When Jimmy Olsen finds out that his ex-girlfriend, Chloe Sullivan, is spending a week with a young big-shot LexCorp employee, Jimmy decides to prove to Chloe that he can have just as exciting and interesting a week.
The world of superheroes offers readers a window into the lives of the extraordinary. It’s fascinating, then, that one of the most entertaining comics in a long time would be about a character who thrives on being ordinary.
Jimmy Olsen is quite possibly the character in DC’s canon with whom most readers can identify. He has no super powers, but he’s a smart and often under-appreciated professional whose life seems ordinary compared to his contemporaries. Sound familiar?
After being dumped by his girlfriend, Chloe Sullivan, for losing his ambition and excitement with the departure of Superman, Jimmy finds himself sitting around in his underwear playing Superman: The Video Game and pining for the those days of adventure.
To make matters worse, Lexcorp’s No. 1 tool, Sebastien Mallory, is in hot pursuit of dating Olsen’s ex. It’s in his jealousy that Jimmy finds himself again, and becomes determined to prove just how interesting a week in the life of Jimmy Olsen really is.
The result is a hell of a lot of fun. Jimmy Olsen is about as entertaining as mainstream comics get–especially considering how heavy it is on dialogue. It’s in the right hands. Nick Spencer has a way with words. Whereas many writers see dialogue as a hurdle, Spencer makes it pop. It’s quick, quirky, and always amusing–and RB Silva’s artwork helps highlight a lot of those aspects as he captures Spencer’s tone.
Through his illustrations, Silva is able to straddle the line between heroic and ordinary–never quite tipping the scales to play up one side more than the other while keeping in line with the storytelling.
Jimmy Olsen is funny and self-contained–the way all one-shots should be. However, there’s something more to the story than meets the eye. It is surprisingly cerebral as it dives into the thought process and all of Jimmy’s little idiosyncrasies–which, for many readers, will be like looking into a mirror. In the way that High Fidelity resonated with music geeks (or geeks in general), fanboys might have the same experience with Jimmy Olsen.
Superman has easily the best supporting cast in comics; all as super as the franchise’s protagonist. Pretty much all of them could support their own series–provided, of course, that the creative teams behind them could realize that there’s some fun to be had if, for example, you made a comic about Ma and Pa Kent dealing with the weirdness that surely saunters into provincial Smallville. Even crotchety Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White can sustain a story, as Neil Kleid and Dean Haspiel proved in the last Superman 80-Page Giant.
Granted, those types of stories are a Silver Age sort of thing, as for the past 20 years superhero comics’ contemporary sensibilities have required all the goofier elements of Superman to fall by the wayside–the weird side adventures of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, in particular. Grant Morrison reminded us how fun, ultra-imaginative, and totally bonkers Superman comics used to be–and Nick Spencer has now grabbed the torch left largely un-grabbed after All-Star Superman ended.
Speaking through Chloe Sullivan, who was recently inducted into Superman continuity, Spencer is also fully aware that Jimmy Olsen just isn’t any fun anymore. Chloe is the analogue for the readers, and Jimmy Olsen the character is the analogue for Jimmy Olsen the DC Comics property, which is desperate to win us back by finally doing the fun stuff that justified the existence of a Jimmy Olsen solo series. What was just months ago an ongoing (and ultimately, unjustly canceled) co-feature in the Lex Luthor-led Action Comics has been completed and collected into a one-shot that will end up the most fun comics will have in 2011.
Thus we have the seven-part “Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week,” wherein Jimmy stops an invasion of alien partygoers in a most ingenious way, scores a fifth-dimensional fiancée who creates a fantasy world where Jimmy is the most awesome guy on the planet (which is misleading since he was already the most awesome guy on the planet), and ultimately saves the day by playing video games in his underwear.
Spencer, himself a fairly young guy, perfectly captures the life of a young guy–being jealous of people more successful than you, playing video games in your underwear, being dumped, indulging in escapist fantasy, and talking about peeing a lot. I can relate to all that. All the pee talk is also why I identified with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (among other reasons).
However, I really fell in love with the book when Supergirl’s knitting hobby came to light. Please don’t ask me to explain why.
Anyway, this is the perfect Jimmy Olsen comic: youthful, clever, and often hilarious–and never at the expense of its own trappings. Sure, it’s silly, but it embraces its silliness; it’s never ashamed of itself. As a result, we’re not ashamed to read it. We love it, and it loves us back.
To make Jimmy Olsen even better, Spencer’s paired up with RB Silva, a fantastically consistent artist who earns extra points by not drawing the women in the book exploitatively. He uses sensible, modern fashion; doesn’t force cleavage into the equation, and (most surprisingly) he doesn’t even draw the alien women in scant outfits! I’ve been wishing for years that comic book artists dial back the number of belly shirts and miniskirts in comics, so you are a true comic book hero, RB Silva.
Finally, Amanda Conner’s cover for this one-shot is perfect as it captures all the major components of the series–lovestruck aliens, crashed spaceships, irritated Chloe, Supergirl knitting (<3)--yet never seems too busy or staged. She’s also a genius of facial expressions. So concludes the rehabilitation of Jimmy Olsen, sadly. DC has ceased their co-feature experiment and, save for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Nick Spencer has headed for the hills into the arms of Marvel Comics. Hopefully, Spencer’s successors will follow his example when handling Superman’s Pal. Also hopefully, Spencer will have successors when it comes to Jimmy Olsen. (I’m easily Google-able, DC Comics.)