In some circles, this was the most-awaited comic of 2005. Why? Mainly because writer Grant Morrision--a fan favorite--promised an updated, version of the 1950s-70s fun Superman. You remember the guy. Had loads of superpowers but was still scared of Lois Lane. Did big, cool stuff with a smile on his face. Didn't have any issues when it come sorting good from evil.
In this grim'n'gritty age when superhero characters have been "humanized" into unpleasant, whining folks we'd rather not hang around with, a big, powerful, colorful, heroic Superman is what a lot of people want. People nostalgic for a sort of superhero book that no longer seems to exist, anyway.
To a large extent, Morrison has delivered. Right off the bat, Superman here is heroic, hurtling through space to rescue an experimental craft from falling into a sunspot. Lex Luthor is in prison, where he belongs. Not the White House or in some towering office building, looking over the Metropolis skyline acting like he owns the place. Clark Kent is a bumbling clutz. There's a by-God planet on the top of the Daily Planet. And Perry White and Jimmy Olsen (who look like Perry White and Jimmy Olsen) are on staff there doing their jobs. Lois Lane is present, too, looking fabulous but not like how Kurt Schaffenburger drew her. Oh well, we can't have everything.
Other nice touches, Morrison knows we know Superman's origin. But this is an "All-Star" book, where creators are allowed to pick and choose the elements of past continuity they like and discard the rest. So he lets us know he's going with the basic elements and proceeds to recount them on the first page in a mere four panels. He also works in some Jack Kirby "Jimmy Olsen" continuity (The DNA P.R.O.J.E.C.T.) and hints there may be Bizarros ahead.
In short, Morrison is here to have--and provide--fun. A mock movie rating graphic on the last page promises the book is appropriate for general audiences, containing "Pulse-pounding, rip-roaring action to be enjoyed by all." Sounds like the recipe for a superhero comic to me. But one that's been mostly forgotten.
The title couldn't be more different from the silly cheesecake noir of Frank Miller and Jim Lee's "All-Star Batman," which courts the same old fanboy crowd while forsaking a broader audience.
Artwise, "All-Star Superman" is bright and beautiful. Frank Quitely's pencils, "digitally inked" with Jamie Grant's computer colors, are visually striking. Yet, as with many artists working in comics today, Quitely is more illustrator than cartoonist. He creates nice images, but they tend to lack flow and the storytelling is weak.
For example, a visual gag in the "Lois and Clark" epilogue at the back of the book doesn't come across too clearly. I had to scan it a few times to get what was going on.
Nevertheless, I'll be back for the next one. Along with a few issues of DC's "Solo" title, Marvel's recent "Spider-Man/Human Torch" mini-series and Mark Waid's revived "Legion of Superheroes," this is a superhero comic by creators who understand what makes the genre tick, who can tell fresh stories without distorting what these characters are supposed to be all about.