I have never been a huge Superman fan.
I’ve dabbled from time to time – I find it hard to believe that anyone who seriously reads comics never has – but it’s just never really set in. I read the Death of Superman, Funeral of Superman, and Resurrection of Superman stories, I tried reading some of Greg Rucka’s work on the character, and have picked up the odd issue here and there, but…
It’s not that these books were bad. They may not have been highlights of the medium, but they were generally decent exercises in storytelling. The problem, ultimately, is that they just weren’t good enough to be Superman stories.
Superman is simply so iconic, so incredibly important to both the medium of comics and the genre of superheroes – and we are told this so often – that one can’t fail to be disappointed that the actual books seldom live up to the legacy. If you were to read nearly any Superman book from the past two decades, it would be understandable if you asked “What’s the big deal?”
One of the complaints levelled against Superman is that he’s just too super. He has super-strength, super-speed, and super-vision, and on top of that he’s just a super guy: He saves girls, dogs, cats and planets with equal enthusiasm, and always says please and thank you. He’s such an ideal character that he’s almost no character at all.
Grant Morrison doesn’t think so. Instead of making Superman weaker – either physically or morally – he makes him stronger. Instead of making Superman more real, he makes the threats more incredible. Want to show off how amazing Superman is? Send him on a rescue mission to the sun. Where he not only saves a spaceship from crashing into a sunspot the size of South America, but saves the crew from a genetically modified human bomb being remote-controlled by Lex Luthor.
And then Morrison makes Superman more powerful.
Lois Lane is so supremely confident in Superman that she writes her headlines before he’s finished saving the day. Jimmy Olsen is a nerd who flies a jet pack to work and wears a Super Watch. Lex Luthor is a bad, bad man. Superman is a hero who saves a boy and his dog without a second thought. This is what people really mean when they talk about iconic storytelling: Everything about Superman and his world is defined right here.
This isn’t the best comic of the year. It’s not even the best Grant Morrison comic of the year. But it’s the best Superman comic I’ve ever read, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.