Graphic Novel Review: All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics (2007)
Author Info: www.grant-morrison.com
Artist Info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Quitely
Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Poor Superman is always going to start off on the wrong foot with me and having him written by Grant Morrison doesn’t make things much better. Fortunately, I’ve read Morrison’s We3, where he lets Quitely’s art do what it’s supposed to do: tell the story–so I expected to see as much here. Secondly, Morrison’s approach to this series pleased me, as he stated in the planning stages that he did not want to rehash Superman’s origin story yet again. The point of All-Star Superman is to give us the essence of the character, which is what I have been looking for all this time.
Superman fans who have seen my low ratings of other tales such as Superman: Birthright and Superman: Earth One, while I praise alternate, darker visions of the characters like Superman: Red Son and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, probably think I’m trolling. What I have actually been doing in my readings is trying understand why people like this character that just doesn’t make sense to me. “He’s one of us,” is something that I’ve been told many times, but I just can’t buy it. He’s a god disguising himself as a human. That’s not fitting in. That’s just damn good acting. “But you read stories about people who command the weather and shoot laser beams out of their eyes,” people argue. I sure do, but for me, the X-Men have always been human beings first. The world as a whole might hate them from time to time, but the X-stories have always given the mutants a place to belong within their own community. They always have a place where they can be themselves, without pretending. Meanwhile, Superman fans have tried to convince me that Kal’El is the very same. Certainly he wants that, but how can he ever have that when he is completely alien? Yes, he has moments of weakness thanks to kryptonite where he gets to experience life as a weak little human being for a few days, but he always gets his powers back so he can save the day. That’s not quite a mile in my shoes, Clark.
But All-Star Superman addresses many of my concerns, sometimes in very amusing ways. Most notably, the concept of no one recognizing Clark as Superman. I like that Morrison and Quitely actually change his physical appearance beyond hair and glasses. Here, Clark is a little bit overweight, to go along with his cowardly, clutzy demeanor. And when he reveals himself to Lois, the Pulitzer prize winning investigative report, and even Lex, the most brilliant mind in the world, no one can fathom that they are one and the same, even if there is a striking resemblance. I love the way Morrison/Quitely really play up the concept of mind over matter, letting even the most intuitive minds only see what they want to see.
I keep saying that I want a well-written Superman story that helps me to appreciate the character, even though I may never like him. This is it. In fact, it is the Superman story I should have read first and just skipped all of these origin stories that try to tell a “new” story despite being forever forced into the Superman standards of Daily Planet, Krypton, Ma and Pa Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, etc etc. By shedding the need for these chains, while still working on the assumption that I am fully aware of them, Morrison/Quitely just give me a look at the Man of Steel himself. The lonely man who is loved and hated by those around him. A man who understands that dichotomy, and recognizes that can never be one of us, no matter how much he cares for humanity. Morrison and Quitely aren’t asking me to love him too, or even respect him. They are just presenting him as he is. It’s up to me to take him or leave him.
At the end of the day, I don’t like the character, but I can appreciate this “just shut up and Superman” story as a fine example of who and what he is.