Top critical review
Difficult to keep reading, because lacking in poignancy or purpose
Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2021
Many years ago, before I "got into" comics, I heard about a run of Animal Man that engaged in the sort of reflexivity that appealed to me in the movies and novels I liked. So I checked some of those issues out and, finding them brilliant, I always remembered Grant Morrison's name as a great writer in the comic book medium.
Recently becoming interested in comics and reading a lot of them, including re-reading Morrison's Animal Man and finding it just as brilliant, I've been catching up on lost time with all the superhero stories I was never interested in as a kid or adult. I kept hearing that Morrison's Superman stories were amazing, and I read about half this issue digitally before stopping. But I thought maybe the experience of reading on a scree dampened my enjoyment, and since I love Animal Man so much I bought a physical copy of the book here.
I just don't find anything engaging about these stories, and I find it hard to get through them. Having read some of Morrison's book Supergods, I know that his take on the mainstream superheroes is that they are kooky devices to rationalize zany hijinks. You can tell that Morrison wants All-Star Superman to be zany, possibly even funny, but instead it comes across as a collection of stories devoid of any possible meaning to the reader's life. It's also not funny or weird enough to stand up on mythmaking or escapist grounds.
One of the issues I have with this book is that Morrison seems not just to be ok with scientific babble with no connection to actual physical laws, but takes the meat and potatoes variety you'll find in the average Star Trek episode and dials it to one hundred and eleven. Some of the outright dumbest plot devices of pseudo-sci-fi I've seen are in this book. They absolutely take you out of the story and make you not want to continue.
Loeb's Superman for All Seasons is high-quality schmaltz. It's moving, it works well as sheer narrative and characterization. It's a collection of vignettes that also take you through a thematic journey. It takes Superman's invincibility and superlative abilities, and crafts stories that still make him vulnerable and conflicted (without resorting to "wow some random rock messes with his power how will he get out of this scrape" stuff). The 2-4 pages or so at the end of For All Seasons that involves Clark Kent learning something about the medical status of a friend, but being unable to speak of it without revealing his identity, is more profound and moving that anything in All-Star Superman's 300 pages.
I bring this up because clearly All-Star Superman wants to be schmaltzy and sentimental. But it never devotes enough pages to characterization or conflicts at all resembling things humans might go through (instead of wacky fantasy battles and feats) to amount to anything.
Alan Moore said (I believe incorrectly, given the brilliance of that book) that his Killing Joke was just a remix of licensed character tropes with nothing to say about real life. I believe that criticism can be leveled at All-Star Superman and most of the other Morrison mainstream superhero stuff I've read (like JLA). It's hard to believe the writer of Animal Man also did this book.