I haven't always been keen on the idea of Second Features in the DC books. For one thing, their presence seems to drive the price up on the book. For another, I'm not usually interested in the subject matter. For example, I don't really like the Atom. Why do I need to shell out an extra buck to read his story?
The argument put forth to me on these things is that maybe I will like it. Maybe this is the Atom story that will work. After all, I am always saying that good material trumps everything. I was never a GL or Captain America reader until this decade when suddenly the material was worth it.
So I would shrug and move on, buying the books I usually get regardless of the second feature. But to be honest, the Giffen/Maguire Metal Men feature in Doom Patrol has been the only second feature that has gotten my attention.
That is until now.
The Jimmy Olsen second feature in this month's Action Comics #893 was just about as perfect an opening chapter as there can be and only added to my enjoyment of the issue in totality. I had heard about how great the feature would be back at the Baltimore Con, I had read about the inclusion of Chloe Sullivan, and I even saw some early reviews when the feature became available on line. Amazingly, despite my high expectations (usually a death knell), the story impressed me. Written by Nick Spencer with art by RB Silva, this is what a Jimmy Olsen story should be like, filled with witty banter and lots of action.
The story starts out with Jimmy recalling one of his zany adventures with Superman. In a sort of throwback to the wackiest of Silver Age stories, Jimmy is in sultan's clothes, trapped in a technological genie's bottle which is going to expand and encase Metropolis. The genies are finally going to shake off their chains of servitude.
In a nice moment, which may or may not be a bluff, Jimmy says his signal watch is really more for show and hasn't worked in a while. Instead, Superman has asked Jimmy to use Morse code to notify him of danger. Bypassing the genie's defenses (which were built to stop the ultrahigh frequency watch signal), Jimmy just drums out a message to Superman with his fingers.
This was very much like many of the early Olsen stories I read in my youth with Jimmy in some outrageous predicament, usually wildly dressed, but still coming up with a way to snatch victory (albeit in the form of Superman).
Of course, most of my Jimmy experience growing up came from the Superman Family Dollar Comic and in most of those he was flying solo, without Superman's help, being Mr. Action all on his own.
But the genie adventure is a memory as we see a different Jimmy Olsen, suffering from severe ennui, unable to rouse himself from his chair, and stuck playing video games.
His girlfriend ... now ex-girlfriend ... reporter Chloe Sullivan can't deal with this version of Jimmy. The one she used to be with was exciting and vivacious, not this bump on a log. With that Jimmy gone, the relationship is over. Chloe walks out.
At first I was ambivalent of adding Chloe to the actual comic cast of characters but I think I have moved beyond it. She has always been an interesting character and I think will work very well here to push Jimmy along. Alison Mack should be collecting royalties.
Jimmy has been stuck in this rut since Superman left for his walk around America. Much like what is happening in Supergirl, it is nice to see the fallout of War of the Supermen and Grounded on these other characters in the super-family.
My guess is that this Jimmy hasn't made the jump to solo action yet, to being that daring reporter who doesn't need a signal watch yet. If you are defined as 'Superman's best friend' and suddenly there is no Superman, there is no deus ex machina to save your bacon ... well maybe you have no definition of yourself to go on. And that would lead to this inaction.
I thought this was a completely understandable response on Olsen's part (although a tad off his recent depictions in the Superman and Supergirl titles).
Jimmy is finally uprooted from his doldrums and brought to a swanky nightclub by his pals who are hoping he will shake the dust off and rejoin the living. Jimmy keeps trying to tell his friends that he is fine and that breaking up with Chloe is a good thing. But his friends recognize that he has been ‘Cusacking’ all night.
‘Cusacking’! We all know just what that means.
It is that sort of banter and dialogue that made this such a snappy read.
To make matters worse, Jimmy’s natural foil Sebastian Mallory walks in.
Mallory is the fastest rising young executive at LexCorp. He is such a natural foil … such an obvious adversary … that I am surprised that a character like him hasn’t been created before.
The two hate each other naturally. And again, Olsen peppers his internal monologue with pop culture reference about their relationship – Biff and Marty, Conan and Leno. All of this dialogue really is perfect, flowing with an ease that doesn’t make it unbelievable, and pushing all the right cultural buttons.
What’s worse is that Chloe is at the club with Sebastian. What a sucker punch for Jimmy!
Luckily it isn’t a date. Chloe has a series of articles called ‘A Week With ___’ and this week it’s Mallory. Seeing his ex-girlfriend with his arch-enemy seems to finally uproot Jimmy from his depression.
Suddenly Jimmy wants to prove something to Chloe. And he isn’t going to let a Patrick Bateman like young exec steal his girl.
An American Psycho reference! Awesome. Let’s just hope Jimmy doesn’t hear Huey Lewis around Mallory any time soon.
Vowing to have a bigger week than Mallory, and as a result woo Chloe away from her story, Jimmy says his first act will be to stop the alien invasion suddenly threatening Metropolis. Yep, right outside the window is a fleet of spaceships.
And he is going to stop them without Superman’s help.
That’s a nice hook to bring me into next issue’s chapter.
This was really entertaining and worked on all levels. But it really was the dialogue that I think put it over the top. I know I tend to equate lots of the things around me by comparing them to pop culture phenomena. So to see that same style so flawlessly done by Spencer here really made this sizzle.
And the fact that this also might be the story were Jimmy moves beyond being Superman’s Best Friend, becoming his own man, makes this more than just a footnote at the end of the Paul Cornell story.
The art by RB Silva works well with the story as well. He has a clean style that resonates with the story.