As a child, I grew up with comics. They may not have been a major force in my life, but they were there nonetheless. I still possess many of them, the ones that had an impact on me, mainly the 1994 Iron Man series that had a Saturday morning cartoon episode to go with every issue. I was ecstatic last year when they finally released the series on DVD. I’ve purchased a few graphic novels in my adult years, mostly ones recommended by others, including Watchmen, From Hell, Sandman, The Walking Dead, and even the Supernatural graphic novels.
Upon Kevin Hellions recommendation, I picked up All Star Superman, Vols. 1 & 2. I’ve always been fond of Superman, I watched Smallville for many years, until about season 6, I’ve watched the movies, I’ve read a few comics here and there, including my favorites, Death of Superman, World Without a Superman, and Return of Superman. From the beginning of the first volume, All Star Superman had me in awe. I’ve never seen the origin of Superman summed up better than in the first four panels of the comic. It’s to the point, but says so much if you really ponder it long enough to give a damn.
The story centers around a heroic act that Superman performs, that has some dire consequences throughout the whole series. The comic is designed as twelve individual stories, but each one builds and builds connected by this story arc established in the beginning of volume 1. The stories in here are just incredible; you see what it’s like for Lois Lane to have Superman’s powers for a day and the contest for her affection. Before that, you have Superman showing Lois around the fortress, which is a lot different from what I remember of it. It’s accessible through a key that only Superman can really lift seeing as it weights half a million tons. You have a great little story featuring Jimmy Olsen and his new job as head of P.R.O.J.E.C.T. as well as the adventure that ensues with Superman, which involves a new type of kryptonite and even the appearance of Doomsday (sorta).
Another fantastic story revolves around Clark Kent going to visit Lex Luthor in prison for an interview. Lex Luthor has always been a fascinating villain in my eyes, mainly because he’s too smart for his own good, but his eccentricity always somehow holds him back, even if it’s just a little bit. In fact, it’s this nature in Luthor that always gets the better of him, and while Superman always stops him, its Luthor that fucks his own life up. Even though this story is mostly dialogue (there is a little bit of action), you get a great peek into what makes Luthor tick, and how much Superman can get under his skin. He turns it back on Clark a little bit, and it’s done brilliantly well.
The story that rounds out the end of volume 1 is the most touching of all. It involves the death of ‘Pa Kent, but its done in such a way that it makes you think, of those moments in life where if you’d been somewhere at a certain time, perhaps a few minutes earlier, how you could have changed the outcome. That’s what this story involves as well as additional Supermen from different time periods.
As volume 2 opens, Superman and the Underverse get acquainted. Superman is stuck in Bizaro world and his plight strands him for two months. When Superman returns to the Oververse, we see that there are a couple of new Super beings in town. Turns out that they’re from Krypton as well; lost space travelers to whom Kal-el is related. Their view of the planet differs greatly from Superman and look to make a new Krypton in Metropolis. Unfortunately for them, they followed the path Superman took to earth and Kryptonite made its way into their bodies. Superman’s only course of action sends them to the Phantom Zone in the hopes that one day he can help them.
As we move through the issue, we find Superman putting down his last will and testament and the writing put forth by Grant Morrison here is just brilliant and shows you how much more human Kal-el is than most of mankind. Lois finds out Superman’s fate, and there is this moment that literally brought a tear to my eye. As Lois is confronting Superman about his fate, he overhears a girl who is seemingly going to commit suicide. Superman pardons himself from Lois and flies to this girl. And it’s here that Superman does what he does best, he helps humans believe in themselves. This has been that number one quality that has always drawn me to Superman, he may save us, he may help us, but most of all, he believes in the human race, that we are a worth while species capable of good.
Lex Luthor somehow gets his hands on the same syrum that made Lois Super for a day and teams up with Solaris, the artificial sun. I don’t want to spoil the ending so I will close it up here.
These by far have to be the greatest graphic novels I have ever read. I recommend heavily, so heavy that Superman could not lift these recommendations himself. You will read this, re-read this, and re-read it again. Props have to be given to Grant Morrison for the fantastic story, and Frank Quitely for the outstanding art. If you love comics and graphic novels, you will love this, I guarantee it!