DC Comics continue their new line designed to appeal to people who want to read comics about iconic characters but don’t want to get bogged down in decades of continuity. The all-Scot team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely certainly fulfil this aspect of their brief, spending just one page (four panels, and a total of eight words) summarising Superman’s origin, and then they get on with the action, which is as big-scale mad-science as you’d expect from Morrison. The art’s the usual high-quality Quitely – clear linework and good composition, and there are moments where the choreography of the panels is quite remarkable – an example would be page 19, where Clark Kent stumbles into Perry White’s office; a variety of slapstick business is depicted, but it’s always absolutely clear what’s going on. Overall, this debut issue sets up a number of interesting ideas, and I’ll certainly be picking up the next issue.
Though I have some reservations about DC’s thinking on the All Star line as an idea; granted, their competitors Marvel have had a lot of success with their ‘Ultimate’ line, taking exactly the same more-accessible approach with characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men, but both these lines strike me as likely to have a broader appeal within the existing readership, rather than tackling the well-established problem of a dwindling number of new readers coming in. As I understand it, there’s no notable push beyond the usual markets for these titles – getting them distributed in Wal-Mart or similar, for example – and so really we’re looking at titles which may sell well, but predominantly within the limited Direct Sales market.
DC may well rush-release collected volumes of the All Star titles for bookshop distribution, but that’s ‘after the fact’, effectively fragmenting the potential readership into those who’ll actively seek out their comic shop to buy the monthly issues, and people who might come across the trade paperback in a bookshop. Whereas, if the comics were on newsstands across the country, I think it’s fair to say more casual purchasers might take a chance on the comic, and that would actively expand the audience, which I’m led to believe is the intention behind the All Star and Ultimate lines alike.