Monday, November 1, 2010

All-Star Superman

In my spontaneous interest in reading Superman comics, I have inadvertently saved the best for last. All-Star Superman... This is a true masterpiece, and comics like this make me remember why it is I got into comics in the first place, just two years ago. This is a story that is passionate and moving. It is the story of Superman's final days, and what he would do if he learned that he were doomed to die.

The Meaning of Life

Unlike any comic, film, or tv show I've ever seen about the fictional character, this comic, above all, represents what makes Superman such an inspiring figure. Faced with death, he commits himself utterly to his stalwart belief; his is a dream that humanity can work together to do amazing, beautiful, and benevolent things. So he does his best to save the world and change it for the better, as much as he can before the end. It is a story that resonates with the heart at every stage, and tugs at your very soul.

At the beginning of the story, Superman is stricken with a disease that causes him to slowly fade away. This affliction inspires him to do what he could not do before, but I don't want to say much more than that. From reading this, you get an overwhelming sense of closure, and it is a good feeling. While Superman comics continue to be made and will likely be made far into the future, this feels like the distillation of all that makes him excellent, and it closes the threads of his life that have remained open since the beginning. His dual identity, his relationship with Lois Lane, his antagonism with Lex Luthor, his youth, his adulthood, his adopted parents, and his real ones; it is a story that touches on every level. And it does so in a way that is entirely approachable for one who hasn't read a Superman comic in their life. Sure it references events and supporting characters, but it does so in a way that instantly gives you a sense of what they are there for and what they mean to Superman.

A prominent figure that features in this story is that of Leo. Leo is an original character in All-Star Superman, quite possibly one of the only ones. I mention him because he is so peculiar; he essentially serves as a scientific Willy Wonka who helps Superman both try to fight off the affliction and helps Superman with other issues that he can't solve himself. But what was so odd about him was that, at times, it seemed almost as if he was a self-insert of the author. Leo does not fit in. His cordial relationship with Superman is taken for granted. He comments on Superman's mortality while simultaneously helping him address it. Most of the time, seeing this in fiction is a big no-no, but in All-Star Superman it felt right. Part of it has to do with the fact that Grant Morrison, the author, is one who (as far as I know) had not written a Superman story before. He is famous for other comic books, and seeing his quirky, scientific, and moral take on Superman is amazing. And having him seem to personally guide you through the story feels like the most natural thing in the world.


Above all, what All-Star Superman gives the reader is a sense of hope. Although Superman is dying throughout the story, his every moment inspires a heartwarming optimism; these are moments made especially bittersweet by the knowledge of his impending death. As a consequence, this is a very emotional story. I did not mind this at all. To me, it seems to fit perfectly with who Superman is. After all, he is a symbol of what we, as humans aspire to. Superman embodies the best in all of us, and the emotional tinge to everything he does in this story seems perfectly apt. It is attaching a feeling to an impossible ideal, making a myth ever more legendary.

I would point out, though, that this comic has the same weirdness characteristic of all Grant Morrison stories. As Grant Morrison is one of my favorite comic book writers, I didn't mind at all, but it is a bit disconcerting to see Superman adopt a sun-eater, talk with future versions of himself, play catch with his superdog in space (and more!). And that hardly touches on the surface of what you see in All-Star Superman. However, all of these twists and turns are enthralling in their own way, and I merely bring this up so that, if you were to go and read it, you would be forewarned. Allow your suspension of disbelief to stretch, just a little more than it would normally, and you will behold possibly the greatest Superman story ever created.


I seriously can't emphasise enough how amazing this comic book was. I mark this as one of my all-time favorites, a story that inspires and leaves you hanging on every word. Everything that happense seems totally appropriate and absolutely right. It truly is a testament to great comic book writing, and it is one that deserves to be regarded and spread to those who have not read it before. In it you see the trials, growth, and final days of a Superman. You read a tale all about death and life, and how we approach them both. And you watch as the world you know is brought into a greater and more optimistic light as life flourishes and fades in this fictional universe.

I figure I should stop here, both with the post and with the reading of further Superman comics, at least for a while. I can't imagine one being as good as this one; I am now officially spoiled on Superman. So my last comment is this: if you have ever been interested in Superman or the idea behind him, if you have ever mused on life and death or how people can do great and unexpected things, this comic book is for you.

And if you haven't read a comic book before and think they are for children, then grow up. Try new things. In fact, I challenge you to read All-Star Superman and be proven wrong. I don't think a story as heartfelt and multifaceted as this could be as powerful in film or novelized form. The art is beautiful, the dialogue follows every movement, and the entirety of it will resonate with you for days if not for the rest of your life.



  1. This is now at the top of my to-read list. And on a more personal note, I hope Superman strangled Lex with a phone cord before his last breath. It would harm his image but it would make me feel better.

  2. All I will say is that Lex Luthor gets what he deserves in a pretty awesome manner :)

    And do let me know what you think of it when you get around to reading it. I think that this might be the best comic I've ever read, hence my curiosity.

  3. I actually really want to read this, even though I've only seen Smallville and have never read any Superman stuff before. Thanks, Ian. :)

  4. It is really good and I'm sure that you in particular would like it. You would definitely enjoy the love story of Superman and Lois Lane, and also how Superman interacts with his parents before the end.

    I'll have to lend it to you the next time you are in town ;)