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The End of an All-Star

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Grant Morrison has been having a rough time of it with some comic fans. His Final Crisis was hampered by contradictions in continuity that could have been avoided with a little more attention from DC editors. This resulted in grumpy fans from the get go, fans that lost patience as Morrison slowly let the story develop and grumbled about him recycling ideas from his JLA run.

And critics of his Batman:R.I.P. arc were not happy with its meandering weirdness. With such a highly built-up arc, Batman readers want quick payoffs and a better idea where the storyline was going from the first page. Four issues in and we are only getting a hint of what the end might be.

For an outsider, viewing these criticisms my lead you to believe that Morrison isn’t as good a writer as his legendary status would suggest. Or, at the very least, he had lost the ability to write a good mainstream superhero story.

I have the perfect counter to both these arguments. That would be Morrison’s work on All-Star Superman, which ends this week. The series contained some of the best Superman stories ever made and allowed Morrison to employ his unique style to the fullest.

The All-Star line was DC’s answer to Marvel’s Ultimate universe. It offered top creators a chance to work on the companies biggest characters without being tied to established continuity.   The first book announced was Fran Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, the second, All-Star Superman.

There were rumors of Morrison’s interest in the Man of Steel in the past. His name was brought up during many of DC’s attempts at new directions for the character. The supposed reason why he didn’t get the job was that his ideas were too “out there”, too outside of continuity to work in the ongoing titles. With the make-your-own-continuity All-Star Superman, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Morrison was able to choose whichever artist he wished to work on the title. He chose Frank Quitely, who worked with the author on his New X-men arc. Together, they constructed a love letter to Superman and his unique history.

Morrison’s Silver Age fascination was at play, as Superman faced off against Atlas and Samson, became embroiled in some drama on Bizarro World and Jimmy Olsen had to change into a monster to save the day. But the Silver Age-era Superman wasn’t the only one paid tribute to. The monster Jimmy turned into was Doomsday, the creature that killed Superman in the regular continuity in the 1990s.

The series featured some of Morrison’s best writing. It was touching and beautiful, funny and powerful. He wrote one of the best Lex Luthors in all of comics. And I challenge anyone with a heart not to be moved by Morrison’s unique revisit of Jonathan Kent’s death in issue six.

The entire run had an air of melancholy. Superman was given a death sentence in issue one—a plot point that, presumably, will come to a head in tomorrow’s issue—and that cast a shadow over the rest of the series. As Superman went about the business of being Superman—protecting humanity, saving worlds, fighting evil—in the face of this grim news, Morrison established why Superman is a great hero and we understand how he lasted 70 years.

But that is all going to end tomorrow. This is not only the final issue of Morrison and Quitely’s run, but also the last issue of the title. There are rumors that it might also be one of the last titles of the All-Star line. All we have left is All-Star Batman and Robin. Adam Hughes’ take on an All-Star Wonder Woman has been in the works for years and presumably will see the light of day at some point.

But after that, the future is bleak. DC doesn’t seem to be pursuing the All-Star line the way Marvel has the Ultimate line. This is a shame because All-Star Superman was a great series. It was something special and definitely something that will be missed.

Also out this week:

Age of the Sentry #1:

When the Sentry was first introduced, Marvel announced that he was a secret character from Marvel’s past, a character created by Stan Lee before he created the Fantastic Four. The story went that the concept was put in a filing cabinet and forgotten until a Marvel staffer found almost 40 years later.

Of course, it turns out that this story was just a hoax designed to generate a little publicity and excitement for the character. But this didn’t stop creators from using the character as metacommentary on Marvel’s history and simpler past. This continues today with this retro-flavored miniseries, which looks like it would be right at home on the shelves with Kirby and Lee’s finest.

Jeff Parker & Paul Tobin (W), Nick Dragotta & Ramon Rosanas (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

DC Universe: Decision #1:

In case you didn’t know it, the United States is undergoing a Presidential Election this year, and it is an exciting one. History is going to be made as, come November, we will either have our first African-American President or our first female Vice-President. Voter interest is at an all-time high.

DC is trying to tap into some of this election fever with this miniseries. Someone is attempting to assassinate the presidential candidates and it’s up to the heroes of the DC Universe to try and stop them. But don’t worry, it’s not McCain or Obama being targeted, this is DC, the home of the fictional president. So, tell the Secret Service to leave the DC offices alone!

Judd Winick & Bill Willingham (W), Rick Leonardi (A), DC Comics, $2.99.  Four-Issue Miniseries.

Cisco Kid vs. Wyatt Earp/Wyatt Earp vs. Cisco Kid:

The American West in the 19th Century is fodder for a whole bunch of folklore and legends. Tales of the lawless and anarchic Wild West fill books, TV shows, and movies to this very day. At times, it’s hard to figure out which is more grandiose—the fictional cowboys created from whole cloth or the legends that built up around the real people who lived in the West at that time.

The Cisco Kid was created by O. Henry in 1907 and was a Caucasian outlaw. Hollywood got a hold of him, made him a heroic Mexican caballero and featured him in a series of movies and TV shows.

One of the people who might have read that original O. Henry story could have been Wyatt Earp. He was a real person, and was alive when the story was published (he died in 1929). Stories from his life have been adapted into numerous movies, TV shows and books over the years.

Now, Moonstone is having the legendary meet the real in two, one-shot specials. The Wild West was never this wild.

Chuck Dixon & Len Kody (W), Enrique Villagran & EricJ (A), Moonstone Comics, $3.99 Each. Two One-Shot Issues.

Janes in Love:

The Plain Janes was the first offering from MINX, DC’s attempt to reach not only the Manga reading audience but also the female demographic. Well, I guess the attempt was successful because MINX is going strong and the graphic novel that started it all is getting a sequel.

Yes, the Janes are back, still undertaking their efforts to raise artistic awareness by any means necessary. But our merry band of rebels’ unity is threatened. They are threatened by two things that break up many a team—success and romance. The Beatles couldn’t survive that combo, what hope do the Janes have?

The original team of Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg reunite to continue the adventures of MINX’s favorite artsy outcasts.

Cecil Castellucci (W), Jim Rugg (A), MINX/DC Comics, $9.99.  Original Graphic Novel.

Incredible Hercules #121:

Hercules’ part in fending off the Secret Invasion is now over, but he’s soon going to wish that it wasn’t. A new mess of trouble is coming his way. And this trouble has a name he’s familiar with—the Amazons.

Hercules definitely has a history with the Amazons. There are many different tellings of their past meetings, but a majority of them were not positive. Now they are back, tougher, meaner and more determined than ever before. Herc might have matured since their last meeting, but the Amazons have gotten angrier. And when the Prince of Power stands between the Amazons and their invasion of Atlantis, instead of helping he might give the women the inspiration they need to win the war!

Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (W), Clayton Henry (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

Devoid of Life:

It is a staple of movie horror. You have your isolated laboratory. You have your mysterious deaths at said laboratory. You have your team of investigators investigating said deaths. You have them discovering an unstoppable menace that they can never hope to survive and desperately need to contain.

Add to that the laboratory being on a hidden planet in our solar system and the unstoppable menace being ghostly alien creatures enacting a secret plot that threatens the lives of everyone on Earth and you now have Sci-Fi/Horror, two genres that have blended before to great effect. Image is recommending this to fans of The Sixth Sense and The Ring, but I’d imagine fans of the original Alien film would like this one, too. 

Raffaele Ienco (W/A), Image Comics, $14.99. Original Graphic Novel.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also is the comic review editor for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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