“All-Star Superman” is not only the best superhero comic currently being published, it’s one of the few superhero comics to transcend the genre and aspire to something more. Since his early career, Grant Morrison has used superhero comics to explore the relationship between fiction and reality, and, unlike other comic book greats like Alan Moore or Frank Miller, he doesn’t have any interest in making fiction more like reality. He wants to make reality more like fiction, specifically, superhero fiction.
In “All-Star Superman” #10, Morrison demonstrates that this comic, like much of his other work, is about the connection between the fictional reality of the DC Universe and the reality of the world of its creators. Twenty years ago, in “Animal Man”, Morrison showed Buddy Baker that a higher plane of reality existed, a world of the writer who could manipulate events based on pure whim. Here in “All-Star Superman” #10, Morrison reveals that the Earth of Friedrich Nietzsche and Joe Shuster, the Earth fascinated by the notion of a “Superman,” is part of a Superman experiment called “Earth Q.” Superman wishes to study a “world without Superman,” and therefore, he infuses a “promising speck of grit” with solar energy, giving birth to a miniature solar system, out of which evolves Earth as we know it.
Morrison thus posits a new cosmology, which places our reality inside the reality of the fictional DC Universe. Morrison’s shadow doesn’t hover over his fictional characters, as it did in “Animal Man”. Here, the mythic shadow of the great Superman hovers over us all, and like the puppets from Plato’s “Parable of the Cave,” our traditional concept of Superman is but an imperfect representation of the ideal.
Yet, that metaphysical notion is only a few panels out of the entire issue, as Morrison and Quitely give us a Superman preparing to confront his death. A Superman engaging with his miniature Kryptonian brothers from the bottle city of Kandor. A Superman who battles Mechano-Man’s giant battle suit without flinching. A Superman who holds a suicidal young woman and says, “You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” A Superman who uses his super-science to cure cancer.
This Supermanï¿½”the perfect form of the Superman who Geoff Johns or Kurt Busiek only hint at in their monthly storiesï¿½”this Superman rises above genre conventions to become something mythic. He is a god. He is the perfection that we can only dream of. And only Morrison and Quitely, at the top of their game, can even attempt to tell his stories.
“All-Star Superman” #10 establishes that Superman isn’t a concept that humans created, humanity is a concept that Superman created.