All Start Superman – Part the Second
So, the second half of Morrison and Quitely’s book. If you remember from the first part of this review, it took me a second reading to “get” what was going on in issues 1 through 6. And I really enjoyed those 6 comics. The second batch though…well, it’s a different story.
Whereas the first 6 chapters of this series were all self-contained, issues 7 and 8 only work together as Superman encounters some Bizarros. Immediately, as someone who has no real history of reading Superman, I felt a bit lost. I knew that there was a Bizarro, who was this weird, blocky version of Superman, and I always thought that he was a misunderstood simpleton of a villain. But I didn’t fully understand the Bizarros in All Star Superman…I didn’t know if the infection was normal, I didn’t know that there was a race of Bizarros, and I certainly had no idea from the story what the Underverse was or what it meant in the overall scheme of things. I also thought that there was a point during issue 7 that Morrison’s ideas started to diverge from what was laid out on paper. I saw Superman shoot some sort of eyebeams at the Bizarro world, but the results of that eyeblast didn’t make much sense.
The two lost Kryptonians of issue 9 never gel with me either. I understand the purpose of chapters 7 through 9 to the entire work. The Bizarros and Kryptonians represent what Superman might have been, had it not been for the love and guidance of the Kents, and coming on the heels of chapter 6 it’s reasonable to accept Morrison’s grasp of craft by constructing his story this way. But it reinforces the niggle I had in the first half of the series.
Right from chapter 1, the premise is that Superman is going to die as a result of Luthor’s actions. It’s a ticking time bomb, without the tick-tock. Up until the beginning of issue 10, there hasn’t been a sense of desperation about the upcoming death. Sure, Superman starts getting his house into order, spending quality time with Lois, but I felt that there needed to be a greater sense of urgency underlying what was happening, that time was running out. And, at the end of the Bizarro storyline, when Superman is slowly dying on the Bizarro world, while he articulates his need to return to Earth, the jeopardy is almost false.
The final chapter does redeem the second half to some extent. Superman bests Luthor, not only physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. It’s almost as complete a defeat as Luthor could suffer. And Superman’s sacrifice at the very end brings the story full circle, repairing the sun that began to effectively kill him right from the start.
What I really find missing in part 2 of All Star Superman is a lot of the heart that’s so amazingly apparent in the first part. As I read this part of the story, I could almost feel the tumblers clicking into place. Quitely’s art is still very good, although for some reason not as jaw dropping as the first part, but the writing and plotting has a much more mechanical feel. I don’t feel nearly as engaged, and that is a real shame, because there was so much warmth earlier on.
It’s quite obvious that All Star Superman is not a failure…it’s still a very superior comic story. But if this was Grant Morrison’s love song to Superman, you have to wonder whether during the long process of creating this comic (and it took almost 3 years between the first and last issues publish dates) that Morrison’s love affair changed. While he may still have loved Superman, I have a feeling that at some point he was no longer in love with Superman, where the passion gave way to contentment. All Star Superman is a fine book, and it’s that passion in the first part that is worth investing your time in.