If you told me a year ago that a “Jimmy Olsen” one-shot would be one of the best comics of the year, I’d have laughed at you. But that’s just what we’re getting. Rescued from the death of DC Comics’ “second feature” idea, “Jimmy Olsen” collects all the previously published chapters of Nick Spencer and R.B. Silva’s story that ran in “Action Comics,” as well as providing several new chapters to round out “Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week.”
“Jimmy Olsen” shows us a typical week in the world of Jimmy Olsen himself, and Spencer embraces all of the crazy, over the top, nuts stories from the Silver Age that centered around the character and then ups the ante. Alien invasion! Evil horde of genies! Bachelor auction! Killer video game! Alternate realities! But here, Spencer understands that it’s more than just basic ideas that will carry this story. So, he’s got two tricks up his sleeve.
First, there’s a sly sense of comedy running through the story. It’s never ridiculously in your face, which is important because it keeps Jimmy from looking like a buffoon. He’s flustered at times, sure, but he’s also generally a smart and competent protagonist. From the very first pages, where we see that Jimmy’s tapping on the table isn’t nervousness but rather a morse code message to Superman, Spencer delivers us a character who could logically survive all the insanity thrown his way. In many ways, he’s the straight man in a world gone mad. The situations are still hysterical (and I love Jimmy’s solutions because they’re all funny in their own right), but Jimmy himself turns into someone who is-dare I say it?-pretty cool.
Second, “Jimmy Olsen” has just the right touch of romantic comedy. The serial opens with Chloe Sullivan (whom after all these years on “Smallville” is finally making an appearance in the DC Universe) breaking up with Jimmy, and it doesn’t take Brainiac to figure out if things will be somewhat resolved by the end of the story. The Jimmy and Chloe relationship works great, though; she’s a smart and savvy foil for Jimmy, the one other person grounded in reality even as the mad world erupts around them. Spencer makes her a perfect counterpart to Jimmy, because even when she’s annoyed and ready to strangle Jimmy, she never comes across as bitchy or someone that should be avoided. You want her to do well no matter what.
R.B. Silva and Dym were a pair of artists I wasn’t familiar with until the start of “Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week,” but now I hope we get a lot more from the pair. Silva’s pencils are beautiful, a clean and crisp style that can handle the absurd with the mundane, side by side. His characters have great body language, too; just look at Sebastien Mallory’s puffed up chest and face as he talks about Chloe working on a story about him, while simultaneously Chloe’s expression is showing a different feeling entirely, even as she starts pulling away from him. And as for our main character, Silva’s decision to give Jimmy slightly longer hair is a smart one; it makes him look less square but still recognizable (and professional). Dave McCaig and Rob Leigh get into the act too; the colors here are vibrant and expressive, and the lettering (from the “Swoosh!” of the inter-dimensional club portal opening, to the background laughter in the Daily Planet newsroom) is right in line with the art and story without drawing attention to itself.
My one complaint? Now that Spencer is exclusive at Marvel, we won’t see a follow-up by him and Silva any time soon. That’s a real shame. The “Jimmy Olsen” one-shot is top-notch work from both creators, and whatever the comic, I want to see them work together again. This is easily one of my favorite comics of the year.