Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tales from the 50 Cent Bin! - All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman: a 12-issue series that took 3 years to come out. Yeah, if the All-Star line of books is remembered for anything, it’s going to be for lateness. At least the story ended! I know there are people still waiting for Frank Miller’s and Jim Lee’s “Magnum Opus” to end.

For those who don’t know, All-Star Superman was the second (and really the last) book to come out of the All-Star imprint in 2005. It was supposed to be a lot like Marvel’s Ultimate Universe where a creative team would take a character and do what they want to do with them. I believe the book started out bi-monthly, so it would have taken a couple of years to end anyway. I was just starting to get back into reading comics at the time, but this series wasn’t one I wanted to pick up. Maybe it was the Silver Age feel of it or maybe my wallet wasn’t interested. Instead of the trades, I only have the single issues. I was able to find them for cheap and it took me a while to get the whole story.

Grant Morrison is the writer and Frank Quietly is the artist. These two have also worked on books like We3, New X-Men, Flex Mentallo, The Invisibles, and JLA: Earth 2. Quitely has also worked on books such as The Authority, Sandman, and Jupiter’s Legacy. The series has gotten a lot of accolades over the years. It’s been well-received and a lot of people say it’s one of the best Superman stories ever. So, does it deserve that praise? Find out… after this quick synopsis!

After saving the first-manned trip to the sun from sabotage, it’s revealed to Superman that he’s dying. It turns out his body absorbed so much solar radiation during the rescue that his body can’t handle it. The sabotage was all a plan by Lex Luthor so that he can finally get rid of Superman. Even Leo Quintum, a scientist with a pretty awesome name, can’t help Superman. Since he knows his life is at an end, he wants to do a few things before he goes. He doesn’t tell anyone else that is going to die though.
Mild-Mannered? Yeah, right!

The first thing he does is tell Lois of his secret identity. She refuses to be believe him because… of reasons? Anyway, he takes her to the Fortress of Solitude for her birthday. He gives her a present: a potion that gives her superpowers for 24 hours. The two spend the day fighting crime and ticking off some Egyptian god.  They even run into the jerks known as Samson and Atlas. After their day of fun, he takes her home. We then get an issue of Jimmy Olsen being awesome… Yay? At least he gets to throw down with an evil Superman.
Jimmy Olsen... yay...

After our “fun” with Jimmy, Lex is convicted of his many crimes to humanity and is given the electric chair. Clark travels to Stryker’s Island in order to get one final interview with the greatest criminal mastermind of our time (of our time!)! While Clark and Lex run into some trouble at Stryker’s, Clark is able to leave via Lex’s secret escape route. Superman then goes back into time with some other Supermen from the far future. He gets to see his father for one last time and tackles with some time-eating creature.
Lex Luthor: royal d-bag till the end.

After he lets his baby sun-eater go… just roll with it, Superman has to deal with the invasion of the Underverse. A legion of Bizarro is attacking Metropolis and trying to copy everyone. Superman is able to get keep Metropolis safe but he gets trapped in the Underverse. Since their sun’s red, he begins to lose his powers. Luckily, he has some help from Zibarro, a Bizarro who acts and talks like normal people. With the help of Zibarro and other Bizzaros, Superman’s able to get out of the Underverse.
Argh! My brain can't comprehend those sentences.

When he makes it back to Earth, he finds out that some Kryptonian astronauts have landed and kind of taken over Earth. Bar-El and Lilo treat Superman like crap for not being Kryptonian enough. That changes when it’s revealed that the two astronauts are dying of Kryptonite-poisoning. In order to keep them alive, Superman sends them to the Phantom Zone. Superman then finishes his labors like curing diseases, helping Kandor, inspiring others, and… creating an inhabited universe in the Fortress of Solitude. At Stryker’s, Luthor is executed via electric chair. Unfortunately, he got his hands on the superpower potion and escapes the prison.

When Superman finds out that Luthor has an ally in the form of Solaris, a space villain, he seals up the Fortress and heads out into space with his robots. With the help of the baby sun-eater, Solaris is beaten. Clark heads back to the Daily Planet to give the story on Superman’s death but he passes out. Lex shows up to do some taunting. The sun starts to change colors and it’s revealed that Solaris has poisoned the sun. Through a weird dream sequence, Clark realizes that he is actually being transformed into solar energy. He wakes back up and uses a gravity gun to get Lex out of the office.
"Gaze upon me, the world's biggest douchebag!"

He changes into Superman and a final battle between he and Lex commences. Superman keeps using the gravity gun on Lex. Lex gets the upper hand and brings Superman down. Lex then starts to see the world as Superman sees it and weeps. The gravity gun has made Lex use up all of his powers and Superman uses this time to finally knock out the bald man. Since the sun needs healing, Superman says his final goodbyes and saves the day by fixing the sun. The story ends one year later with Lois waiting for Superman’s return and with Quintum revealing they were able to clone Superman.
Ouch. A verbal beating and a physical beating on one page.

So, what do I think of this love letter to the Silver Age? It’s pretty good. While I don’t know where this places up on my favorite Superman stories, I do think it’s good. It has some things I’m not too fond of but I’ll get to those later. I did like the writing and characterization in the series. All of the essential elements that make Superman and his world good are used well for the most part. Morrison also throws in the really weird stuff and while they can be off-putting, I did like them. I also liked its episodic nature. While it was all connected, you had some stories that had a beginning, middle, and end.

Superman ends up being the biggest thing in existence. He’s the ultimate form of good. He saves lives and inspires others. He also does some crazy stuff here. I mean, the guy feeds his baby sun-eater by giving it mini-suns to feast on! While I’m not a fan of the overly bumbling version of Clark Kent, it really works for the universe it’s set in. Lex is the ultimate evil and is awesome in his badness. The issue that revolves around his interview with Clark is one of my favorite issues of the whole thing.

There are a couple of things I’m not fond of in the story. I wasn’t a big fan of the Jimmy Olsen story. It kind of felt like it had no purpose other than showing how awesome Jimmy Olsen is. It’s not that I don’t like the character, but he’s not one of my favorite characters either. I also wasn’t a big fan of the Bizarro story especially when we got to the Bizarro speak. Man, it’s hard to read that stuff. I also thought Lois’s dismissal of the Clark/Superman secret a little weird but funny.
I agree as well, Zibarro. That Bizarro speak is hard to read!

The artwork was good for the most part. Quitely’s style is pretty different when you compare it other artists. It has a bit of a cartoony feel but it still feels realistic at the same time.  I also liked the lengths Quitely went through to make Clark and Superman feel like two separate people. You also get some great pages that look pretty majestic. The coloring was cool and made the pencils and inks look good. You do have a couple of wonky images especially with Superman. I also thought the cape seemed a little short. Other than those small nitpicks, the artwork was good.
All this needs is some random audience sounds.

Overall, this was a good story with some nice art. If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend it. It may be weird at times, but you’ll probably enjoy it. Well, I’m off. I think it’s time to go back to the 1980’s next week.  I’ll look at a couple of stories from that Moore guy and that Byrne dude. Plus, there’s a little surprise. Peace and God Bless.

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