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Friday, January 12, 2007

 

All-Star Superman #6


The sixth issue of this occasional series deals with our hero's return to the low-key environs of his Smallville home, only to face a chaotic attack from a time-travelling monster and the death of his adopted father (and that shouldn't be a spoiler for anyone who's seen the book's downbeat cover). However, whereas other writers might take this as a reason to overburden the character with ill-fitting and morose scenes of brooding and despair, Grant Morrison sees it as an excuse to craft yet another effortlessly thrilling romp - albeit one with a bittersweet ending - in which three mysterious strangers arrive at the Kent farm with a secret which ties them more closely to the Man of Steel than any of the Kent family suspect.

One of the great strengths of All-Star Superman is that it doesn't try to shock readers into submission by fundamentally reinterpreting the character or introducing sledgehammer revelations in an effort to hold the interest of its audience. In an age where the death of every minor or supporting character is hyped to the point that you could almost believe its impact was capable of rending the information superhighway in twain, Morrison's book makes for a pleasantly modest and understated antidote. People have talked about the writer's approach to the title as evocative of the Silver Age of comics, but Morrison's canvas is wider than that: whilst the colourful, vibrant visuals and classic-feeling characterisation definitely suggest a certain nostalgia for the 1970s heyday of the superhero genre, the sci-fi concepts and technology mark it out as modern, whereas the speech patterns and vocabulary (and, in this issue, the look and feel of Smallville) are so old-fashioned that they feel firmly rooted in the 1950s. The result is that the book's story exists in a timeless bubble - and that's a perfect way to present the enduring icon that is Superman.
By: Dave Wallace

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