Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Without Warning!

Ok so today is pretty much my damned day, so instead of putting up a joke post, how about I actually write something here? Sound okay? Cool.

If you'll remember, I got pretty excited when I saw the cover for All Star Superman #10 way back when. And man did the issue in question ever exceed my expectations! I'm still looking for a little more Lois Lane, but as Jog has ably pointed out, ASS #10 represents the point where Morrison's favourite themes really start to announce themselves amidst all the sci-fi whimsy. It's kinda like one of those moments on an early Public Enemy album where they throw a sample of one of their own songs into the mix, creating layers of rhetoric within the noise in a way that reinforces the furious self belief behind their worldview.

While we're on the topic of layering, how beautifully messed up is the idea that our universe is an imperfect experiment, a sort of damaged sub-reality striving towards the cooperative fantasy playfulness of the All Star Superman universe? That's yer typical Morrison-ian Gnostic rhetoric right there in miniature that is!

But remember: "The Gnostic error is to hate the material world... the material world is the part of heaven we can touch."

(Sorry, I'm re-reading The Invisibles right now, and surprise -- it's still alive, still arguing with me, still open to reinterpretation and suggestion. Plus I'm like ridiculously sure Superman would agree with the sentiment of the above quote, y'know?)

Ah, but as always, I'm focusing too much on Mr Morrison here. The beauty of this comic is so tied in with Frank Quitely's astonishing ability to suggest both body language and physical space (colourist Jamie Grant, whose perfect lighting is essential to both qualities, is well overdue a big shout out here). Quitely's figure work, with its tiny scratchy lines, can endow even the goofiest of characters with a sort of melancholy pride. And hey -- there's plenty of humour in those scratches too, which is important when you're working with material this indebted to the excesses of 60s superhero comics.

Once again, Quitely has proved himself to be adept at visually expressing Morrison's key themes in a clear and dynamic way. One of the best chapters of Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics focussed on the frantic shifts in perspective that are key to Morrison's pop-philosophy (this chapter is available to read online -- here are parts 1, 2 and 3). What amuses me is that Morrison and Quitely's We3 conveys many of these themes within the context of a simple, if somewhat bizarre, adventure story. Indeed, freed from the byzantine plot threads, time-shifts and contrasting art styles of works such as Seven Soldiers and The Invisibles, these themes are nevertheless given jarring force in We3 by virtue of Quitely daring choices of framing, angle and design.

All Star Superman #10 manages the same trick, albeit in a much softer way (there are no exploding bunny rabbits or bloody bullet showers here). This issue is full of tiny worlds and even smaller miracles, every one of which is given a distinct sense of importance and scale, so the comic never loses the mix of thoughtful precision and silly joy that has been key to this series' appeal so far.

Given that this issue follows Superman as he rushes around trying to prepare for his death, it's also full of intimations of mortality, but even they have a sort of benign stoicism to them, as this image (a perfect "small" moment in every respect) shows clearly:

"No more brooding on the terraces" -- I like it. Here's hoping that the last two issues contain many more historic moments, though I doubt the ending of this wonderful comic will have anywhere near the same literal/symbolic importance of this legal decision re: the copyright of Action Comics #1. And if the information at that link ain't enough for ya, go have a look at Monday's Journalista.

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