All Star Superman by Grant Morrison
Review courtesy of Ryan Frye @ http://bhymns.blogspot.com/
All Star Superman v1 and v2
160 Pages each
*This review refers to the first two volumes of All Star Superman.
Let me start this by saying that I am NOT, nor have I ever been, a fan of Superman. I think he is boring. The guy is just too powerful. Nothing can really hurt him, he's the fastest, the strongest, and probably also the smartest. All of which makes him a blue and red bore. So why did I read All Star Superman? Well, it features my favorite comic creative team-up: Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely, that's why.
Despite the creative team behind All Star Superman I was still a bit skeptical about reading a Superman story, but I'm happy to say: these two graphic novels are solid gold.
In the early pages of the story, we find out that Superman is dying. A space mission set to study the sun, is sabotaged by a genetically enhanced super-clone created by Lex Luthor. Superman, of course, saves the astronauts, but in the process totally overwhelms his cells with solar radiation. This overdose of sunlight causes Superman's white blood cells to start attacking and destroying his cells, a process which will ultimately lead to his demise. However, what with sunlight being the source of his powers, and getting such a heavy dose, Superman triples his strength and intelligence, not to mention gains a new power: the ability to emit electric pulses...pretty sweet.
Superman knows he is dying, and knows it was Lex that planned the whole thing, and he sets out to do as much good as he can for the world before he is gone. In the process he forgives Lex, while trying to convince the guy to do some good with his genius, cures terminally ill children, saves a suicidal girl, makes some scientific/genetics breakthroughs, and also battles beasts monsters and bizarros.
The moment where Superman saves the suicidal girl is probably my favorite moment from these two graphic novels. As she is gearing up to jump, Superman appears behind her, rests a mighty hand on her shoulder, and tells her: "It's never as bad as it seems." Then in the next panel he is gently pulling the startled girl back away from the edge and he says: "You're much stronger than you think you are. Trust me." Then the final panel shows Superman giving her a super-hug. This struck me as not only a very touching moment, but also a very heroic one too. With a few simple words Superman gave strength to someone who needed it badly. Not something you see everyday in capes and tights comics, and I loved it.
One of the reasons I think I liked All Star Superman so much is that it put more focus on Superman's more human qualities than his crazy powers. Free of those pesky DC Universe continuity rules, Morrison, instead of remaking Superman, origins and all, remodels Superman, and presents a stripped-down Man of Steel that focuses on his quietly noble qualities that make him a true hero.
Added to top shelf writing is Quitely's Amazing (capital A!) art work. Superman has never looked better. He isn't the most muscle-rippling superman ever, not by a long shot, but he looks relaxed and heroic and noble. It was the relaxed look that got me. Superman seems so chill in many of the frames, and then it hit me: if virtually nothing can hurt you, (not even kryponite, thanks to his sun overdose), you'd be one laid back person. I love the cover of the first graphic novel where Superman is just chillin' on a cloud looking out over Metropolis. I think that cover gives some good insight into the qualities Morrison and Quitely instilled in their version of Superman.
I can't believe I'm saying this: but I loved All Star Superman. I'm not usually a fan of the capes and tights comics stuff, but these books are definitely an exception. Superman has never been better, and possibly never will be. This is a must for any and all Superman fans, and a must for grumpy tights-haters like me too.
© 2010 Ryan Frye @ http://bhymns.blogspot.com/