Friday, February 1, 2013

Fourth World Fridays: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #145--"Brigadoom!"

It’s time yet again to visit with our friend and Superman’s, Jimmy Olsen, as he gets to the bottom of the Loch N…Loch Trevor Monster and yet another attempt on his bosses’ part to murder him with really hot platinum-haired Scottish chicks.

As you may recall, said assassin-chick and her fake dad were helping the Newsboy Legion find a monster in Loch Trevor, one which had apparently grabbed the headlines around the world, but which only Jimmy Olsen had been willing to follow up. Oh, as if the media would over-report a story like that, and then completely fail to follow it up! As if their attention spans are that short! So unrealistic, Kirby.

Anyway, the MacGregors ended up trying to kill them at Intergang’s behest, but were foiled by the monster. You might think this would lead to one of those traditional scenes where a dubious-looking authority-figure laughed them out of the police station once they tried to explain what had happened—Jimmy even seems to expect it—but no, the Scotland Yard regional chief (that would be the Scottish branch of Scotland Yard) is quite accepting, and on the next page we see why. It turns out that Scotland has been plagued lately with bizarre, mythical creatures, which the cops have dutifully rounded up and stuck in their “special custody” room. So, basically, vague rumours of a big monster in a Scottish Lake is worldwide news, but freakin’ Basilisks and Chimeras that are actually being held in police custody have gone unmentioned up ‘til now. Boy, I’ve heard of police stonewalling, but this is ridiculous.

The monsters in the lockup include a Griffin, a Unicorn (in a nice touch, it looks a lot like a Rhino, medieval reports of which are what inspired the myth of the Unicorn in the first place) and the aforementioned Chimera and Basilisks, neither of which bear any resemblance to their mythical forebears. The Chimera is basically a huge chameleon, and the Basilisks are tiny little hairballs that resemble Ewoks crossed with pug dogs. Flippa Dippa, for once not wearing his scuba suit, looks on in amazement, and Jimmy Olsen proclaims “Jumping Jars of Jellied Jaguars!!!”. And “Big Words” is reduced to responding “Yeah! Wow!!!

But the biggest surprise is being kept at the end of the hall in a special, titanium-coated cell. ANGRY CHARLIE.

Charlie leaps forward and tries to grab them, and the cops rush in to tranquilize him, as Chief Inspector McQuarrie rolls his R’s at random (“Alar-r-rms” and “tranquilizer-r gun” bear the brunt of his verbalizations). He claims these strange animals are all somehow coming from “Brigadaoom”—“A Scottish fairy tale city—that becomes the object of a real hunt the next day!” (It’s “Brigadoon”, of course—Kirby apparently got so caught up in his little pun that he forgot the real name.) Of course, we cut to the Olsen crew hunting for it so fast that we don’t get a chance to find out how the heck the Inspector knows that that’s where the monsters are coming from. Maybe this is a technique we should adopt in North America. “My deduction—the killer is from Shangri-La!”

We immediately cut to the Whiz Wagon in aquatic mode, plumbing the depths of Loch Trevor. Wha--?!? They couldn’t have done that back when they were looking for the monster the other day?!? Of course, if they had, MacGregor would have just killed them, since it was the monster wrecking their boat that enabled them to escape. So yay for short attention spans.

Also shaky logic. Jimmy and Scrapper have been sent to look for an “overland route”, so they’re not on board the Wagon; instead they’re traipsing mindlessly through a field of brambles and overgrowth and, after a few panels of effort, immediately falling asleep. Who knew Scrapper and Jimmy were so damn lazy?

The Scrapper Trooper is left to stand guard, “But nothing can guard against the compressor wave! It comes out of nowhere—and does its strange work!” Scrapper one wakes up to find the Trooper staring him in the face—on his level.

SCRAPPER: Hey! You ain’t little any more!—Or is it—that I ain’t big any more!!??
TROOPER: I told you that I saw something weird happen to you!! In short—you’ve been shortened!!

Naturally, you can’t really faze residents of the DC Universe with this kind of stuff, but Scrapper does get a little concerned about “Big boids!!”, so the Trooper leads them under a rock—then keeps going, driven by some instinct “like all graduates of the D.N.A. Project”. This is significant, and ties back into that stuff about parts of the Guardian’s brain being active that they didn’t understand, though unfortunately this plotline never gets totally resolved. However, there’ll be more on it in this issue.

Beneath the rock, the Trooper finds Brigadoom.

