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“How precious and how fragile all the little things you value are”

I was excited to see the final issue of All-Star Superman this week.  I’ve enjoyed the past 11 issues in degrees varying from “ecstatically” to “a lot.”  Two pages into this finale and I was done.  It had me; I was taken within.  Seeing Kal-El and Jor-El talking was fun enough.  I was ready for some intense silver age action, science and alternate realities and time travel and visions.  It was more.

“Consider us:  a whole civilization of supermen reduced to dust by a caprice of cosmology.  Then think how precious and how fragile all the little things you value are.” (Grant Morrison by way of Jor-El, house of El.)

He’s not simply talking about mere humans, the major joy of Superman’s life.  Nor is he simply talking about the forgotten pleasures of mortal life–the smell of fresh-steamed rice, the glint in the eye of a successful flirt, beer in a backyard, an old familiar song.  He’s talking about everything.  In the face of mortality and moving on from this life, all things are little, and yet all things are also so precious and fragile.

The comic doesn’t lack for action.  You’ve got a power-crazed Luthor devastating Metropolis.  You’ve a cat-and-mouse game with the usual suspects in reversed position.  The Man of Tomorrow out-thinks he who thinks himself the greatest mind.  You’ve even got punches and blood.

Awesome as all this is, though, that’s not the point of “Superman in Excelsis.”  This is Superman as Jesus, though not in some predictable knee-jerk fashion.  This is mature, thought-out, and beautiful theology.  This is the God who came to Earth and felt every beauty, every pain, and saw how it was all connected.  The one who loved unto and beyond death.  Even when he fears it . . .”Father, not me!”  But Jor-El knows, as Kal-El does, in his heart.  “They will join you in the sun, Kal-El.”  Mankind perfected, mankind reborn, inspired and brought along by the actions of he who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.

Even Luthor sees the beauty when he looks through the power of Superman.  He sees the heart-wrenching, unstoppable beauty.  The thin, delicate web that unites all.

It’s just such a beautiful comic.  From the spiritual beauty of the idea to the artistic beauty of the execution to the thematic beauty of Superman in the sun to the aesthetic beauty of Lois in her last three panels to the nerdy beauty of that last page.  It’s beauty, and I thank everyone involved for it.

14 Comments

Since reading this issue, I feel stronger, as though the solar heart Superman built is pumping inside my own chest. I will never, ever, forget this story.

And here I was, thinking Morrison’s writing had lost a lot of its humanity to storytelling exercises.

What a wonderful comic! I liked the little touches (which character tries to revive Clark, how his secret identity is covered by a line of Jimmy Olsen dialogue) as much as the big moments (Superman’s solution to the Luthor problem, Luthor’s enlightenment, Superman’s fate). Morrison & Quitely knocked it out of the park.

It was a wonderful series that I wished would never end.

All that it lacked was a wink at the end.

Everyone who worked on this comic deserves sexytime on demand for the rest of their lives.

There have been very, very few Superman comics that I have been able to connect with…

This, however, is utterly superb. I haven’t been to my LCS to pick up the issue yet, but I have been anticipating the last issue like an addict who needs his last fix, but wants to savour that last moment before it is actually all over…

Now I wonder if we can get them to do WE4?

“Now I wonder if we can get them to do WE4?”

How can they? They never did do WE1 and WE2.

bummer

I can not wait to go back and re-read this as a complete story. 12 has consumed my thoughtspace since I put it down, and reading other perceptions and interpretations online is only increasing my appreciation of it. I never had much time for Superman before, and I don’t think I will in the future either. But I will always have time for the story that Morrison, Quitely and Grant have told in this series.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m dying to see it.

Although I’ve occasionally had mixed feelings about this series (could it be possible to be TOO MUCH of a Silver Age homage?) I can see that, in retrospect, it’s probably the most brilliant, uplifting, and well-conceived story published in our lifetime.

Joe – Your write-up was incredibly well-thought-out, touching, and even kind of inspirational. To see any comic exalt a reader in that way… to offer hope, insight, and beauty along with genuine fun… is really awesome. This is the kind of stuff I wish there was more of. The ecclesiastical reading is open to debate but I loved everything you wrote.

Kudos and thanks.

EDIT: That should have read “Superman story published in our lifetime” above.

Phenomenal. For me, this has been a great year for entertainment, with A*S concluding alongside other faves like The Dark Knight and Metallica’s Death Magnetic.

Ah, that really was a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful story. Beautiful in a way peculiar to the character, genre, and medium, even. If only more stories aspired to try and do so much in the course of entertaining and engaging us.

Yep, it was perfect. I was irrationally worried that Morrison would lose the plot at the end, but he and Quitely pulled off the finale in style. Much like issue 10, it doesn’t just get better with every re-reading, it gets better pretty much any time you think about it.

Really glad you enjoyed it, Joe. Your wild praise of the first issue is what got me to pick it up in the first place, IIRC.

You’re right Paperghost. Though something tells me Grant Morrison gets plenty of sexy time when ever he wants.

I am similar to some people who didn’t like Superman that much, but this 12 issue run is just amazing. It is so entertaining and so well told.

If this comes out in an absolute (please DC?) I am getting it for sure!

Oh man, it was so good. The page of Superman building the sun’s new heart was stunning.

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