All Star Superman, Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
(DC Comics, 2008, 160 pages)
All Star Superman, Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
(DC Comics, 2010, 160 pages)
These two volumes have been recommended to me as the best of the more contemporary Superman comics. While they rely on developments from previous comics to some extent, the storylines are pretty accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of Superman’s origins. Kryptonite is not the source of Superman’s problems in this story. Rather, in an ironic twist of fate, he receives an overdose of solar radiation while rescuing a manned space mission to the sun. The sun, the source of his strength, has saturated his cells with more radiation than they can take, assuring a slow physical deterioration and death. Subplots include Lois Lane receiving super powers for twenty four hours, Superman’s encounter with future versions of himself, and a Bizarro planet where Superman finds himself trapped and rapidly weakening. This Superman is a reflective one as he considers how to use his now limited time on Earth and how he can ensure the planet’s safety after he is gone.
I enjoyed these stories. They are fresh takes on Superman which maintain continuity with the classic elements the hero’s story. The concept is original and interesting, and the artwork is crisp and engaging. On the downside, some of the subplots seemed trivial and silly, and they got a bit distracting at points. I found portions genuinely funny, but other attempts at levity fell flat. Had the story remained more tightly focused on Superman’s slow decay and his attempts to come to terms with his own mortality, I think it would have been much stronger.
While Batman may be the grittier and more interesting superhero, the story of Superman has always maintained a special appeal for me. Morrison and Quitely definitely created an addition to that story that strengthened that appeal.