The Olympia trade paperback collects all five issues of a passion project between Curt Pires and his father Tony Pires, with art from Alex Diotto and Jason Copland, and colors and lettering by Dee Cunniffe and Micah Meyers respectively.
The Epic of Olympia
Olympia at first glance looks like a knock-off of Jack Kirby tributes like Kirby: Genesis. However, it is actually an exploration on how comic books affect people, especially across generations. It all revolves around a fan, a comic creator, and a comic character, and tying each of them together is the need for a father figure. POV character Elon, for example, lost his father and finds solace in the comic series featuring Olympian. Olympian’s creator Kirby Spiegelman meanwhile feels lost and without direction, especially after the death of his own father figure. To an even lesser degree, even Olympian is trying to live up to his father’s expectations as ruler and protector of his home. This all likely comes from how Tony Pires himself was battling cancer as he and his son Curt worked on Olympia.
Yet this story is not about feeling helpless after many defeats and losses. It’s how the interaction between the three characters fills the role of a father figure and how it connects them to everyone they love. Elon in particular, despite being only 13, often acts like the most driven of the three. He takes charge of most of the situation while being fully aware of the absurdities surrounding him. Like when Elon despite being a fan still finds Olympian’s over-the-top personality a little odd. It is this mindset that gets Kirby on a path out of his depression and re-evaulate what he’s got to live for. As for Olympian himself, he’s arguably the least dynamic part of Olympia considering how passive he is about events. At most, it’s just his presence that drives everything forward.
The Dynamic Art
That presence however is where most of the passion takes place. On several pages, Alex Diotto promotes actions so simple yet energetic throughout Olympia they practically tell the story through atmosphere. Every subtle change increases the importance of the moments that take place. Most panels that practically repeat are displays of time and dramatic effects, like when Elon waits for Olympian to recover but ends up falling asleep and Olympian is off panel. Then there are the two-page spreads that highlight big dramatic moments, sometimes succeeding pages that anticipate them. The action scenes that follow after can get so wild that traditional panel layout distorts in reaction.
Jason Copland, who works on the art in issue #3, however foregoes all of that in favor of 9 and 3-panel grids for other dramatic effects. In that issue, readers see Kirby struggling to keep control of his life. When those 9-panel grids give way to a splash page, it’s a display of Kirby at his lowest as everything from before comes screeching into this moment. Following this are 3-panel grids where Kirby tries to make sense of everything in a dramatic question, only to be disappointed as he gets no expected answers. Then this sequence reverses as his prior plan takes a new turn.
Colors and Lettering In Simplicity
Dee Cunniffe’s coloring looks relatively simple, but it’s how it makes the above artists’ shorthand stand out in Olympia. Brighter colors help keep the reader’s gaze on events like Olympian’s bright costume and Elon’s clothes during a battle against monsters. The monster’s blue colors and the purple background following them make it easy to contrast against them. Yet the most effective of them all is how Cunniffe highlights the Kirby Krackle to show off the source of energies, blue for Olympian purple for the antagonists.
Micah Myers as letterer works between recycling shorthand and dedicated illustrated wordmarks. Most of those wordmarks are in the in-universe comic book, when those illustrated wordmarks do appear, it’s a sign of of the Olympian comic affecting the world around it. Otherwise it’s just the recycling use of some wordmarks that in the right place are very effective, like when Kirby has a gun to his head and banging is on display. It’s like knocking on the door stealing all of the power from the decision.
In this loving tribute to comics from the likes of Jack Kirby, Olympia reminds readers that, while some things end, the spirit behind them lasts forever. Because Tony certainly didn’t seem to want Curt to let his death deter him. If anything, this limited time is what convinced everyone to push out their best efforts — efforts so passionate, it’s difficult for readers not to feel it on the pages.