All Star Superman Complete Retrospective Fun Fest

Since you can now order All Star Superman Vol. 2, and recommend it to people without lending them your issues, I thought it'd be good idea to take a look back and remember just why the series was worth recommending in the first place. There have been a couple really great interviews with Morrison particularly this one at Newsrama. It's 10 parts and Morrison tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the series.

Issue 1: “…Faster…”
Summary: Superman saves Quintum’s mission to the sun from Lex’s plot to destroy it. In his trip Superman flies straight through the sun super charging his cells giving him new super powers, but also starting his road towards death.
Its Importance to the Series: This issue establishes all of the threads that will run through the series. It shows, through a speech by Quintum, that Superman's legacy isn’t just saving people’s lives but the hope he inspires.
Morrison Says: "And I think that’s what makes him great. He just keeps tirelessly trying to make things better, to be a role model for everyone. People take him for granted – he’s always dealing with characters who think he’s an idiot, or irrelevant or who just don’t like his plain morality and can’t see that he’s just a genuinely good guy slightly hampered by a fear of forcing his ideas on people." Link.

Best Panel: Superman flies through the sun. Yeah, it’s a two page spread but it’s too good to pass up. It’s only on page two but it’s when I first realized this series was great. Superman is completely rigid in his flying position but still looks like he’s gliding. His face has a mix of determination and hope that is perfect.
Best Quote: This issue is full of them but I got to go with, “I’m getting older and…and he isn’t. So, if I want to die happy, it’s time to get serious about killing Superman. Don’t you think?” –Lex Luthor
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Voyager Titan. Quietly’s art helps make this thing really weird, but it’s Quintim’s explanation that is really nuts.

Issue 2: “Superman’s Forbidden Room”
Summary: After Lois finds out Superman is Clark Kent, they take a trip to the Fortress of Solitude. Lois stumbles onto a secret room and becomes paranoid about Superman's intentions.
Its Importance: Going deep into Superman and Lois’ relationship. She comments herself how strange it has been over the years. It shows Lois’ strength; she's willing to take on Superman.

Best Panel: Lois’ teeth. This panel is truly creepy and shows Lois’ paranoia about Superman.
Best Quote: “And you’ve always been Clark Kent? Sorry. I just don’t believe you Superman.” – Lois Lane

Craziest Sci Fi Moment: It’s a tour through the Fortress of Solitude so there are a lot but the craziest has to be Superman feeding the Sun-eater with miniature suns he creates on the Cosmic Anvil from New Olympus. Honorable Mention – The half-a-million ton fortress key.

Issue 3: “Sweet Dreams, Superwoman”
Summary: Lois is given the gift of Superman’s powers for 24 hours. They meet up with Samson and Atlas who flirt with Lois. Lois plays hard to get but sees Superman’s the real deal after he rescues her from the Ultra-Sphinx.
Its Importance: The issue shows how others behave with Superman-like powers. Samson, Atlas, and Lois all have powers comparable to Superman’s but he is constantly rescuing and setting right their mistakes.
Best Panel: Lois and Superman kissing on the moon. Everything on Earth is small to them compared to the feeling of this kiss. Lois is a stone-cold fox.
Best Quote: Lois’ life hangs on the line. The Sphinx asks Superman “What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?” Superman replies “Ha. How about this? They surrender.”
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: The Ultra Sphinx. Where did this guy come from???

Issue 4: “The Superman/Olsen War”
Summary: Jimmy Olsen becomes Professor Quintum for the day while doing a piece for the Daily Planet. Superman rescues him from the Underverse but is exposed to black kryptonite which turns him evil.
Its Importance: Establishes Jimmy Olsen as an actually interesting character. He isn’t annoying as has been hinted at in the previous issues, but always somehow at the center of action. We see Superman trusts Jimmy and values him as a close friend. When Superman turns evil, it’s Jimmy who handles the situation.
Best Panel: Another Superman flying. Similar to the first two page spread.
Best Quote: “The Black K Superman was everything you’re not. A bully, a coward… a liar…Weird thing is the worse he acted, the weaker he became.” – Jimmy Olsen
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Quintum goes on a trip to meet the Elecrokind. Tungsten Gas life forms with a brittle glass exoskeleton.

