Friday, May 15, 2009

Title: All-Star Superman Volumes 1 & 2
Author: Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
ISBN: 9781401211028 & 9781401218379
Genre: Superheroes, Graphic Novel

The impossible has happened: Lex Luthor has finally beaten Superman. An overexposure to solar radiation is slowly destroying Superman’s body. However, because he is Superman, he isn’t going to slip quietly away. Before he goes, he still has time to perform a dozen super-feats, resolve his relationship with Lois Lane, and save the world one last time.

Superman has been published continuously for over seventy years, and you would think that there are no new stories to tell about him. However, writer Grant Morrison tells stories that make everything seem fresh and new. While he draws on familiar themes and elements—Superman on the Bizarro world, a tour of his arctic Fortress of Solitude—he doesn’t make them feel as if he is deliberately revisiting them to trade on nostalgia. Separate from the ongoing stories told in the regular monthly Superman comics, this is a self-contained classic, a complete story perfect for readers familiar with the basics of Superman who want to read a good story without needing a Master’s degree in Superman minutia.

While Morrison fills his story with super-feats, he understands that the “Man” part of Superman is every bit as important as the “Super” part. In this story, Superman isn’t a hero because he punches things with super-strength. He’s super because of the inspiration he provides. While the super-feats he performs give the story a feel like an updated version of classic myths, it’s the human bits that stand out. It’s Lex Luthor berating Clark Kent for being a meek, nerdy coward without noticing that Clark is protecting him with his superpowers. It’s Superman bringing Lois Lane to his Fortress for her birthday. It’s Superman taking a break from his epic battles to tell a suicidal girl she’s stronger than she thinks. It’s Frank Quitely’s artwork, mixing the fantastic and the mundane effortlessly, giving the reader wild alien vistas and creatures alongside humans who look like the sort of people you’d see on the street.

In over seventy years, there have been a lot of great Superman stories. But if you have to pick just one to read, you won’t go wrong with this one.

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