"The Curse of the Replacement Supermen
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely(p), Jamie Grant(i,c)
Superman returns from the Underverse and finds that, while he was away saving the world, cuckoos have invaded his nest. A pair of Kryptonian astronauts found their way to earth, and they intend to remake our planet into Krypton's image.
It's business as usual from the chronically late All-Star Superman. Fortunately, almost every issue of this book has been worth the wait, and this stand-alone piece is no exception.
The new or re-imagined characters Bar-El and Lilo are intriguing antagonists, and things do not play out as one expects. While there is a battle between Kal-El and his countrymen, the fight isn't as climactic as the one seen in Superman II, where Superman, Zod, Ursula and Non have at it, nor is the brief punch-up meant to be.
Morrison makes Superman's characterization the most important element in the story. He does something rare. He makes Superman smart, but he does so without inflating arrogance. Morrison's Superman is the most humble and sincere incarnation of the character. He's far closer to the performance of Christopher Reeve than even the traditional comic books. You can really imagine this character saying something like "I'm here to fight for truth, justice and the American Way," and not have people assume jingoism. Instead, they just might accept this man and his vision of the now loaded "American Way" at face value.
Morrison doesn't just emphasize Superman's human upbringing. He is a man of two worlds, but even more so, he is the son of Jor-El, not just Pa Kent. It's ultimately the jewel of Superman's nature, not merely one of the facets that facilitate problem-solving--ranging from harassment from Steve Lombard to dealing with Kryptonian imperialists. That's what I think makes All-Star Superman the best Superman comic book on the racks. Morrison's Superman is whole.
Previously I've spoken about Frank Quitely's scope, and while the anamorphic widescreen treatment can be seen in these pages, it's Quitely's treatment of character that proves to be more fascinating. Given two knew Kryptonians, Quitely uses body language to distinguish them from Kal-El. You actually don't need to read a single word in this comic book to understand the story and the characters. You can observe Quitely's artwork and comprehend the plot, the interaction of the cast and what makes each character tick. As well, you can feel the emotional depth that's reflected in Morrison's story.
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