Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Day in the Life:
All-Star Superman #3

Maybe it's the LSD or the magic but, for whatever reason, Grant Morrison is a much more openly emotional writer than any of the other 'cool' comic writers. The problem with 'cool' is that it so often falls into the trap of mean, of overwhelming irony and sarcasm. 'Cool' in comics all too often means bloody, means constant cursing, means whiny petulant slacker diaries.
Instead of running from emotion, Grant uses it to his advantage, creating fuller characters and more genuine, thrilling moments. In Animal Man's finale, he wrote himself into the story, apologizing to his character for the turmoil in his life, and gave Buddy Baker back his family. Like any decent creator, divine or otherwise, would.
In Manhattan Guardian #4 he raised the emotional stakes to 11, with Jake Jordan on the edge of something beyond his understanding and grateful just to not be alone in facing it.
All-Star Superman is a throw back to the Silver Age of comics. A time that, while undeniably goofy, was fun and sweet. In embracing the spirit of the Silver Age, Grant and his partner Frank Quitely have finally given us (after over 60 years of trying) a Superman that works.

Issue 3, in fact, presents us with a familiar Silver Age scenario: Lois Lane is given Superman's powers for 24 hours.
Superman's powers are so familiar to us that we take them for granted, but through Lois' eyes we see them anew. As she says after her powers wear off, "...I can't smell the trees in Canada. I can't see all that gorgeous radio anymore...the stars have stopped singing like they used to."
Where Superman yawns at nuisances like Krull of the Subterranosauri ("MEH-TRUH-PUH-LIISZZ! KRULL WILL EAT YOU!"); Lois charges into battle.
"I'd have felt cheated if there hadn't been monsters."

"Everybody can see what Lois Lane sees in you, but...y'know, why me, Superman?"
Superman kind of dodges that question in the book, but he doesn't need to answer. We see why Superman and the super-powered fools Atlas and Samson are fighting like eight-year-olds on the playground for her.Grant and Frank's Lois is defined by strength, inside and out. This is not some pushy girl-reporter trying to prove herself to a room full of men; this is a supremely confident and intelligent woman.
Quitely (or Vince as his mother calls him) shows this, and much more, through facial expression and posture. He really is the best artist working in comics today, All-Star Superman could function without words. For instance, we know that Lois is only trying to make Superman jealous with the dueling strongmen: she's flirty whenever Superman's watching, bored with their antics when he's not.
I'm also beginning to think that Quitely is using Elvis Presley as a reference for Superman:Do you see it?
Anyway, dead rock stars aside, this Superman is one thing above all: humane. He acts out of love and compassion, not just for Lois, but for the whole world.
Since we are given a fresh sense of his powers through Lois' experience, we can understand what it must be like to live in constant awareness of your surroundings. Remember, now, from issue one where Clark Kent runs into a man on the street, saving him from being hit by falling debris from a car wreck.
Superman is at all times decent and caring. He helps people, he saves the world again and again, because it is the right thing to do.
(A very Silver Age concept. Truth, Justice, and the American Way never had the same ring after Watergate.)
He helps people because it's what people should do. Basically all the best parts of the Sermon on the Mount.
In All-Star Superman, we also know that Superman is dying. In issue 1 he absorbed too much solar radiation, which only he and the time traveling Samson know in issue 3.
In this issue, Superman descends into the Underworld like Orpheus, but his faith in Lois, and her faith in him, save her from oblivion. Lois' experience on the border of life and death further links her to the dying Superman.
In giving Lois his powers for a day, he showing her what it was like to be him. To share with her the all-encompassing love of the world that only he can feel.
All-Star Superman #3: A+

No comments: