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Book #12: All-Star Superman Volume One, Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely/Jaime Rich

Title: All-Star Superman, Volume One
Writer/Penciller/Colorist: Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely/Jaime Rich
Genre: comic book, superhero, sci-fi, fantasy


Two of the comics industry's top creative talents, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely, redefine Superman based on the timeless, essential iconic elements that everyone knows about the Man of Steel...and take Superman back to basics and create a new vision of the World's First Superhero. This collection features the first six issues of the acclaimed series. Witness the Man of Steel in exciting new adventures featuring Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Bizarro and more!

In this volume, which collects 1-6 of the individual comics issues, the World's Greatest Super-Hero rescues a doomed group of astronauts on the surface of the sun when he's exposed to massive amounts of solar radiation no one could possibly anticipate how he'll be affected - except Lex Luthor!
(adapted from blurbs on dccomics.com and goodreads)

The first section (called “...faster...”) sets up the overarching plot: Superman has been exposed to more solar radiation than is good for him. He's told by Leo Quintum – a new (I think) scientist/wealthy philanthropist character with a multi-coloured coat and a team of clone assistants – what the consequences might be, but wants to keep it quiet for now. Meanwhile Lex Luthor is arrested for “attempted murder and also crimes against humanity”. We're also introduced to some other familiar players in the Superman universe.

The other sections focus more on Superman/Clark Kent and his relationship with other specific characters.

The second section (“Superman's Forbidden Room”) focuses on the relationship between Superman and Lois. I like Lois here: she's skeptical, proactive, and knows how to handle a long gown that isn't conduicive to running when she needs to run. While we realize – with her – that a situation she finds herself in isn't exactly what she thought it was, it's very interesting to read her thoughts on Superman, and her relationship with him, through it.

The third section (“Sweet Dreams, Superwoman”) also about Lois and Superman...and two other characters who suggest a challenge to “win” her company after they see a change in her (which was made possible as a birthday present from Superman). After fixing the large messes they cause, Superman lets himself be “taunted” into another kind of contest...though the end result is rather satisfactory, and the end of this section quite nice, I didn't like some of what came in the middle. And we're left unsure about how Lois feels about certain revelations from the the previous section. And part of this was disappointing because I've read another Superman trade paperback about one of the antagonists here...and he comes off much better, IIRC, in the other book.

The fourth section (“The Superman/Jimmy Olsen War!”) is probably my favourite part. It focuses, as can probably be gathered from the title, on the relationship between Superman and Jimmy Olsen, the wackier parts of whose history are neatly incorporated into this story while other parts get a modern – and believable – update. I like this Jimmy, and the story is a great one about life-saving, people's perceptions, and identities. If anything encapsulates the idea of “updating Superman while keeping parts of his canon through history” I think this story is it.

The fifth section (“The gospel according to Lex Luthor”) is probably, on a re-read, my second favourite section. In it Clark Kent go to a famous prison to interview Lex Luthor and shadows him, trying to get into his head about his Superman obsession. Lex meanwhile pointedly refers to how “different” Clark is from Superman...and even mocks that difference, which Clark plays up, at some points...while not realizing that all the while, Superman's subtly helping out at every turn. It ends with Lex gloating about what he's done to Superman...and asking Clark, whom he helps escape the chaos that ensues after a while, to print it.

The sixth section (“Funeral in Smallville”...and the title page tell us whose!) is a story about time-travel, as I came to realize by the last page. It's also about legacy. The ending takes a while to sink in, but when it does...wow. Some things I like about it: the great scenes with Clark playing with his “Super-Dog”, Krypto; the appearance of three interesting “visitors” to Smallville and Clark's life; and how Lana Lang is portrayed...I really like her here and in one other place I've read her recently.

I liked how some of the following were portrayed, though I'd call them 'little playful digs to a lot of the past Superman canon', instead of “timeless, essential iconic elements that everyone knows about the Man of Steel”: Jimmy being “Superman's pal” with a “super watch” and an interesting wardrobe, a large golden key to the Fortress of Solitude, and Lois as “Superman's girlfriend” who's always trying to prove the Clark/Superman connection. Other fun references were to Batman and Robin and New Olympus...and the humour moments were great too.

I don't always like the pencilling, but one thing I do have to acknowledge is that there is often beauty in the details (especially in the Lex section). The first four panels are wonderful in their simplicity, and the last panel of the first section is one example of silent visual storytelling done well in my opinion.

Overall, not a bad read...though it needs time and a little bit of thought for the nuances to come out. And not just in the writing – the last few panels of the third section are interesting for this as well. I managed to pick up a lot more on a second read (specifically for review purposes) than on my first, more casual read. Still, I like books that do that.

I wasn't in a terrible hurry to read Volume 2 earlier...and while I'm not exactly in “OMG MUST HAVE NOW!!!” mode either, I'm definitely more interested. I want to see the main plot addressed more, and to see Superman's interactions with more people.
Tags: adventure, cartoon, graphic novel, nyt bestseller
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