Evil Geek Book Report – All Star Superman
I’ve been a diehard Marvel Zombie ever since I was a kid, but lately I’ve been trying to expand my horizons and sample some of the goods over at the Distinguished Competition. Lord knows it’s not easy when most of the characters don’t appeal to you, even Batman. Yes, I said it. It’s not that I don’t like Batman (I am human after all), I just don’t LOVE him like everyone else seems to. Most of the stuff I’ve read with him has all been varying degrees of good and mediocre, some downright awful. But we’re not here today to discuss Batman, this is article is reserved for the Man Of Steel himself, Superman.
There’s not much that appeals to me about Superman as a character. I have no doubt though, that good Superman stories have been written, especially if it focuses on the burden and loneliness of being Superman and his complex psychological state. That I suppose, is what I’m most interested in. After having mostly good luck with Superman: Red Son (an Elseworlds tale reimaging baby Superman landing in Mother Russia rather than Kansas) I decided to check out one of the most highly acclaimed Superman stories, All Star Superman written by Grant Morrison. I have never read anything Morrison has done, but literally heard nothing but great things so I had pretty high hopes for this series.
The basic idea is that Superman while aiding an exploration to the sun that has gone awry after Lex Luthor intervenes, Supes finds himself dying due to a large amount of solar radiation pumped into his cells. I knew going into this that this was basically a “Superman dies” book and was pleased that they got right to it. The idea that Luthor would use the source of Superman’s power to kill him is both diabolical and genius. Although Superman knows he has about a year or so to live he decides it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep it quiet.
One of the first things he decides to do after he’s equipped with the knowledge of his own demise is to reveal himself to Lois as Clark Kent. Subsequently, she doesn’t believe him. I have never been a fan of the alter egos for Superheroes. I understand why it was necessary back in the day but in the modern era it feels so silly. I thought they would dispatch that with the Man Of Steel movie and they nearly did till the very end. Why wouldn’t Superman just live AS Superman in the Fortress of Solitude and be visible when he needed to be? Surely, less lives are being saved for the however many hours a day he is when he’s Clark?
For Lois’ birthday Superman gives her a distillation of his powers for the day so she can feel what it’s like. This is both sweet and interesting. Things get a little mucked up though when Samson and Atlas show up. They all fight and have a contest of strength to win Lois Lane. It all seemed so odd to me to have these Gods struggling with each other for Lois, let alone a 24 hour super powered Lois. I just don’t buy it.
Thus kicks off Superman’s Herculean like 12 labors that he must complete throughout his last year. Clark visits Luthor in jail who promises to give him the scoop of the ages by telling him that Superman is dying. This dynamic works really well, since Clark can only be poor befuddling Clark while Luthor rants and raves about what a success he is finally being able to kill of The Man Of Steel. It’s a great lesson on the humility of Kal-El, when he could have easily shown Luthor who he was and made him suffer, yet he shows his true colors by actually saving his life. I never truly understood how someone like Luthor whose singular purpose in life is to make Superman pay for what he believes are crimes against humanity couldn’t identify that him and Clark were the same person. In a neat little twist he actually compliment’s Clark’s work at the newspaper.
A chunk of this story is spent in Bizarro World; I have never been more pained to read something in my life. Not that it was necessarily bad story wise, but everyone speaking broken opposite English begins to grate on you after a while. There is even a scene where the National Anthem is recited like that. Once Superman returns to the world at large he plods along attempting build a way for a better tomorrow not only on Earth but also for Krypton. This all culminates with a final confrontation that I won’t spoil for you if you haven’t read it yet.
I tried. I really did. I just didn’t care for this…at all. Despite my unfamiliarity with the source material, but for a “Superman dies” story it felt like there was no emotional resonance anywhere. Based on the gorgeous cover of him sitting in the clouds high above Metropolis I expected this series to take on a somber and reflective tone. I just felt nothing. Superman went about tying up his loose ends in a smart calculating manner; we never get to see him come to grips with the idea of dying and facing mortality. Even if he didn’t show it outwardly, I would have loved to see what he was going through as someone who knows his time is almost up. I just felt like this was a great missed opportunity, yet All Star Superman is universally raved about so clearly I’m in the minority.
It was my first exposure to Morrison and my second Superman story, do I try again or is this it?
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners. Please click on the “About Us” tab for our takedown policy.