Issue 5: “The Gospel According to Lex Luthor”

Summary: Lex Luthor has been sentenced to death. Clark Kent goes for an interview, but Parasite begins absorbing power, causing chaos in the jail.
Its Importance: This issue focuses on Lex Luthor. He talks about Superman as being an impossible ideal. He looks down on him because he comes from another planet and didn’t earn his super powers. He can’t see past his own ego to realize Superman is an inspiration to people.
Best Panel: Parasite falling through the panel. This is just an interesting panel technically. The edge of the panel is also the bottom and top of the floor. Parasite eats everything, even the world around him!
Best Quote: “We all fall short of that sickening, inhuman perfection, that impossible ideal. Feel that, Kent. Real muscles, not like his.” – Lex Luthor.
Honorable Mention: "Attila the Hun. Genghis Khan. Al Capone. Adolf Hitler. Lex Luthor..." -Judge at Luthor's trial.
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Luthor’s Bibliobot Mark 2. “A roving library. He’ll read you any of a thousand classic works of literature from ‘Ulyssess’ to ‘A Tale of Two Cities’” -Luthor

Issue 6: “Funeral in Smallville”
Summary: Flashback time. We head back in time to Superman’s life in Smallville. He meets up with three generations of the Superman Squad, and deals with the death of his dad, Jonathan Kent.
Its Importance: Superman confronts death and the fact that he can't save everybody.
Best Panel: After flying around with Krypto, Superman relaxes on the moon, staring at the beauty of the Earth. The Earth is touched-up by computers enough to make it stand out, and look special to Superman. Reinforced by the Lois/Superman kiss panel in issue 3.
Best Quote: “He taught me that the measure of a man lies not in what he says but what he does. And showed me by example how to be tough, and how to be kind and how to dream of a better world. Thanks, Pa. Those are lessons I’ll never forget.” -Superman. Jonathan Kent's Eulogy.
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Superman meets the leader of the Superman Squad.

Issue 7: “Being Bizarro”
Summary: The Bizarro World attacks earth. Superman, in an effort to save earth, gets stuck on the Bizarro World.
Its Importance: A lot of people say this is where the story slows down. I think it gives a deeper perspective on Superman and his personality. He recognizes he might be in a hopeless situation and that he’s only one man, but listens to help from his friends at the Daily Planet. With their help, he finally repels the Bizarros.
Best Panel: Godspeed Superman. I love these Superman flying panels. This one shows his trail as a kind of sci-fi neon light. It's computers so it contrast the art around it highlighting his superhuman speed.
Best Quote: “The formula for an experimental Bizarro Repellent is right here on this card I planned to give you. Merry Christmas.” –Superman talking to Lois
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Square Earth.

Issue 8: “Us Do Opposite”
Summary: Superman, stuck on Bizzaro world where he is slowly dying. With the help of Zibarro, a genetic fluke of Bizarro world, and Bizarro Superman, he escapes on a rocket ship built from trash.
Its Importance: Superman is confronted with a world that makes no sense and one where he is slowly dying. He inspires hope in Zibarro, and inspires all the Bizzaros to help him get home. The Bizarros become an alternate version of humanity, one that's lazy and disorganized, and it shows the series' humanism about earth and its people.
Best Panel: This goes along with Lois' teeth panel. It's really creepy and gives the feeling of paranoia around Superman. Like one false step could be the end.
Best Quote: “Bizzaro-Green Lantern am no have ultimate power ring can make it real what me am no think of! Only trouble is…me am no think only of everything.”
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Issue am too normal for un-science.

