The second and final volume in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman sees the ultimate superhero continue his Herculean tasks, which he must complete in order to save the world. Superman seems better suited to Morrison’s epic, mythical style than Batman. Superman is a god on earth, like a character from Greek or Roman mythology, and Morrison picks up on this and runs a marathon with it.
Finding an enemy suitably powerful for Superman to fight is something of a struggle, usually relying on a discovery of one of Superman’s weaknesses (Kryptonite, Lois Lane etc) to momentarily weaken him. Here Morrison pits Superman against one of the supreme sources of power in the universe – an intelligent star. Even something more powerful than the Sun has to muck about with Superman’s metabolism to attempt to beat him – red sunlight is another of the superhero’s weaknesses, and something that an intelligent star appears to have no problem creating.
The story travels through many Superman staples. Bizarroworld is as irritatingly backward as ever, and Superman gets stuck there for a while; more survivors from Krypton show their faces; and Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luthor manages an epic jail-break to re-enter the fray too.
It’s an example of Morisson’s superhero work at its best – a myth-making story that sees him charting a mildly experimental course through deeply familiar waters. It both re-evaluates and reconfirms what we know and love about Superman: a tricky balancing act deftly pulled off.
Frank Quitely’s art is no slouch either. This book features more detail than the first and it’s meticulous in places. His characters have a certain visual style to them, very European and other-worldly in feel, which gives the world of Superman a fantastical distance from ours that’s edgy and appropriate.
This may not be the greatest or most traditional Superman story ever told and purists may find it grating – it isn’t supposed to sit in the normal canon of Superman stories. But like a good Superman film or TV show, it takes the strengths and style of the hero and lifts it up a peg, without being tethered to the ongoing series. This makes it more accessible to outsiders as a graphic novel, as well as offering a revisit of some old favourites to those more familiar with Superman’s friends and enemies.
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