There are hundreds upon hundreds of mediocre Superman stories. There are, perhaps, dozens upon dozens of good Superman stories. Morrison and Quitely'sThere are hundreds upon hundreds of mediocre Superman stories. There are, perhaps, dozens upon dozens of good Superman stories. Morrison and Quitely's All Star Superman is one of the really great Superman stories.
As I understand it, the concept behind the "All Star" books (there was also one for Batman, and I think one for Wonder Woman is in the works or underway) was to put top talents on a 12 issues story arc unbound by continuity. This certainly appears to have worked for All Star Superman. This book collects the first half of the story. Morrison gives us a Superman who is human, hero, and legend. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luther, and the Smallville gang each have a chance in the spotlight, and each shine. Quitely's art is wonderful, too, really bringing out unusual dimensions to these characters. It's a definite departure from the iconic Curt Swan art of my youth, but his depictions of Smallville and the Fortress are breathtaking. Can't wait to get my hands on Vol 2 to see how the whole thing turned out....more
Alan Moore left comics in the late '80s following a dispute with DC over merchandising royalties associated with his landmark series Watchmen. By theAlan Moore left comics in the late '80s following a dispute with DC over merchandising royalties associated with his landmark series Watchmen. By the mid-'90s he was back, doing a bit of work for Image and a wonderful run on Maximum/Awesome's Supreme and associated books. In the late '90s, for WildStorm, he was given his own imprint, America's Best Comics, and created a number of diverse titles that each took the idea of a super-hero comic in very different directions.
Promethea was one of the initial batch of ABC titles, and remains my favorite. The 32 issue series was originally collected in five hardcover collections (and later softcover as well). They are now in the process of being re-collected in DC's "Absolute" format: large, deluxe slipcovered hardcovers with gorgeous production quality (DC bought WildStorm, ABC's parent company, around the time ABC was formed, thus putting Moore in the position of indirectly working for DC again). This first volume collects the first 12 issues (essentially the first two volumes of the previous collections). A second volume, collecting the next 13 issues, is already out, and a final volume, collecting the last seven issues plus (presumably) bonus material is forthcoming.
Promethea is essentially a guide to Moore's idea of what magic is, disguised as a super-hero comic. In the introductory arc, we meet young Sophie Bangs, college student, who is writing a term paper on what she believes to be a fictional character, Promethea, who appears to have had several unusual incarnations in Romantic poetry, newspaper comic strips, pulp novels, and comic books. During the course of her research, she manages to track down, unbeknownst to her, the most recent Promethea, now in semi-retirement, and unwittingly stirs the interest of an old enemy of Promethea's, who decides to launch a pre-emptive strike against Sophie out of fear she will become the next Promethea--which, indeed, she does. The failure of the initial strike leads to plans for a much larger attack, and in a race against time Sophie must learn both the history of her predecessors as well as enough about her new self to enable herself to survive the forthcoming brouhaha.
The above may sound like standard super-hero fare, and in other hands it could easily have become so. But the super-hero theatrics are really only stage dressing that provide the motivation for Sophie's education in magic, and that journey is fascinating. The second major arc, in the following volume, deals with an in depth magical road trip, but this first volume lays some of the groundwork for that, with an explanation of the four elements/Tarot suits/magical weapons, the Tarot's major arcana, the introduction of the idea of the 10 spheres and 22 paths of the Kabbalah/Tree of Life, and more.
The art on Promethea is by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray. Williams is perfectly in tune with Moore on this book, and the Absolute format really gives his art the chance to shine. Williams is particularly noted for his innovative page layouts--he uses recurring motifs and stylized page layouts to move the story along and to suggest different layers of reality. Throughout the series, though more so in the later issues than in these, Moore and Williams take many opportunities to explore alternative storytelling techniques. Highlights from this volume mostly come from the three stories that close the book, acting as transitions between the first and second story arcs. In chapter 10, Promethea learns how sex and magic relate, and there are a number of innovative page designs and story loops that make this "more" than a straightforward narrative. Chapter 11 is told in a "widescreen" format, where all the pages are designed for a landscape orientation rather than a portrait orientation. And Chapter 12 involves an exploration of the Tarot, with each page a splash page that simultaneously tells three different narratives that intertwine and come together as each progresses.
A final delight are the covers by Williams and Todd Klein, which each pay tribute to various artists and art styles, such as Terry Gilliam, a Sgt Pepper's collage, an old pulp novel style cover, a romance comic, '60s rock posters, etc.
Looking forward to picking up the second volume when finances permit (these aren't cheap books)....more