Overview

All-Star Superman #1

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All-Star Superman #1

Credits

  • Words: Grant Morrison
  • Art: Frank Quitely
  • Inks: Jamie Grant
  • Colors: Jamie Grant
  • Story Title: ...Faster...
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Nov 16, 2005

When DC Comics announced the release its new line of creator-driven comics, DC All-Star, anticipation went through the roof. It was speculated that these stories, set outside of regular continuity, would revitalize DC’s most classic characters much like Marvel’s popular Ultimate line. After the release of All-Star Batman earlier this year, reviews were a muddle. Fans had hoped for a primal vision of Batman, and what they got was something else; readers were unsure what to make of it. Now with the release of All-Star Superman, the new title by DC’s post-pop visionary-in-residence Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, Seven Soldiers) and his ultra-modern partner-in-crime Frank Quitely (JLA: Earth 2, We3, New X-Men), the intent of the DC All-Star line becomes clear.

Superman is quite certainly the most recognizable superhero in the existence of the genre. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, festooned with the colorful tights seen on a circus performer, Superman performed impossible feats of derring-do, like stopping an onrushing car single-handed, hurdling over Metropolis’ tallest skyscraper, or shrugging off a hail of bullets like it were rain. In the decades since then, Superman has gained a number of more ludicrous powers, super-memory, super-breath, and briefly, electrical powers. The debut of All-Star Superman gives us a photo-album of the übermensch at the peak of his powers.

"Compression" is the watchword of the decade for Grant Morrison. It seems that in reaction to the longer and occasionally more plodding multi-issue style of comics writing (popularly called "decompression") that is the current trend in comics, Morrison is being willfully contrary. The compressed writing style had worked pretty well with books like We3 and the entire Seven Soldiers run, but with Superman, it feels more than a bit overused. Superman’s entire origin is condensed into eight words in four panels. Seemingly, Morrison was hoping to distill the energy of the strange visitor from another planet, but it comes off more like it was merely reduced to a basic stock. Grant assumes that the readers all know the vagaries of Superman’s history, and will be able to fill in the gaps. However, some of the jumps he expects the audience to make are enormous. The cast of the book is introduced in short order: Lex Luthor and the Daily Planet in clear opposition. What’s missing from this new book is any kind of emotional context.

Reactions are usually mixed when it comes to the idiosyncratic art style of Frank Quitely. His figures often run from the barrel-chested to the ectomorphic and in this issue that approach is toned down a bit. Familiar with Morrison’s space-time bending scripts, Quitely creates some compositions that do approach the grandeur required of the Man of Tomorrow. It does seem though, that as many elements fly around in the background, something is missing.

It’s not exactly the fault of the digital inks and colors, provided by Jamie Grant. Still, his line-work looks entirely too scratchy, and his colors completely out-of-balance. The digital inks take Quitely’s usually imposing figures down a peg, making them seem somewhat more wispy. His colors neither highlight important features of the layout nor show any discernable light source. While the range of his palette is completely open, there’s a lack of vision in the colors that bring to the fore all the weaknesses in Quitely’s design.

After the first issue of All-Star Superman, the intent of the line has become clear: the titles are the playground for DC’s creators to indulge themselves without regard to the needs of the characters and the audience. There’s potential in this title, but it’s going to take something big to bring this book to the primacy of the Superman mythos.

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