The problem with Superman is that he’s God in the form of a human.
He’s easily one of the most well-known fictional characters ever created. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, he’s everything we aren’t but want to be. The problem with Superman, fundamentally as a character, is that he doesn’t do all of the things he should be able to do. For example, why doesn’t he feed all the starving people in the world, planting sustainable crops in their backyards. Why doesn’t he free the oppressed? Cure cancer with his brilliant, Kryptonian mind? This is where disbelief tends to not be suspended and your left with an omnipotent being that fights dudes in spandex outfits.
Then came along All-Star Superman in January of 2006, written by Grant Morrison, with pencils by Frank Quitely and digitally inked and colored by Jamie Grant. In my opinion, it’s the best Superman tale ever told, because this creative team simply makes Superman, super.
The story starts out with Superman realizing, because of an overdose of solar radiation, that his body has absorbed too much energy and he’s going to die, sooner rather than later. This realization sets him on a journey to figure out what happens in a world without Superman? I have no choice but to describe the story as an epic one. The amount of information they were able to jam into a 12 issues is pretty staggering. He saves a spaceship journeying through the sun from a genetically modified suicide bomb in human form, gives Lois Lane super powers, arm wrestles Gods, turns evil, gets visitors from the future and has a bizarro Earth try and collide with our own. That’s only the first six issues.
The point of their tale is that he is a God amongst men, and thus he must act like one. Grant Morrison had this to say about his interpretation:
“…Quitely and I decided to make it literal and to tell the story of Superman as start, or solar “deity.” hence our opening shot of Superman framed by solar flares and the structure of the story which traverses one epic “day” – dipping below the horizon in issue six so that Superman, like all good solar myth heroes, can journey through midwinter’s longest night and the upside-down underworld before rising again in issue nine, revitalized.”
While Morrisons’ tale is obviously the backbone, it’s Quitely’s pencils and Grant’s inks and colors that give the story it’s flesh. No one draws a Superman quite like Quitely, with and above average but not overly muscular frame. The All-Star Superman doesn’t need gigantic muscles, his strength is a special power, not a physical attribute. Quitely’s attention to detail is a step above the rest, with only the likes of Geoff Darrow outdoing him.
If you’re a comic fan, you’ve probably already read All-Star Superman, and this is all old news to you. For those who haven’t though, I highly suggest adding this to your X-Mas list as it’s something much more than a regular ol’ comic book. This is a work of art, and should be treated rightfully so.
For those who are curious, here’s the complete series on Amazon for $19. It’s a newer version that came out back in October, and it’s the one I own.