Issue 9: “Curse of the Replacement Supermen”
Summary: Superman comes back from the bizarre world to discover Lilo and Bar-El, astronauts from Krypton, have found their way to Earth. They have some ideas of their own on what to do with the planet. When they become afflicted with a Kryptonite illness, Superman saves their lives by sending them to the phantom zone.
Its Importance: Lilo and Bar-el show another path that Superman’s personality could have taken. They are obsessed with their heritage from Krypton and look to take over the Earth as Dictators. Superman’s basic kindness is shown again when he tries to help the two after they’ve become sick by Kryptonite.
Best Panel: Lilo! Quitely is a master of showing cowardice and fear.
Best Quote: “That’s not fair. What right do I have to impose my values on anyone?” -Superman
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Repairing a crack in the moon with bridges!

Issue 10: “Neverending”

Summary: A lot goes on in this issue. Superman writes his will, and rushes around the world doing good deeds. He creates a universe to see what it would be like without him.
Its Importance: This is my favorite issue of the series. The best scene is when Superman talks a young girl from committing suicide. The issue takes all the themes of the series and compresses them down into short moments. Lex spitting at Superman is an example of everything that goes on between them.
Best Panel: Superman’s Last Will and testament. His clothes are too big. He's looking completely weak and vulnerable here.
Honorable mention: Regan dropping her cell phone. Has that timelessness effect. Where things hang in the air.
Best Quote: “As she spoke, I watched 35,000 dead skin cells scattering like confetti…like promises…like the dust of stars.” -Superman reflecting later on a conversation with Lois.
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Creation of Earth Q.

Issue 11: “Red Sun Day”
Summary: Superman inches closer to his death. Lex Luthor somehow survived execution and is now super powered. Earth is attacked Solaris but is defeated by Superman and his robots. Superman is finishing up his last moments before death.
Its Importance: This issue feels a lot like armageddon or something. Things are getting to the end of the line. Superman closes up the Fortress of Solitude for good. Death weighs everything down and it's pretty heavy.
Best Panel: There’s always a way. Something about this gets me. I don't think I've ever seen Superman without some kind of shirt on. Here his 'S' is obscured and he looks like a normal guy, except for that heroic look on his face.
Best Quote: "What a Life! I've traveled across time and space. I've seen and done thing beyond imagination. Blessed with friends like Pete and Lana and Jimmy. And Batman...what incredible adventures we've shared. What amazing people I've known." -Superman
Craziest Sci Fi Moment: Lex Luthor builds a robot in one panel.

Issue 12: "Superman In Excelsis"
Summary: Superman starts off in a dream/alternate universe of Krypton right before it explodes. Jor-El talks him back into living again. He returns and the final showdown with Luthor. He flies into the heart of the sun saving Earth one last time.
It's Importance: This is it. It's the final showdown. All the panels feel apocalyptic and claustrophobic. It's Superman's greatest challenge but somehow he's been planning it from the beginning. It's the end and it feels like it, but it somehow leaves you still wanting more. The ending feels like a bizarre cliffhanger to a sequel. This non-ending gives you the feeling of a loop and a desire to pick up issue 1 all over again.
Best Panel: Superman in the heart of the sun. See below quote.
Morrison Says: "Superman grew up baling hay on a farm. He goes to work, for a boss, in an office. He pines after a hard–working gal. Only when he tears off his shirt does that heroic, ideal inner self come to life. That’s actually a much more adult fantasy than the one Batman’s peddling but it also makes Superman a little harder to sell. He’s much more of a working class superhero, which is why we ended the whole book with the image of a laboring Superman."
Best Quote: Luthor's epiphany. It's weird that Luthor ends up kind of summarizing the feel of the series all in this quote: "This is how he sees all the time, every day. Like it's all just us, in here together. And we're all we've got."
Craziest Sci-Fi Momment: Superman's cells turn into pure energy-information.


Inkwell Bookstore said...

Your summaries captured the beauty of these comics. They were simple stories holding complicated ideas, told in a sparse, poetic voice. Your piece makes me want to read them again -- immediately.

Jesse Reese said...

Definitely worth a re-read. One of the best comics out there. I hope you check that interview too. It's really interesting. Thanks for the comment!

Monique R. said...

this is really great, jess.

Viagra said...

I have to agree on everything you wrote here, this series is just great, and am a Batman fan, so imagine how good it has to be for me to like it that much. The 2 page panels in most cases are just amazing.