Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Review: All-Star Superman

I also promised last year not to talk about old comics, didn't I?  Well again shitty movies in theaters and little time for reading books and stuff.  This will actually concern comic books AND a movie, so bonus!

One of my very first Thursday Reviews concerned Flex Mentallo, written by Grant Morrison back in the 90s.  I didn't really know who Morrison was, and then I started to read Tony Laplume's Comics Reader blog and found out much more about Morrison than I needed to know.  And thanks to sales at DC Comics I got to read more of his work.  My reaction was split.  I didn't really like the aforementioned Flex Mentallo, The Return of Bruce Wayne, or Final Crisis; they all seemed too dense for my dense brain.  By that I mean it was too hard for someone like me with my limited knowledge of comics to penetrate the layers of plot and references and all that stuff.  Batman:  The Black Glove, Batman:  RIP, and Morrison's work on Action Comics I enjoyed for the most part.

So when the entire All-Star Superman series (12 issues) went on sale, I was skeptical which Morrison would show up:  good Morrison or obnoxious Morrison?  I was happy to find for the most part it was the good Morrison.

As he does in Action Comics, Morrison finds a way to bring out the humanity in that not-at-all-human character of Superman.  In this case it's because Superman is dying.  When some dumbass scientists fall into the Sun with help from Lex Luthor, Superman flies in to save them.  Afterwards he finds out that he's received such a high dose of yellow sun radiation (what gives him his power) that his body has basically overloaded and is now slowly dying.

Much of the series then relates to Superman coming to grips with his mortality.  Issues 2-3 deal with his relationship with Lois Lane.  The megadose of yellow sun has also given Superman added smarts, enough that he concocts a potion to give Lois powers like his for 24 hours.  This lets her experience the world as he does and they get to make out on the moon just for fun.

Meanwhile, though he's gone to prison (again), Lex Luthor is still plotting to destroy Superman even though he's essentially already done that.  There are also some diversions that deal with Jimmy Olsen, Bizarro, and a couple of Kryptonian astronauts who are basically stand-ins for General Zod and company in Superman II.

Except for the Bizzaro issues, which got to be really annoying to read all that primitive, opposite-sounding Bizarro talk, I really enjoyed the series.  As I said, Morrison does a good job to bring out the humanity in a character who isn't human.

After I finished reading the comics, I loaded the animated movie version on Netflix.  It does stick pretty close to the source material, though since it's only 75 minutes long they had to cut some stuff.  They wisely cut the Bizarro parts and the Jimmy Oleson parts, which helps to keep things more focused.  They change the end a little bit, though I actually prefer the movie ending because it allows Lex Luthor his own moment of humanity.

Even if you're like me and haven't read a single Superman comic to this point you can still read these.  I'm not sure if they are technically an "Elseworlds" thing but I think they are outside the normal continuity.  Or if you're really lazy you can just watch the movie, which as I said is only 75 minutes and is FREE on Netflix (or it was a few weeks ago at any rate) so it's not much of an investment.

Just for fun here's a rundown of the other Superman comics I bought from DC when they put a bunch on sale over XMas.

The Man of Steel, Vol 1 by John Byrne:  This was the 1986 reboot of the Superman reboot.  Time has not been kind to this.  There's a lot of 80s cheesiness involved.  (3/5 stars)

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? by Alan Moore:  This I think happened just before the reboot in 86.  It involves a final showdown between Superman and his allies against Brainiac (who assimilates Lex Luthor Borg-style) and some of his allies.  As you might expect from Alan Moore it gets a bit dark.  Familiar faces die.  Including Superman?  Hurm. (4/5 stars)

Emperor Joker by Jeph Loeb:  This is a textbook case of the bad guy allowing the hero to linger too long.  The Joker becomes a supremely powerful being but of course even though he could wink Superman out of existence with a thought does not do so.  Guess how that goes for him?  Yeah, not well.  (3/5 stars)

Red Son by Mark Millar:  This is one of those Elseworlds things that posits:  what would happen if Superman had crashed in the Ukraine in the 30s?  The answer, apparently, is that he would take over for Stalin after he dies and eventually become ruler of most of the world, except for the United States, which clings to its capitalist ways much to its detriment.  Some of it I didn't like as much, especially the Russian Batman parts, but it was pretty good overall.  It certainly makes you think, don't it?  (4/5 stars)

Superman:  The Black Ring:  by Paul Cornell:  The title (at least for the paperback versions) is misleading because Superman hardly appears at all.  Mostly this concerns Lex Luthor.  After the whole "Blackest Night" event, Luthor decides he wants his own black power ring to control the universe.  So with the help of an android Lois Lane he starts to track it down.  Luthor finally gets the power he craves but like in a Twilight Zone episode there's a big catch.  For the most part this is a pretty light read that was enjoyable if not especially memorable.  (4/5 stars)

You could buy all of those online or in a comic book store but they are also collected in trade paperback versions--some in multiple volumes.  If you're interested, which you probably aren't.

Tomorrow is Week 3 of Box Office Blitz!


  1. I read the Byrne run when it was new - well, the first year of it anyway. After he mad the Fantastic Four amazing again and even did pretty well with Alpha Flight, I was really stoked when he finally got his hands on the Hulk.

    He only had half a dozen issues before he left for Superman. I was so disappointed - bit curious. I ended up not like his supes as much.

    Did read All-Star Superman last year though. It was pretty good.

  2. I find it interesting just how many people continue to be moved by the story of Superman.

  3. I haven't read comic books in years. I think the last one I read was "The Watchmen." Maybe I should explore some of these new stories you are pointing out, because they sound intriguing.

    Then again, I keep getting books written by this dude P.T. Dilloway in my email so there's no reason for me to seek out reading material :)

  4. Cornell's "Black Ring" saga amazed me with its simplicity. It was Lex Luthor where he didn't have to worry too much about Superman (until the end), just tripping on his considerable psyche, including the fake Lois who looks suspiciously like Zooey Deschanel. If more comic book characters looked like Zooey Deschanel, we would all be the better for it.

  5. I'm back-and-forth on Morrison. Often, I find him overrated. He has done some good stuff, but he hasn't really done any amazing stuff. He gets extra props from people that like his really weird stuff, which he might do better than anyone else, but he never doesn't go off the deep end. So Animal Man started wonderfully and then... and Doom Patrol started wonderfully and then...

    I did watch the All-Star movie and liked it.

    @Rusty: Byrne and DC ended up having a fallout over the whole Superman re-boot, which is why he left. After approving his overall story and telling him, basically, you have the freedom to do this as you choose, DC stepped back in after a few issues and started telling him what he could and couldn't write. They promised him artistic freedom to bring him in and, then, yanked at away thinking he wouldn't leave. I guess he fooled them.

    1. that is something, Andrew, that I did not know. I think the Hulk quickly got handed over to Peter David, which worked out pretty well, but I can't help but wonder at what he would have done if he'd spent 5 years or so on the Hulk.

  6. Personally, I love Peter David's Hulk, and I'm pretty sure Byrne couldn't have done anything better than what David did with it. Byrne was a Babe Ruth type. He hit a lot of homeruns, but he also had a lot of strike outs.



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