Sunday, September 01, 2013

Reader's Diary #1055- Grant Morrison (writer) and Frank Quitely (illustrator): All-Star Superman Vol. 1

As a kid I loved the Christopher Reeves Superman movies. Still, I didn't read any of the comics. As an adult, I've discovered superhero comics with my son, but have focused almost entirely on Marvel comics. I've enjoyed these characters immensely, mostly because I love how flawed they are; superheroes, but average humans. Superman, however, now seemed like the silliest of superheros to me. Too perfect, too invincible. Then, maybe it's a little unfair to expect him to show his flawed humanity when he's an alien after all. I watched Man of Steel recently and while I didn't hate it, the best compliment I can give is that it was interesting. It's like the writers also felt that Superman was hokey and so went the whole brooding Batman route. Fine, but then it's not really Superman is it? (Check out the body count at the end!)

I thought, given the pensive Superman on the cover and the seeming "mature" trend of DC Comics that this would be a bit of a downer. I figured that the book could only go one of three equally depressing ways: campy and old fashioned, self-deprecating, or dark and veering too far from the original Superman character. Still, the critics in its corner gave me some small measure of hope (despite leading me astray with The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns).

Miraculously, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Superman manages to make the character likeable again without going in any of three aforementioned dreaded directions. I think the key to Morrison's success here is going full-on sci-fi but with intelligent dialogue. With Superman our belief is already suspended, so Morrison invites us to just run with it. He also acknowledges and pays homage to all the rich Superman mythology that came before it. He doesn't rewrite it but uses it to his (and our) advantage and most importantly builds upon it. Lois Lane gets superpowers (though admittedly, this story line was wasted), he gets defeated by Jimmy Olsen of all people, there are visits from other mythological characters Atlas and Samson (yes, the guy from the Bible), and Krypto, the Superdog even makes an appearance. Best of all, all these over-the-top storylines are written completely unabashedly.

Quitely's artwork is also quite well done. The lines are crisp and simple, vaguely reminiscent of manga while the colouring is vibrant but with a watery appearance, not unlike air brushing. There are some occasional missteps in Superman's facial features, giving him some inconsistencies but nothing outrageous. They're also quite easy to look past when so many other panels look like they could be posters in their own right.

Finally, a superhero graphic novel that I can say I enjoyed.

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