When All-Star Superman came out in single issues, it grabbed my attention in spite of the fact that I am not actively reading comics, but I opted to treat this like I do my TV viewing and just wait until it was completed and collected. With news that DC Animation was going to be producing a movie based on this story, I decided that if I was ever going to read this, the time was now. Reading source material before watching the movie isn't my usual MO, but in this case, I decided to make the effort.
I am a huge Superman fan, but I find that there is an incredible lack of great Superman stories. I was a long-time reader of the comics and jumped on before John Byrne took over the titles and stayed with the character for about 15 years. Very little of my Superman readings over the years have come close to being this good. What Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns was to Batman, All-Star Superman is to Superman. Often, Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" is thought of as the quintessential Superman ending, but All-Star Superman far, far surpasses it.
I find that I am hit or miss with writer Grant Morrison, but he gets Superman far more than I would have ever guessed. Morrison is able to boil down the Superman mythos of the past 70+ years into broad strokes and capture the basics of the major characters. He doesn't overlook the absurdity of the character either. All the wackiness of Superman's past is here and integral to the story and character. The downside of Morrison's writing is that I felt at times like I was missing some background on some of the supporting characters. However, anything I was missing was easily filled in by me or not needed and actually added a depth to the universe.
Frank Quitely's art has never looked better. A decade ago, I wasn't a fan, but his skill has grown by leaps and bounds. Superman has a "page presence" here that makes him pop off the page. Quitely shows that he can draw a variety of characters with a variety of emotions. His small, quiet scenes are beautiful and touching and his action scenes are full of the needed grandiose.
One final note...it was nice to see this story be exclusively about Superman. Batman is mentioned, but never seen. The Bizarro versions of Flash and Green Lantern are seen, but none of the Justice League plays a part in this story. Morrison doesn't ignore the existence of the other DC characters, but they are not a part of this story. Too often, the Superman stories of recent days have relied "enhancing" the stories by having other heroes show up. Team-ups are nice, but it's time to set that lazy crutch aside and tell stories about Superman alone as this All-Star Superman tale does.
I'm looking forward to the animated movie, but have some skepticism about how well it can be pulled off in the 65-75 minute format. That said, I'd like to see the Superman property move in this direction on-screen. The upcoming Zack Snyder-directed live action reboot should embrace this version of the character. I want to see a Superman where ANYTHING can happen, not a Superman where NOTHING happens.
Here's the trailer for the upcoming animated movie: