If there’s anyone who has the potential to go on bizarre comic adventures, it’s Superman. He’s an all-powerful hero that can travel to dimensions and planets beyond our imagination. This gives famous Scottish comic writer Grant Morrison the perfect hero for a story. In the early 2000s, DC wanted to create a new imprint called All-Star that would get to the core of the heroes we’ve grown to love. Grant Morrison was tapped to make one for the Man of Steel, and thus All-Star Superman was created. It has been 15 years since this series’ first issue was released, and many still find this tale today. Can it stand the test of time as one of the greatest stories for the Man of Steel?
**Some Spoilers Below**
During an experiment involving orbiting the sun, Dr. Leo Quintum and his team are attacked by Parasite at the behest of Lex Luthor. Superman flies in and saves the scientists, but at a cost. When they return to Earth, Quintum analyzes the Man of Steel and learns his cells have been overcharged. Superman has become more powerful than ever, but he only has a year to live. With that in mind, Clark begins to settle his affairs to prepare for a world without Superman. His first thing on the To-Do list is to reveal his secret identity to Lois Lane.
This story stands out for a variety of different reasons for different readers. Some might find the oddball scenarios appealing, such as Clark’s escape from the Bizarro world. Some might like the action sequences between Superman and Lex Luthor epic. This reviewer, however, knows the reason this story stands out is the main character himself. In this story, we don’t see him as just Kal-El of Krypton, protector of Earth, or as Clark Kent, the superhero of Metropolis. We see him as a cross between the two. We get the humanity of Clark Kent, who has accepted his imminent death, as he puts his affairs in order while still facing the out of this world threats as Kal-El.
In most stories with this plot, the hero would go through hoops to save their lives. Here, Superman is at peace with all of this as he ties up loose ends in his life. For a comic that had invasions, tests of strength and wit, as well as a time travel plot at one point, it felt strangely relaxing. The action was epic, with iconic scenes of Superman facing off against giant monsters and twisted Kryptonians, but that was nothing compared to the slow moments. Seeing Clark prepare for the end is heartbreaking yet inspirational.
The illustrator for this story, Frank Quitely, is a frequent collaborator with Morrison. His unique style usually compliments the bizarre tales that Morrison comes up with. The problem is that it works only part of the time. Frank’s design on how to make Clark and Superman two different people worked well. That said, style doesn’t exactly translate well to the more common aspects. The people who work at the Daily Planet have a strange, clay-like texture to them. It’s not terrible in any aspect, but it’s just not this reviewer’s cup of tea.
All-Star Superman is the perfect ending to the Man of Steel. If there were a day where Superman comics would need to stop publishing, this tale would be the final story. It gives us the story of the Man of Steel as both a hero and a man. We see him face off against the greatest threats while coming to terms with his mortality. It’s a tale that can inspire those to try to become greater than one’s self. We can all be the good man that Clark Kent is.