Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm sorry, but I can't let it go

One more thing that annoyed me about All-Star Superman that seems to have touched other people:

Superman. Is. Not. Going. To. Die.

Giving him some weird sort of cancer has NO emotional resonance. He's not going to die, we know he's not going to die, and so making it seem like he might die is dirty pool. It's not touching. It's not sad. It doesn't help us like the story more.

I'm just saying.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still going to buy issue #3 and will probably enjoy the whole series. But this issue was blah. Blah blah blah blah blah.

I promise to move on now.

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Anonymous Matthew Craig said...

we know he's not going to die

Yeah, but Superman doesn't.

This is a Superman who hasn't died before, remember.

Huh. What are the five states of mind, when diagnosed with a terminal illness? Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair, Acceptance? Something like that?

Moved to Stage five at Super-Speed, didn't he.


1/23/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

we know he's not going to die

I've never understood this line of criticism; it's absolutely nonsensical, and yet I'm hearing it more and more (along the lines of "X is about to die at the end of issue 342, which is a bad cliffhanger because we know he won't!").

By that same token, we know that the bad guys, whoever they are - Luthor, the Joker, Dr. Doom, whatever - will never win. Any threat they pose to the hero, any plot they have for world domination or mass destruction, is bound to fail. So why bother reading? Really, if you're looking for stories with unpredictable endings, traditional superhero fare is not the genre for you.

What makes these stories interesting, despite our knowledge that Good Will Inevitably Triumph Over Evil, is the path the story takes to get there.

1/23/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous RAB said...

No, sorry, this is completely wrong, because...that's not what the story is about.

The story, at least so far, is "What if Superman THOUGHT he was going to die? How does it change him? What would he think about? What would his first priorities be? How would he try and secure his legacy? How would he handle his relationships? What things has he always wanted to do, but put off for one reason or another?"

You can compare it to the movie "Last Holiday" -- either the Alec Guinness original or the Queen Latifah remake -- it's not some hollow exercise in cheap suspense, but an examination of how we put off the things we really want to do, and how we might live instead if we believed we had nothing left to lose.

It honestly would make no difference to the effectiveness of this story if every cover had the words "OF COURSE HE'S NOT REALLY GOING TO DIE, HE ONLY THINKS HE IS" in huge letters. Because it's about how a Superman responds to the awareness of his own mortality, the imminent possibility of his death, after a lifetime of assuming he was indestructible. And that's always a worthwhile story to tell because, after all, isn't that how most of us lead our lives?

1/23/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Walaka said...

In 1968, I remember reading the multi-issue Virus X story in Action Comics, and Superman got this leprosy-like thing, and he was shot off into space to be cremated in the hottest sun there was, but it turned out he didn't die after all (he was saved by the Bizarros in a twist of comic book fate). When I read that story, I didn't know that he wasn't going to die.

I mean, I was eleven and all, but I'm just sayin'.

1/23/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Mh said...

I'm going with the majority here. The point isn't that we're supposed to expect him to die. And anyway, since this is an out-of-continuity mini-series, he very well may die at the conclusion. I doubt it and haven't really even considered the possibility. I've only considered it a plot device.

I haven't read elsewhere where people (at least a significant number) have been worried/moved over All-Star Superman's upcoming demise. Frankly this sounds like a strawman.

1/23/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Both Mr. Lungfish and RAB make excellent points, and I shan't argue them. I'm just pointing out that it's certainly interesting to see HOW Superman would react to the idea that he would die, but I have read in more than one place how sad the story is. It's not sad. It may turn out to be interesting, because of ALL the reason cited, and I think it will, because Morrison certainly can do that, but don't claim one of the reasons the book is good is because it's so very sad.

To go with Lungfish's point, that would be like reading a story that ends with Dr. Doom taking over the world and including in your review how shocking it is that he did it. Of course he's going to lose, so it's not shocking. That's my point - Morrison can certainly examine what the characters would do if they think Superman is going to die, but, again, it's not sad at all.

1/23/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous RAB said...

A side note to Walaka: I was six when that story was published...and it scared the living crap out of me! I can still remember how upset I was, not so much at the prospect of Superman's supposed demise, but at the manner of his prospective death: through a slow, painful, disfiguring illness. This story probably scarred me for life.

1/23/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

but don't claim one of the reasons the book is good is because it's so very sad.

This is actually a very good point, and something that felt off in the first issue, too. We never feel the emotional impact of Superman facing death - something this ridiculously overpowered version of the character would find completely foreign. How does he react? Is he fearful? Is he angry? Does he start to see humans a little differently - as fellow mortals whom he protects out of empathy and compassion, instead of as citizens of a protectorate he defends out of a sense of duty? We get none of that. We see what he does next - he reveals himself to Lois - but we don't see what went on in his head to get him there. The few glimpses we do get of his thought process are limited to the intentionally Silver Agey ("How can I tell her I only wanted this time together because it may be our last?"), which convey about as much emotional depth as the "CHOKE!"-era comics they imitate.

There was one moment I'd say had some genuine sadness in it, and that was Clark Kent seeing Superman's reflection in the Mirror of Truth. It was sad for me, at least, as someone who's always liked Clark Kent more than Superman, to see the more interesting character be told in no uncertain terms that he doesn't exist.

Regardless, I'm liking this book so far because I'm not approaching it as a Great Work. I think it's a very good piece of well-done pulpy fun, with most of the attendent cliches that suggests.

1/23/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"You can compare it to the movie "Last Holiday" -- either the Alec Guinness original or the Queen Latifah remake"

Oh, God. I did not need to know that.

1/23/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Foss said...

"and so making it seem like he might die is dirty pool"

By that definition, isn't any story featuring a conflict between Superman and someone or something "dirty pool"? We all know that Superman's going to be around for the next issue, we knew that he wasn't dead permanently the first time because his titles kept going; we knew he wouldn't stay blue because his book was still called "Man of Steel," and we know that he'll be there tomorrow because he's the man of that too.

The point isn't in the ending, but in the how-you-get-there. I would have thought that anyone reading/watching serialized drama would be aware of that.

1/23/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Anonymous carla said...

YES! YES!! He obviously isn't going to die, there is no threat and thus, no push for the story! Why even threaten it, why not say 'and if you don't.... your *loved ones* will die!' or 'innocent people' or... 'your cat!' Something a little more plausable?

Also, please see 'Spider-Man: The Othoer: Evolve or Die'.

1/27/2006 02:36:00 AM  

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