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All-Star Superman #9

Posted: Monday, November 19, 2007
By: Thom Young

Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely
DC Comics
Thom Young:

"The Curse of the Replacement Supermen"

All-Star Superman is probably the title I look forward to the most each month (or however often it’s published). However, this latest issue was not up to the standard I’ve come to expect for this series.

It’s an entertaining issue, and I don’t feel as if my money was wasted in buying it. After all, it has the exceptional illustrations by Frank Quitely for which I would gladly pay the cover price regardless of the story. As for the story, there wasn’t any bad dialog that grated on me the way bad dialog will.

The problem I had with this issue is due to the several holes that I noticed in the plot.

Apparently, the two new Kryptonians, Bar-El and Lilo, appeared on Earth shortly after Superman disappeared into the Underverse on Bizarro World. (Perry White notes on page three that Clark Kent has been missing and presumed dead for two months, and Jimmy Olson later says on the bottom of page 13 that he has been listening to Bar-El and Lilo talk about life on Krypton for “two whole months.”)*

During those two months, Bar-El and Lilo helped rebuild Metropolis after the Bizarro invasion--adding crystal spires to the tops of many of the skyscrapers. When Superman catches up to them, the two new Kryptonians are saving a village from a volcano (apparently on the Indian subcontinent, based on the dress of the villagers).

My question about these good deeds is, why? Most of the remainder of the story is about how Bar-El and Lilo consider humans to be inferior barbarians, and Lilo wants to “clear the apes out of Metropolis” and build the capital of New Krypton there.

Granted, they could have rebuilt Metropolis with an eye toward making it the capital of New Krypton, but why help the humans at all? Why save an Indian or Pakistani village from a volcano?

In this same vein, why repair the moon once they cracked it in two after hurling Superman into it? Of course, they made off with every suspension bridge on Earth to use as their “Lunar Sutures,” so they were hardly being helpful in the way they decided to mend the moon.

These actions are of the type we might see in a Silver Age Superman story, and I don’t mind that at all. However, Morrison is usually careful to make the Silver Age concepts work within an internal logic--and the logic behind the actions in this story escapes me.

Finally, near the end of the issue, just as Bar-El and Lilo are about to expose Clark Kent as Superman in front of his Daily Planet co-workers, their powers give out and they plummet to the street. The explanation for their sudden loss of powers is that they “passed through a certain radioactive cloud in space--which caused the minerals in [their] bodies to turn to toxic Kryptonite.”

What? Not only is this resolution to Superman’s problem a convenient example of Deus Ex Machina (or “Deus Ex Radiare”), it’s an explanation that goes beyond even the logic of Silver Age stories. Fellow SBC reviewer Dave Wallace pointed out to me that the radiation poisoning was hinted at early on with Bar-El's comment that Lilo's eyes had turned green, and I accept that.

However, what pushed me to the limit of my willing suspension of disbelief is the notion of Bar-El and Lilo passing through a certain radioactive cloud in space that causes minerals in their bodies to transmute into Kryptonite. I guess it's more of a case of Superman being rescued by "the God in the Alchemy" or "Deus Ex Alchymia."

I'd almost be more inclined to accept Bar-El and Lilo happening to stumble across Sylar lying face down on a dirt road in rural Mexico.

Then, in an apparent reversal of his and Lilo's attitudes toward Superman, Bar-El shows gratitude as Kal-El works to save their lives by sending them into the Phantom Zone (paralleling the historical saving of Mon-El from lead poisoning in the Superman Mythos).

The one saving grace for Morrison’s story comes on the final page where Bar-El and Lilo stand tyrannically over the denizens of the Phantom Zone and the caption reads, “To Be Continued.” Perhaps there is more to this story that will explain all of the plot holes in this issue. I hope so. However, as an issue on its own, I didn’t enjoy what we’ve been given so far.



*And no one bothers to question Clark about how he survived in a closet for two months while eating “three unopened Thanksgiving baskets” (whatever a “Thanksgiving basket” is) and using the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Fortunately, Clark didn’t explain what the pages of Shakespeare were used for, but it still leaves us with a disgusting scenario.




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