To make a statement I’m sure most people reading and working on this website will agree with: I love superhero comics, specifically the wacky adventures of both the Marvel and DC universes. Though I may not like every aspect, especially when it usually comes to crossover events, I still continue to read many ongoing titles, from Batman to Spider-Man.
However, when it comes to Image Comics, their approach to superheroes has gone through some radical interpretations since the publisher’s inception, for better or worse. While I look forward to Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s upcoming title Crossover, Image has another meta-superhero title that you can get now in trade: Olympia.
Opening with a heartfelt introduction discussing the origins of Olympia, scriptwriter Curt Pires explains that he conceived the story with his father Tony, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. This five-issue narrative is coming from a personal place, but can the story itself be universally accepted? Olympia centers on latchkey kid Elon, who doesn’t socialize with anyone and would rather be with his lonesome self, reading comic books about his favorite superhero, the eponymous Olympia. One night, Olympia literally crash-lands into reality, and as Elon wrestles with what to do in this situation, the super villain from the comics also steps in.
On the back of the trade paperback, it says this is “a must-have for fans of Jack Kirby comics and Steven Spielberg films”, which sounds ambitious. In terms of the Spielberg influence, you do get the young social misfit who lives with his single mother and finds himself in an extraordinary situation. That said, the book never delves that much into the protagonist’s domesticity — we don’t learn much about his relationship with his mother, and get just one brief sequence of him being bullied. You only get to know Elon, through his relationship with Olympia, which starts off as fanboyish before Elon humorously realizes the flaws of said hero, such as lack of manners.
Now, when it comes to Jack Kirby – arguably the most influential artist in the industry – that is an attempt to reach a height that this book never quite achieves, which is not entirely a bad thing. Clearly a love-letter to Kirby, as well as comics history in general, artist Alex Diotto does a decent job at reflecting that iconic art-style with the few pages presenting a comic-within-a-comic, from the big expressive characters to the Kirby Krackle that is sprinkled here and there. However, the majority of the book is set in a suburban setting that is done through a quirky and minimalist style, even if the many faces are expressionless and the action doesn’t quite pop out.
Weirdly, Olympia works best when it breaks away from the main narrative, which is where the third issue comes in. Focusing on Kirby Spiegelman, the creator of the fictional Olympia comic, we see a struggling comics creator who is about to lose everything that is dear to him, following the sudden cancellation of the comic. Although he is not the main character of this story, Kirby’s presence adds a new and welcoming layer, which is both dark and tragic, but helps inform the rest of the narrative, resulting in a climax of heroic redemption.
Jason Copland’s art is looser than Diotto’s, but through mostly using a nine-panel grid, it adds a sense of claustrophobia that fits well into Kirby’s self-entrapment.
Olympia is a fun meta-spin on the superhero genre that never loses its personal touch.