Review by Ian Keogh
It swerves all over the place, but the connecting factor between all stories featured in 3-2-1 Action is Jimmy Olsen. And while Kurt Busiek and Rick Leonardi also produced The Third Kryptonian, there’s no need to know what happened there.
Before the title story Busiek takes us back to Superman’s early days in Metropolis, with Clark Kent just starting his reporting career under the guidance of Perry White, who’s inordinately impressed with the dedication shown by young newspaper seller Jimmy Olsen. Busiek contrasts it with Clark Kent not yet partnered with Lois who’s suspicious about his departures occurring just before Superman prevents a crime, with Clark strangely present when Lois arrives at the scene. It re-establishes the basis of a friendship between Superman and Jimmy for the modern era, mixing a slight nostalgia for the 1940s notions originally responsible, but giving them a polish. Leonardi keeps the art plain and tells the story well, accentuating the human aspects.
Both that and subsequent stories identify themselves as tying in with Countdown in which Jimmy Olsen also starred, but the only item of relevance is Jimmy having developed rather randomly occurring super powers. Given that the primary villain is the Kryptonite Man and kryptonite severely weakens Superman, you’ll figure you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to predict where the overall plot is heading, but here’s the thing: Busiek’s smarter than that. He’s been at the superhero game for a long time, and he’s certainly been at it long enough to defy the predictions of the average reader. Or reviewer for that matter. It’s all charmingly enjoyable and settled really nicely, although artist Brad Walker (sample spread left) prioritises head and shoulders shots, or half figures, and when several are merged on a page it transmits power, but also looks messy. When he breaks into a big image, though, they’re tremendous.
However, the artistic star turn is Steve Rude on what’s might wrongly be considered this collection’s makeweight material. Needing another Jimmy Olsen-themed story to bulk an otherwise anaemic page count, the editors looked back a decade for Mark Evanier and Rude adapting a Jack Kirby plot, presumably conceived in the 1970s. The wonder of the art is Rude being able to produce what so obviously references Kirby while the grace of his own layouts and style are also visible. If you’ve ever wished Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen run could have been extended, this story is the nearest you’ll come. It has the Kirby theme of an ordinary man having to step up to the plate, monsters manifesting in Metropolis and a wild ride for Superman and Jimmy.
Busiek’s run on Superman comes to an end with Shadows Linger.