Yes, Brigadoom is a microscopic fortress hidden under a small rock. That’s why no one’s been able to find it. And what’s more, this isn’t just some random mythical city; it’s a place that the Scrapper Trooper inherently recognizes, and which Jimmy Olsen, using his journalistic know-how, deduces to be the source of not just he mythical animals back on the surface but all the bizarre monsters that have been plaguing them lately. Yep, it’s the Evil Factory itself.

What makes this a neat reveal is that you’re half-convinced Kirby had totally forgotten about that plot thread, and that even if he hadn’t he’d have just pulled something out of his butt. The fact that he manages to weave it into an ongoing story, and one where its presence makes perfect sense (well, by comic book standards) is pretty impressive, considering how random this has been so far.

Anyway, confirming their suspicions, Simyan and Mokkari suddenly arrive, Mokkari dressed in a goofy-looking suit of armour that protects him from Jimmy’s fire, and knocks them out with “well-placed paralysis beams.” “Luckily, in dealing with Earthmen, our Apokolips clothing fabric is resistant to their weapons!” Cackles Mokkari. Um, yes, I think the “fabric” of a suit of armour tends to work that way on Earth, too.

We now suddenly cut to Superman’s far more interesting plotline—he and NotLois had gone to a disco where they had discovered a secret passage, run into Superman’s horned, purple-skinned mutant friend Dubbilex, and then the evil hippie house band brought the house down—as in, literally. How will Superman and everyone else survive? Well, Superman will survive because he’s Superman. Everyone else…um…I have no way of knowing, because we suddenly cut to the tunnel under the disco, where Superman, Dubbilex and NotLois are all safe and sound. I guess the other Disco patrons were crushed to death, but hey, they were into disco. No big loss.

Dubbilex has, between issues, captured the homicidal rock band (they’re called The San Diego Five String Mob) with what Superman calls “Kinetic powers”. They’re hovering in a clump in the middle of the tunnel, to NotLois’s consternation. “Terry [NotLois] doesn’t know Dubbilex is a D.N.Alien!” Thinks Superman, slyly. Yes, I guess she’ll have to continue labouring under the assumption that he’s one of those telekinetic, horned purple guys you see thronging the streets of Metropolis. “Mister Dubbilex!! You’re weird!!” is her response.

Of course, Dubbilex’s powers are still developing, and thus, he’s not able to hold them long. As soon as they drop to the floor, they conjure up a Boom Tube and make their getaway (“The San Diego Five String Mob is now a road show!!”). “Don’t go near it!” Warns Superman. “Let these kids go!! And don’t ask questions!” What are you hiding all of a sudden, Superman? Oh, right. Secret identity.

Back at Loch Trevor. The Whiz Wagon actually came upon the monster about three seconds after submerging in the last segment and drove it off with some concussion charges. Following behind, the Newsboys suddenly see the monster vanish after heading into the same compression-wave effect we saw earlier. “There’s no sign of him!!” Declares Big Words. “All I get is a tiny blip on my scope!” Yes, no sign whatsoever.

Flippa Dippa, of course, sees an excuse to make himself useful and pops out the airlock, at which point he is not only sucked in, but somehow pulls the Whiz Wagon in after him. Smooth!

Meanwhile, Scrapper and his Trooper are locked up while Simyan and Mokkari have Jimmy strapped down to an operating table.

MOKKARI: And now the new “bombardment” method!! Millions of gene nuclei shot through his open pores!!
SIMYAN: They develop like wildfire! Olsen will change rapidly!! Becoming what the Gene dictates!! Sad to say—these are regressive and powerful!!

Am I the only one who pictures Kirby writing this stuff by flipping through medical textbooks and pulling out words at random? Of course, maybe he does the same with thesauruses every time he writes. Long story short, they have a ray that reverses the process of evolution and devolves organisms. They’ve done this on a “monitor lizard” to produce a T-Rex, which they immediately sic on Scrapper and Trooper.

Meanwhile meanwhile, the Whiz Wagon pops up in the underwater pens used to keep Trevor the monster when he’s at home. Which means we get two scenes with giant lizards—the Whiz Wagon leaps out of the pens and tears down a nearby hallway, while the Scrapper Trooper manages to sedate the dino with “chemical ‘mace’” he had secreted in his helmet. And I don’t mean he had it tucked away, I mean his helmet squirts mace from out the inside. Must be a pain in the ass to avoid macing yourself on a near-constant basis.

Scrapper and the Trooper escape, but too late to help Jimmy, who’s been regressed into caveman form!

Huh…I guess Jimmy wasn’t that evolved to begin with.

And on that exciting cliffhanger, we reach the end of the second Fourth World Archive volume, and the halfway point of the saga! Next week: Part 3 begins, including the end for Olsen and friends…

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