Olympia’s extra-sized opener marks the first chapter of a series that was conceived by comics writer Curt Pires and his father Tony during the latter’s cancer treatment. It’s a book that already had a certain amount of pre-publication buzz (indeed it was our ‘Comic of the Week’ last week at Broken Frontier) and it does not disappoint, combining meta storytelling twists with a recognisable level of nostalgic whimsy for those still in touch with the magical appeal that super-heroes had in their childhoods.
Our entry point is the solitary Elon who spends his days alone reading his beloved comic books. But Elon’s life is about to change when his favourite super-hero, the godly Olympian, comes bursting from the comic pages and into his reality. Something far more sinister has also accompanied him in the journey through the planes of existence, though, and that menace is about to impact on his world with malevolent intent…
Olympia is a book of contrasts, perfectly embodied in the art of Alex Diotto which straddles the majesty of Olympian’s world and the down-to-earth everyday mundanity of Elon’s (also echoed in Dee Cunniffe’s careful colouring choices). From the magnificence of the early super-heroic segment with pages that even replicate the feel of newsprint and dazzle us with the splendour of Kirby Krackle, to the more sedate depictions of Elon’s daily routine, there’s a rewarding build-up to this inevitable convergence of realities.
It’s that juxtaposition of spectacular fantasy and quieter moments of familiar childhood comics awe (Elon’s skipping lunch at school to buy his comics is a particularly nice touch) that ensure the effectiveness of the multiple connective meta layers of Olympia‘s narrative. Diotto’s layouts emphasise this with shifting panel arrangements across landscape-style presentational spreads. It’s a tour de force of visual storytelling as he constantly reimagines the structure of the page to play with sequencing, passage of time and perspective for differing dramatic effect.
There are possible hints here about the nature of what’s going on in relation to Elon’s own personal situation in Olympia that may or may not prove to add yet another level of metaphor to the proceedings in time. In the meantime, though, this ironically very human story about grief, loss, bereavement and the father-son relationship does that all too seldom seen thing in contemporary serial comics and finds a genuinely different angle on the iconography of the super-hero. One to get on board with from the very beginning.
Curt Pires & Tony Pires (W), Alex Diotto (A), Dee Cunniffe (C), Micah Myers (L) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver