All Star Superman, part Deux

DC finally saw fit to release the second half of Morrison and Quitely’s All Star Superman in paperback. I raved a bit about the first volume a while back, and got to read the rest of the story this past weekend. To my great irritation, an absolute edition was announced shortly before I received mine in the mail. You’ve won this round, DiDio.

With the first volume I was most struck by just how amazing they made Superman. He was powerful and could perform phenomenal feats, and the reader feels great just watching him do these things. All of Superman’s greatest traits are showcased, from his selfless compassion to his intelligence (which is often overlooked).

Some people complain that Superman is too powerful, and they can’t identify with him as a result. That’s all bullshit. It’s not like more the modest powers possessed by the likes of Spider-Man or  Captain America are attainable by us lowly humans, either. Even non-powered heroes like Batman are far better than any real person ever will be. Powers are little more than plot devices, anyway. They aren’t important. The personality behind them is what matters, just like any other genre. Kal-el of Krypton has plenty of personality to identify with.

The second volume is focused on another theme: the world is a better place with Superman. To me, this is vital. In my years of studying stories of heroes, from the epics of Gilgamesh and Beowulf to The Odyssey and Star Wars and Seven Samurai, one of the most important questions asked of any good hero story is whether the hero and their deeds makes their world a better place. Gilgamesh returns from his quests for immortality to discover that his people haven’t just gotten along just fine without him, they’ve actually thrived in his absence. Beowulf’s heroic deeds brought nothing but trouble on his people. The motley band of surviving ronin at the end of Seven Samurai muse on what it means that the people they’ve historically oppressed are capable of turning on them or abandoning them when the warriors are no longer needed. What does it mean to be a hero? And who gets more out of the experience? Is it worth the collateral damage?

By the end of All Star Superman volume 2, I’m convinced that this is a book that has found a hero who makes the world a better place. His legacy is inspiring. His actions improve lives. He has stopped evil that wasn’t somehow his own fault. Even when he’s just a character on a page, Supes changes things.

I’ll need to reread volume 1 and then this one again to really catch everything (it’s that kind of book), but my initial impression is that this book has effectively made the case for Superman. Not that he really needed any help, but it’s nice anyway.