All-Star Superman, vol. 1

Writer(s): Grant Morrison
Artist(s): Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1401211028
Price: $12.99
Page count: 160
Year Released: 2008
Status: in print
Original Source: All-Star Superman 1-6
Other Collected Edition(s): Absolute edition (ISBN 978-1401229177); hardcover (ISBN 978-1401209148)
Genres: all ages; adventure; science fiction; short stories; superheroes; teen/young adult
Recommended for Fans Of: Superman (the Curt Swan years)
Possibly Objectionable Material: violence; Lois Lane in a few skimpy outfits
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Also in This Series: followed by All-Star Superman, vol. 2

Plot Summary
The overarching hook of this book is that Superman is dying. In the course of his rescuing some scientists on an endangered mission in the sun's chromosphere, Superman's body (which is a living solar battery--and the wellspring of his powers) was exposed to more raw solar energy than it's able to process efficiently. The result is that his body is slowly imploding on a cellular level (or something like that).

Really, though, this book is a collection of short stories that reinvigorate the Superman mythos by embracing (rather than discarding) the kitschy elements of Superman's vast 70-year publishing history. Krypto the dog, black Kryptonite, the Fortress of Solitude, and so on, all figure into the stories in this collection.

Pondering his sudden mortality, Superman tells Lois Lane that he's Clark Kent. But after decades of suspecting this truth, Lois decides she doesn't believe him. Even so, she travels to the Fortress of Solitude with Superman on her birthday, where he gives her the ultimate gift: an elixir that grants her his powers for a day.

Jimmy Olsen, reporter for the Daily Planet, becomes the director of P.R.O.J.E.C.T. (a well-funded scientific engineering agency) as part of his popular "Day in the Life" series of articles. While there, one of the P.R.O.J.E.C.T. teams exploring the so-called Underverse discovers a superdense form of Kryptonite that doesn't kill Superman, but seems to turn him into something more like an evil twin. And once he's been exposed to it, it's up to Jimmy to keep Superman from destroying the world.

Clark Kent interviews Lex Luthor on death row and asks the ultimate question: Why does Lex direct his superior intellect and vast resources almost obsessively on the goal of destroying Superman? Lex doesn't get around to answering this question in a completely satisfying way (other than noting that if it weren't for Superman's presence, he'd be in charge of the world), but the interview ends up taking a back seat to the action anyway when Clark's presence (which is to say Superman's presence) in the high-security facility sets off the powers of an incredibly dangerous incarcerated monster.

Finally, a heartbreaking story from the hero's past (when Clark is just out of college and once again living in Smallville with Ma and Pa Kent) shows that not even Superman can save everyone all the time.

My Own 2 Cents
This book is not without its charms, but a sliver of knowledge (or at the very least an appreciation) of Superman's world is required to enjoy it. When I was growing up I loved the Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve but I never read any Superman comics, so even though I was steeped in the culture of superheroes as a kid (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, etc.), some of the references in this book went over my head. In other words, I don't think this is the kind of book you could give to someone who's looking for a Superman story without any baggage (as I was hoping it would be). On the other hand, I can see how this book would appeal to a Superman fan who misses the fun, somewhat goofy stories of the '60s and '70s. Clearly, Morrison's intention is to create a Superman series that indulges those fans (of which he is one, I'd imagine). As far as that goes, my guess is that he succeeds.