By: Nick Spencer (writer), RB Silva with Amilcar Pinna (pencillers), DYM & Rob Lean (inkers), Dave McCaig (colorist
The Story: Meet Jimmy Olsen, Boy-Man of Steel, and about to save the world in his underpants.
The Review: If you flip through the television nowadays, it’s amazing how hard it is to find something to watch that’s entertaining without being spiteful or just plain dumb. But as a recent Slate article pointed out, there’s still an audience for feel-good stuff—shows that assemble a cast of likeable characters and gives them silly premises to play around with. These can be a much-needed palette cleanser after all the overwrought drama you get served most of the time.
Jimmy Olsen may be the Parks and Recreation of the comics world: rich, unadulterated fun. This issue includes the stories which appeared as co-features in Action Comics, but the other half is all new: Jimmy’s alternate life as Co-Superman; converting the Planet’s flying newsroom into a spaceship; and preventing a virus-ridden Superman video game from taking over the world. It’s the wacky underbelly of comics fiction—maybe the best part of all.
In short order, Spencer creates the most lovable cast of possibly any comic book on the stands today. Of course our titular semi-hero is the hapless, goony underachiever we all know and love, but you also get the no-nonsense Chloe (who, if possible, is even more awesome here than her live-action role in Smallville—“He was trying to take over the world, so I beat him up with my purse.”) and Sebastien Mallory, who somehow comes across endearingly pompous. Even guests Maggie Mxyzptlk, Perry White, and Natasha Irons get warm, fully-realized personalities.
None of this could have worked without Spencer’s gift for convincing dialogue. His stream-of-consciousness Jimmy narration could easily have become overbearing or annoying, but it’s written with such true-to-life insecurity and humor (“…of course I know that this means something is gonna get fired at the ship later. What kind of noob do you think I am?”), it works.
The whole thing really boils down to your classic romantic comedy: loser guy sets out to get back his girl from disgustingly more impressive rival. But the crazy settings and hyperbolic kind of obstacles Jimmy has to get over really drive up the stakes of the story. The fact Jimmy handles all the insane situations thrown at him with nonchalant aplomb really show why he’s had such a weird but prominent place in comics. And gosh, that last page just tugs the heartstrings, doesn’t it? “You’ll always be my pal,” may be the most touching thing I’ve read all year.
Someone at DC, get Silva on your funnest title (Batgirl maybe?) as soon as you can, because this guy’s too good to waste on something dramatic. None of the humor would’ve worked nearly as well without his gift for drawing physical shtick and his comedic sense of paneling—not to mention the density of detail he stuffs on every page and his hilarious character expressions (which may give even Amanda Connor a run for her money). McCaig brings the boldest, brightest colors to his game, which is the perfect fit for this zany title.
Conclusion: It’s a crushing disappointment this series isn’t an ongoing. DC should consider sending someone (I’ll gladly volunteer) on their hands and knees with bags and bags of money to get Spencer to come back to it.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Anyone wanna guess what song Jimmy’s “da-na-na”-ing to? I always like to think it’s Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”—more popularly known as “Kill the Wabbit.”
– I appreciate the riff on Superman’s years-long absence from his major titles: “Superman must leave on a very important mission! Now select your new character: Mon-El, Krypto, Lex Luthor, Alpha Centurion.”