Recommended Reading: All-Star Superman

Posted: November 14, 2012 in DC, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The opening splash page for All-Star Superman.
Property of DC Comics.

Grant Morrison is a polarizing figure in comics. I admit, sometimes his stories can be a little too far out (Final Crisis) and more confusing than they should be (New X-Men) but when his style comes together, it really works. His run on JLA is my favorite iteration of the team despite the lack of Hal Jordan (I’m not a fan of Kyle Rayner) and the inclusion of electric blue Superman. His run on Batman has been a wild ride, especially Batman and Robin and Batman Inc. But it’s his take on Superman that is his greatest contribution to mainstream comics. Morrison’s Kal-El is a powerful, virtuous, iconic character that lives up the legend. All-Star Superman showcases this better than anything. Without being confined to continuity or worrying about keeping the series running, Morrison manages to tell the definitive Superman tale. Supporting characters help make heroes what they are and Morrison hits all the nails on the head: the charm and fun of Jimmy Olsen, the determination and curiosity of Lois Lane, the greed and narcissism of Lex Luthor and the compassion and intelligence of Superman. It’s that intelligence that really sells the character for me. Supes is a smart guy interested in far more than just punching atomic robots and catching falling ladies. Morrison’s Superman tends a galactic garden, cares for monstrous creatures and solves conflicts with wit before resorting to violence. He even stops his superheroing to care for a young woman in need of some encouragement.

Property of DC Comics.

It’s the busy as a bee attitude that Superman takes on that leads to some great moments. I won’t spoil the whole story for you but the basic idea is that Superman only has so much time left and must complete 12 challenges before overexposure to the Earth’s yellow sun kills him. The story takes on the aspect of a Greek tragedy and that use of mythological imagery works. There is an element of science fiction at work here too, and that melding of science and myth is a recipe for good comics.   Morrison is a big believer in the idea that superheroes are a modern pantheon and his treatment of Superman has always had that element to it. Superman is a constant, driving force of nature and a paragon of virtue. It is what Superman does with his power that defines him, not his power in and of itself. I really can’t say enough about the series, it is without a doubt my favorite Superman story. It made me love the character again after years of being jaded about his relevancy. Morrison makes Superman relevant by staying true to the character of Superman. He doesn’t try to make him edgy or cool. Superman is a little cheesy, a little too good. But maybe we need a character like that. If superheroes can’t be superheroes in superhero comics then what’s the point? Dark and gritty has a place in comics, it really works for Daredevil for instance, but Superman is the bright spot of optimism and I hope it stays that way. The New 52 Action Comics has done an excellent job keeping this tradition running. I just hope Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel and continue to capture the essence of the character when they take over the title at issue 18. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a small dose of All-Star’s brilliance every month while Morrison has been on the flagship Superman title.

The New 52 Action Comics explores Superman before he becomes the world’s top superhero.
Property of DC Comics

I almost forgot to mention the art. I’m a fan of Frank Quitely’s work. It gives the book a very classic feel. His costumes are particularly fun. And the underworld full of bizarros has some great sight gags. The action scenes are well laid out and give Superman a real sense of weight and power. Likewise, his Lex Luthor always looks to be up to something (because he totally is) and  his Jimmy Olsen looks like the happiest guy in the world. His Lois Lane isn’t the best though, she just doesn’t look as iconic as the characters surrounding her.

The direct to DVD animated movie adaptation is pretty good to, even if some of my favorite scenes were left out. DC animation has a proven track record, check out their take on All-Star and any of their other animated features if you get a chance. Wonder Woman is especially good.

  1. raheadley says:

    All-Star Superman was a fantastic read. One of the best stories I’ve read in comics.

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