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All-Star Superman #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Superman/Olsen War!

On this particular day in the life of Jimmy Olsen, the kid’s got his hands full with an evil Superman and a plan to save the world…question is, what will it cost him?

allstarsuperman004Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Digitally Inked & Colored by: Jamie Grant
Letters: Phil Balsman
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover Art: Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant
Publisher: DC Comics

I hardly even remember the previous issue, offhand. Thankfully, due to the nature of this series, one doesn’t really have to remember that issue to "get" and enjoy THIS one.

Jimmy Olsen here is working on a series of "For a Day" columns, in which he takes on certain jobs for a day, following them with a column about his experiences. The focal role he takes on in this issue is as Director of "P.R.O.J.E.C.T."

Of course, Jimmy being Jimmy, trouble ensues, resulting in the summoning of Superman to the scene, to bail everyone outta said trouble…though this, predictably, only leads to more trouble–and ultimately, a certain ‘friction’ between Superman and Jimmy.

The conflict becomes physical, and as the issue’s story-title suggests, we get to see Superman and Jimmy really go at it–while providing a semi-unique interpretation of yet another character, working it into the "All-Star" version of things in such a way that doesn’t interrupt status quo, and is left open to return later.

This issue is yet another example of how both Morrison and Quitely present a Superman comic that greatly differs from the current/ongoing main titles…and yet "gets" a certain essential aspect of the characters, telling stories that are possibly more fun and entertaining than those main titles. This may not be THE Superman that everyone seeks…but this version of Superman should be recognizable by anyone.

The art is clear and distinct–conveying exactly what needs to be conveyed. The visuals may not be "photorealistic," but they don’t need to be–they have a style all their own, that works very well for this issue–and the series as a whole.

While I am personally a fan of "continuity," this issue is argument in itself showing what can be done outside the bounds of "continuity."

Long-time Superman fan or newer reader, this issue–and the earlier issues of the series, as well–are very much worth picking up. If you don’t care for the main Superman books, this series is far enough removed that you needn’t worry about some infinite crossover or anything. Being approximately bi-monthly, the series puts less strain on the wallet, and each issue having a self-contained story, while carrying certain threads from one to another makes for a rewarding, satisfying reading experience.

Ratings:

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

A casual ‘review’ of All-Star Superman

allstarsupermanblurayMonths ago—would’ve been around the release of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse—I was rather surprised to learn that the next feature from the DC/Warner Premiere line of direct-to-home-media features would be All-Star Superman. I just didn’t see it.

The title? That was just an imprint DC was trying. Why not give it some other title to reflect the story a bit more? And being such a niche title years in the past that isn’t really affecting continuity anywhere….

But then, that’s actually the beauty of the thing. A self-contained epic. Nothing came before. Nothing comes after. Just a single, closed arc.

allstarsupermanpageoneI loved the opening. One of the things that jumped out at me initially when I’d read the first issue of the comic series back in late 2004 was the way it took just a handful of panels to sum up all you need to know about Superman’s past.

Doomed planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly couple.

It was the embodiment of something I’d read during my undergrad years when I was working on a paper; essentially about the way certain elements of key figures in our popular culture are the same through whatever reimaginings.

This film takes that opening—even maintaining the still-shots on the screen, without animation, perfectly (in my mind) capturing that simple opening of the comic…all the more for not feeling the need TO animate the sequence.

allstarsuperman001The rest of the film follows much of the comics’ path, though in far less detail. A lot of time is spent on Lois’ stint as Superwoman. We’re then moved along into Samson and Atlas’ appearance and challenges, to the Kryptonian astronauts, and ultimately back to Luthor for the big finale.

There are slight  nods to other parts of the series—I spotted Bizarro on some sort of chessboard in the Fortress, for example. And we’re given a brief scene in which Clark visits his father’s grave (though that issue when we saw the death of Jonathan was one of the most powerful issues of this series, to me, particularly in retrospect). We also did not get the Jimmy/Doomsday story. allstarsuperman006

The animation itself wasn’t anything spectacular. Watching the blu-ray didn’t make any kind of noticable difference to me. It wasn’t bad, mind you. I did like the “compromise” on the visual style. Quitely’s got a unique visual style that I often like but just as often take issue with, but I didn’t think it was a style I wanted to see mimicked for animation. (To the opposite, I greatly enjoy Ed McGuiness’ visual style used in animation, as on the first Superman/Batman dvd).

Certain touches of Quitely’s art was clearly adapted for this feature, but it was “softened” somehow, for lack of better phrasing offhand. A lot of lines were removed, so that none of the characters appeared lumpy. This made for a sorta different-looking Superman, who seemed a bit older than I’d usually picture, but not in a bad way.

allstarsuperman003The take on Lois was quite good…no complaints there. I was rather interested in how this Lois somehow visually put me in mind of “Bones,” though that comparison may simply be my limited exposure to Bones.

Other than the simplistic fact that we don’t have Tim Daly, Clancy Brown, or Dana Delany, I have no complaints with the voiceacting. In this case, I don’t think I was familiar with any of the voices involved, except perhaps Ed Asner (Perry White). This unfamiliarity allowed me to simply enjoy this for the story and characters, without distraction of visualizing actors behind the characters.

The story overall really felt like it was almost multiple “episodes” made into an overall whole. Coming from having read the comics, and seeing this as an adaptation of the comics, I didn’t mind the way things sort of jump from one to the next—though I was specifically looking for that, having been slightly “spoiled” by comments made on twitter and facebook prior to my watching this—with people expressing frustration at the story jumping and being disjointed.

I can see that, but as said…I took it in stride, and it didn’t bother me, if only for my knowing about it.

mcduffiecreditUnfortunately, especially as excited as I was to pick this up and watch it, news came through online this afternoon that writer Dwayne McDuffie died. I hadn’t even realized that he wrote the  script for this until today. It did seem sorta strange to not see a dedication to him in the end credits…but of course, his passing was so sudden and unexpected.

The package for this film isn’t anything wonderful. The cover image is rather iconic, though, and certainly gets to the heart of the overall story. I’m not at all impressed at the “extras.” I do enjoy the “teaser” shorts for whatever the next film in the line will be (in this case, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights). The Grant Morrison thing wasn’t all that thrilling—it seemed almost “phoned in,” so to speak. Never have been much a fan of commentaries, and this soon after watching, I’m not at all ready to re-watch with the commentary on, so can’t speak to that. If commentaries are you thing…well, there’s that.

I picked up the Target version, which includes a couple episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. One episode was one I’d just watched from the actual Superman: The Animated Series dvd set in the last couple days; and I’m not interested in the other, as I assume that comes later, and plan to watch the series in order.

All in all, HIGHLY disappointed in the “extras,” given how many extra shorts and features and such have been jam-packed into other recent releases—the discrepency between the “special edition” dvd and blu-ray editions with those is what mainly motivated me to go for the blu-ray this time, when I really should have simply stuck to the DVD.

I’d recommend a purchase for the die-hard fans that’ll watch this a few times. For the casual viewer, I recommend a rental. I think if I was going to give this a hard ‘n fast rating, it’s got a good 6.5 or 7 of 10 from me, primarily penalized by the (lack of) extras.

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