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"All-Star Superman," the second series in DC Comics' All-Star line, is off to a whitehot start.
The All-Star line uses comics' hottest creators to tell stories of DC's biggest heroes. First up was "All-Star Batman & Robin," written by "Sin City" creator Frank Miller and illustrated by superstar artist Jim Lee. "All-Star Superman" is in the hands of writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely, who also worked together on Marvel's "New X-Men" a few years ago.
In "Batman & Robin," Miller is retelling the origin of Robin, bringing a hard-edged sensibility to the story. Perhaps too hard-edged. In issue No. 2, a grieving Dick Grayson, who has just seen his parents murdered, questions Batman. "Are you dense?" Batman lashes back. "Are you retarded or something?" This Caped Crusader is such a creep that I'm not sure I want to keep reading.
For "All-Star Superman," Morrison has crafted an all new adventure, set in a time before Lois Lane learned Superman and Clark Kent were one and the same. The first issue, in comic-book shops now, finds Superman saving a group of explorers on the surface of the sun. He'll pay a heavy price for his solar excursion as he learns being super doesn't mean being immortal.
It looks like Morrison will bring in all the classic Superman elements - the Daily Planet, Lex Luthor, the Fortress of Solitude - while letting his always abundant imagination run free.
Not everyone embraces Quitely's distinctive art style: Some say his characters are consistently ugly, with one online critic complaining his Superman looks like Frankenstein's monster without the neck bolts. But I enjoy his art. His first-issue cover, featuring a sun-splashed Superman sitting in the clouds, sets a nice, reflective tone for the series.
THE LONG WAIT IS OVER: In December, Marvel Comics releases the fourth and fifth issues of a six-part miniseries, "Spider-Man & the Black Cat: The Evil Men Do."
That's big news because it has been, believe it or not, three years since the last issue.
Blame filmmaker Kevin Smith, the writer, for the long delay.
In a posting at his View Askew Web site, he offered "zero defense" for his lateness and said he understands if disgruntled readers choose to boycott the remaining issues.
I'm torn. I hate to reward such incredible tardiness. On the other hand, I don't want to punish myself by missing a story that Marvel promises will have all of comic fandom buzzing by the last issue.
I'll probably get the last three issues. Which means I have to decide whether to dig through three years of comics to find the earlier issues, since I have no memory of the story line, or pay $4.99 for a just-published "Marvel Must-Have" edition that collects those long-ago three issues.
Speaking of Spider-Man, he's in the middle of a 12-part, four-month story running through his three regular titles, "Amazing Spider-Man," "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" and the new "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." Like the Man of Steel in "All-Star Superman," Spider-Man is being forced to face his mortality.
I'm always a sucker for a story like this in which the hero faces insurmountable odds. The story, titled "Spider-Man: The Other," has the tagline of "Evolve or Die." It's safe to assume Spidey will evolve. But into what?
(Reach Bill Radford at comics(AT)gazette.com)
(c) 2005, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.