March 31, 2020

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Quick Hits: All-Star Superman


All-Star Superman
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Colors by Jamie Grant
Published by DC Comics


What makes All-Star Superman so great? My short answer is "everything" but I know that's not really a satisfactory answer. Here's my slightly longer answer.

The story begins with Superman foiling one of Lex Luthor's evil schemes - there's a ship near the sun, and Lex has set a bomb aboard the ship, and Lex knows that Superman will try to save the people aboard. In doing so, he will expose himself to so much solar radiation that it will start destroying his cells. And Lex is right. Superman is dying. But before he goes, there are 12 things he wants or needs to accomplish. And the story of All-Star Superman follows Superman as he works on these various labors. Meanwhile, he spends time with Lois and goes up against Lex. That's the basic plot. But none of that does the book justice.



All-Star Superman is one of the most gorgeous comics you'll ever read. Frank Quitely is a master storyteller, and every third page of this comic you're going to want to just stop and linger and just bathe in the gorgeousness of the imagery. Both big splash pages, and little moments. More than anyone else, Frank Quitely shows the reader how it's possible for people not to figure out that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. And the facial and body acting from every single character in the story has that same level of detail. The colors from Jamie Grant are just stunning. They're big and bold and have a wonderful silver-age feel to them, and they just really bring this story to life as a place you'd want to visit.
I'm drawn more to heroes on the optimistic, selfless, hopeful, idealistic side - like Superman. At his best, I think Superman is just that, a Super-Man. He's an ideal of what we ought to aspire to as people. He's strong but he uses his strength and powers responsibly. He could rule over everyone, but he doesn't. He wants to help people, and be a positive example to them of kindness, compassion, and of our better natures.

Apart from the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, All-Star Superman is my favorite portrayal of Superman. This story feels to me like a platonic ideal of Superman. Even as he is slowly dying, he's trying to do as much as he can to leave the world in as good shape as he can. After all that Lex has done, Superman saves Lex multiple times (in the guise of Clark Kent), and shows compassion and empathy even towards those that want to hurt him. As seen above, Superman challenges Lex to be his best self and to put his mind to good use for the betterment of humanity. A dying man, imploring his killer to do good, believing that someone like Lex still can do some good. That love of, and belief in humanity, above everything else, is what I love about All-Star Superman.

So, if you haven't read All-Star Superman, go out and get yourself a copy if you can. And if you have read it, go read it again, and tell someone important to you that you love them.