Page 45 Review by Tom
Hands up how many of you have actually read a Superman comic? I know when I did read one when I much younger, the awful DEATH OF SUPERMAN, I was aghast and utterly confused. Having grown up loving the films, I just could not recognise the mindless caped atrocity fighting Doomsday for what seemed like ever. Who was this guy? Where was the soul of the icon I knew?
Because although Superman was created for comics, he became an icon through other media. A phenomenon which spread through radio, cinema serials and later TV and film, that's why everyone knows the character, the "S", why people refer to their weaknesses as Kryptonite rather than Achilles Heel, and why bald men are inherently evil geniuses. (Sorry, Stephen, but it's true!)
But how many of you have read the comics? And to be honest why would you? Superman and his real power have been diluted with each incarnation until he was nothing more than a wholesome mascot for the American way. To the cynical he is a naive, empty character because of this, and attempts in comics to balance that perception with numerous gritty storylines over the years have only alienated and/or confused potential fans. It's a crisis of identity for a seventy-one-year-old character, clearly suffering from some form of dementia, a parallel Steven T. Seagle makes in his book IT'S A BIRD
, one of a very few other Superman books we would recommend.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have unequivocally grasped the essence of Superman, what makes him work, and his real power: to inspire. Grant's love for the character is utterly apparent to the point where it's obvious he has managed to restrain himself just enough to deliver a story that has its moments of genius bordering on mad but never loses his focus. Balancing a character that more often fights with his wit and intelligence than his fists, Grant lets Superman reflect humanity with an outsider's eye. Being the ultimate immigrant aspiring to better understand his adoptive home, faults and all, while his own failings become increasingly pertinent now that his life is drawing to an untimely end.
For after being exposed to a lethal overdose of solar rays in volume one, Superman has gained awesome and unpredictable new powers. Unfortunately the same overdose placed too much strain upon his body's ability to process the yellow sunlight, giving him scant months to live. Having accomplished seven of the twelve labours he was retro-prophesised to complete, Superman tries to find a way to save himself, but not before escaping from Bizarro Earth, coping with being replaced by some unexpected survivors from Krypton, growing a parallel dimension, and seeing Lex Luthor to the electric chair. All of which sounds rather ambiguous and standard silly I grant you, but I promise it comes together in the most amazing way. Besides that's not what makes this series so perfect. It's the little moments like when Superman prevents the suicide of a girl. There's no fall or dramatic swooping in to catch her in the nick of time, because that would still be too late. Superman just does what anyone would do, and helps her find strength.