Boy reads a superhero comic book. Superhero comes to life. Boy is taken on an amazing adventure to save humankind. It all wraps up neat and tidy by the end…or does it? Because hey, you have to leave room for a sequel. This is essentially what Olympia is, a comic retelling a tale that has been done before in a variety of media, even in comics. While the trappings of “everything’s been done before” does apply to Olympia and the book doesn’t expand upon this tried and true premise, Olympia excels in small and short bursts with some memorable panel work and an intriguing behind the scenes story.
The backstory behind the creation of Olympia is the greatest thing about the book. Author Curt Pires opens the book with a brief letter to the reader which begins, “I made this comic with my dad. I made this comic for my dad.” The dad in question is co-author Tony Pires, Curt’s father, who died in 2019. Together, the father and son team conceived this story before Tony’s death, and for that fact alone you can feel the heart and importance the book carries for its creators. Curt ends his introductory letter with his goal for the book: “This has been a tough year for many of us. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, you name it. I only hope that this comic book we made – this small, beautiful thing, can help you find a little hope.” Though speaking personally, Curt’s message rings true for any person living through the year 2020, and in accomplishing its goal of giving hope, Olympia is a resounding success. The book is a sound distraction, a fun diversion, a nice respite from the unmitigated year from hell that has been these past twelve months.
The inner workings of the book are less successful. The story starts promising, beginning with a young boy, Elon, who is reading his favorite comic series, also called “Olympia.” A fiery ball streak across the night sky and upon following it, Elon finds that Olympian, the hero from the comic, has crash landed Earth, somehow leaping to life from the comics page. The rest of the plot is fairly predictable. The villain also makes his way to Earth, along with battle-ready denizens, and it’s up to Elon, along with Olympia’s creator, to make things right again. Beyond the straightforward plot though, are a series of two-dimensional, rather uninteresting characters. Elon is the entry point into the book, but lacks any features that make him a likeable character to take the journey with. There are also some lapses in continuity within the pages, like when a truck crashes, seemingly totaled, only to be magically restored a bit later on. Despite these flaws, there are moments that shine through—Elon’s mom coming to the rescue near the end of the book with a great “Momma’s coming” line is an example of the humor on display in the book, and there are a few twists and turns to keep things interesting. But the story amounts to a love letter to comics, the industry surrounding it, a very specific 1980s nostalgic sensibility, and an admiration for Jack Kirby.
On the art side, the team has done some really interesting work. One page, which follows Elon racing to beat his mother home, conjures up some time and space magic that only comics are capable of doing, while also being reminiscent of a similar scenario from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Keen observers will also notice the slight differences between lettering that letterer Mich Myers deploys to distinguish who is from the “real” world versus the “comic book” world. Even here though, the art aims to be a throw back to Kirby’s Fourth World books, and while on the whole Olympia is successful in being an homage, it never quite stands out on its own.
Even with its flaws, Olympia remains a fun book to read. Readers (and this reviewer) must always remember: sometimes it’s OK to just shut up, eat popcorn, and enjoy the show. Not every piece of entertainment needs to stand out with originality. Olympia is the comic book equivalent of comfort food when we all desperately need heaping spoonfuls of comfort food.
By Curt Pires, Tony Pires, Alex Diotto, Jason Copland, Dee Cunniffe, Micah Myers, and Ryan Ferrier
Image Comics, 2020