwise a very colorful advertisement for the park ranger service–and doesn’t give the protagonists any moments of resolution before the epilogue, but whatever….

I think if it were from any other writer, any other artist, I’d be a lot happier with it. But Parker can do a lot better (for his first non-superhero work, Underground doesn’t impress at all) and Lieber shouldn’t be doing projects begging Whiteout comparisons.

Even with the touchy-feely outdoors nonsense at the end, there’s no setup for a sequel–no Underground on a cruise ship, for instance–but it is immediately forgettable.

I’m really put out, especially after the fourth issue’s success.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Steve Lieber; colorist, Ron Chan; publisher, Image Comics.

Underground 4 (December 2009)

ug4.jpg
So glad I was just kidding about skipping this issue and going on to the conclusion, since it’s the best one so far. There’s just an endless amount of fantastic Lieber panels here. It’s mostly black and white in those parts, so the art comes through beautifully The coloring really hasn’t been helpful in Underground and this issue just makes an example of how useless it’s been.

Parker spends most of the issue–it’s still a hurried pace–with the protagonists talking their way through their escape from the bad guys. I wonder if Parker was aware he had a bunch of white rednecks trying to take out the federal government in this issue… is it a Tea Party message or something?

However, Parker and Lieber use a poor cliffhanger here.

A cliffhanger should either come with the audience holding their breath or out of it. This issue’s does neither.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Steve Lieber; colorist, Ron Chan; publisher, Image Comics.

Underground 3 (November 2009)

ug3.jpg
It takes three minutes to read. Maybe four. There’s like a fifteen page fight scene.

It’s effective and all–the villains are complete scumbags and Parker does get a lot of concern going for the protagonists–but three minutes? Fifteen pages?

It’s even worse than I’d worried. I can’t even imagine waiting for these issues to come out, considering the rapid pacing. I almost feel like skipping the fourth issue and going straight to the fifth to get done with it. It’s not like I’m going to miss very much. There isn’t a single character moment for either protagonist in the issue. There isn’t even a reaction shot when the ranger boy plummets to his presumed death with the girl looking on.

I think Lieber disliked the Whiteout movie (I disagree), but if he doesn’t want to have Hollywood Hollywood-ize his work, he should stop doing Hollywood-ready comics.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Steve Lieber; colorist, Ron Chan; publisher, Image Comics.

Underground 2 (October 2009)

underground2.jpg
The second issue’s an all-action issue, probably has a present action of twenty-five, thirty minutes. Stuff happens in it, but really nothing. The bad guys show up and there’s a stand-off. That description sums up the issue. Oh, and the park ranger guy lives. I am, I have to say, distressed. Lieber always ends up on these fast reads–the second Whiteout series had this kind of pacing too–and it doesn’t suit his artwork.

I want the story to give me the time to look at the art and here, Lieber’s basically doing chase scenes through a cave. A dark cave. If I spend too much time looking at the artwork, I’m missing out on the whole chase element. If there’s not a hurried pace, the action movie adrenaline experience, it’s not working.

This issue doesn’t bode well for the series overall… but I’m a pessimist.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Steve Lieber; colorist, Ron Chan; publisher, Image Comics.

Underground 1 (September 2009)

underground1.jpg
I really liked this comic, but I’m almost worried I’m too jaded to properly appreciate it. This first issue sets up the characters–the guy and the girl park rangers who wake up the morning after to what turns into a really bad day–and there’s also the situational setup, where Parker’s got something relatively unique in Underground.

It’s set in Kentucky. The people don’t care about the environment, just getting financially stable, but Parker’s also makes sure to point out they’re not the smartest eggs in the bunch. It’s a nice mix, not degrading them, just matter-of-factly presenting them.

So it’s an area with tension, but not melodramatic tension; the park rangers aren’t melodramatic either. I guess my only real concern is with the tone. I can’t see what Parker’s going to do to get a really tense situation here.

Nice Lieber art. Unsure about the coloring.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Steve Lieber; colorist, Ron Chan; publisher, Image Comics.

Scroll to Top