Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Inking & Coloring: Jamie Grant
The first, and greatest superhero of them all is Superman. But even the last son of Krypton has become a stale archetype to readers. If Superman is invincible and semi-immortal there’s literally no suspense to be had. Having a “Super Man” is a novel concept, but in today’s age we need excitement. And when you have a man that can’t be killed it’s tough to capture attention, and for readers – outside of the die-hard fanbase – to stay interested.
So how to make a Superman story engaging? Simple. You kill Superman!
All Star Superman has our godlike alien friend contemplating his recent mortality at the hands of Lex Luthor. Luthor’s final last plan was to kill Superman (isn’t that always his goal?), and he succeeds. It’s not much of spoiler to say, as it’s in the first few panels that you learn this truth. And frankly Superman takes it all in stride initially. As Luthor’s plan to kill Sup’ gave him even more power and abilities like super intelligence.
Then the question becomes, now that Superman is stronger than ever, but mortally damned, what can he do to maintain humanities’ prosperity without his efforts? All Star Superman shows the Man of Steel as a loving companion, a scientist, philosopher, and a time-traveler; even a god in some respects. We see Superman like we’ve never seen him before: a person that realizes he has precious time left and donates his last time on Earth trying to enrich future generations.
Think about that for a second. Sure Superman has been a reflection of pure good and justice, but never has he been an intelligent dreamer that strives to cure cancer; I find All Star Superman’s message to be one of selflessness and caring about your fellow man, and that sometimes prosperity can only come from sacrifice.
Each of the 12 issues of All Star Superman has something profound to say. Sometimes it does get wrapped in comic logic and jargon (we are talking about a man that can probably lift the sun), so a suspension of disbelief is needed even in this story. By the end –even if the journey has some bumps – you appreciate what Grant Morrison was trying to bring to light about Superman. He’s not just some brawny strong-guy, he can be a symbol for humankind less from his ability to lift a car above his head and more so through contributions to science and the planet as a whole.
While the ending has some predictable moments it’s the final panel that pulls the story together in a cohesive synapses. Things that were shown earlier make sense all with a single picture; even though there’re words spoken I believe that this final image could have been left blank and it would still make the viewer say, “ah ha” in understanding. What it does is force a second read to grasp some of the finer details laid beforehand and piece together the big picture. And I don’t know about you but I personally like to re-read a story to see what else I can discover – it’s by no means necessary in regards to All Star Superman, but it’s there for those that want to go back and find out more.
Is this the ultimate Superman story? Maybe not, but I ask does it need to be? You could have replaced Superman with another fictional hero (maybe created exclusively for this story) and I still think it would’ve been a good read. Yet because it is a story of the most renowned and well known superhero I think it’s far more profound. And thus I’d recommend this to anyone, even if they weren’t interested in Kal-El’s future and present; as a comic fan you should check this out. Personally, this was the first Superman trade I’ve ever finished -- yet all from this point will be compared to All Star Superman.