I was listening to the iFanboy podcast from last week and when the subject of All-Star Superman came up, one of the guys referred to the book as “transcendent”. Everyone gushes about this book, but never had I head it put quite that way. Simply, if you’re not reading All-Star Superman, you don’t like comics.
At first, I had a hard time figuring out how to review this book. Every issue of All-Star is a tiny piece of nirvana, it’s hard to be objective about a book that goes out of its way to astonish, amaze and endear. Issue 10 stands out as the best episode so far in an already stand out run. First, I have to say, I don’t think Morrison could do this book without Quitely. This issue alone is so chock full of ideas, it could easily be split up into a three-parter. Quitely’s ability to condense information with his art is top notch. Check out this page to see how much information is packed into three panels and how much we take that for granted. We don’t need to see Superman arrive at the hospital, pack the kids in the bus, fly off to Egypt, drop them off, dialogue with the kids, etc… all things a lesser writer would write and a lesser artist would draw. Instead, three pages are packed into three panels and on it goes for the entire issue. For the entire run.
With only three issues to go, Morrison and Quitely address the point of Superman’s last will and testament. You see, in the very first issue, Superman is exposed to a lethal dose of solar radiation… his cells are literally exploding with energy, which will eventually lead to his death. Over the course of the last 9 issues, we’ve watched Superman come to terms with his condition. In this issue, he drafts his will, and more than that, we see him prepare the earth for a world without Superman. The entire issue takes place in the span of a day… a final “Day in the Life” maybe? Morrison plays with time here, cutting back, forth and across multiple threads throughout the day. We see Superman address the fate of Kandor, the bottle city from Krypton, once and for all. We see him stop a runaway elevated train. We see him fight a giant robot that’s menacing Metropolis. We watch him stop a very sad little girl named Regan from taking her own life… and on and on and on, Morrison stacks one altruistic action after another. By the end of the issue, a sadness envelops the reader and we come to understand that we already know what a world without Superman is like. We live in that world everyday.
There are so many specific moments from this issue that I’d like to call attention to, but my time is not infinite, so I’ll just quickly run through some of my favorites. The quiet moment Superman has with Lois during his fight with the aforementioned rampaging robot. The sadness Quitely renders in Clark’s face is heartbreaking. His visit to Luthor, the man who fatally poisoned him. Even in the end, Superman rises above it, and forgives. The legacy he leaves to the human race, giving them a part of himself so that they too may rise above their nature. And one of my favorite ideas from the entire run, the miniature earth, Earth Q, he creates to study the effects of a world without Superman… and the revelation it gives us on the second to last page. Yeah, there were some tears. Morrison and Quitely have elevated the medium with their run on this book. I mean, there’s really no other way to put it and nothing left to say… for now.