The Best Superman Stories since 2000

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by Jeremy DeFatta

Much as this year is Batman’s 75th birthday, last year (the year of Man of Steel) was Superman’s. I’d like to commemorate that in much the same way I’ve been approaching this blogging thing so far, so here are my top five favorite Superman stories from the past 15 years, listed in no particular order. Superman fans are likely familiar with most or all of these, which should help get some discussion moving, but readers unfamiliar with the character’s more recent exploits will hopefully find helpful suggestions for new reading material.

All-Star Supermanby Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

I imagine a lot, if not most, of my readers have heard of this acclaimed Grant Morrison story. This is basically Morrison’s love letter to Silver Age Superman, and he does not disappoint. The basic premise is that Superman is dying and he has a limited amount of time in which to accomplish a few great works and leave the world a better place for all time in his passing. I won’t go into any more details (because I don’t want to spoil what this story eventually becomes) but if you read nothing else on this list, read this.

Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson

Many fans consider this to be the OTHER greatest Superman story ever, along with All-Star. In Red Son, Mark Millar creates an at first subtly different world that then spirals into something immensely unfamiliar to readers, all of which begins with a simple thought experiment—what if baby Kal-El’s spaceship had crashed in the middle of the Soviet Union instead of Kansas? What if Superman grew up to become the champion of communism rather than Truth, Justice, and the American Way? Millar is a genius at writing comics filled with confrontational ideas, and this one does not disappoint.

Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen

Though many will argue that this isn’t a “true” Superman story, I feel it still belongs on this list. Imagine living your life as you normally do, and one day suddenly developing superhuman strength, speed, senses, and the ability to fly. What would you do with your newfound powers? Kurt Busiek’s protagonist (unashamedly also named Clark Kent) decides to become a very real Superman, even down to the costume. This is worth reading for a variety of reasons, the exploration of the emotional appeal of the superhero (especially Superman) being chief among them.

TIE: Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu, and Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

The years before The New 52 also saw a couple of reinterpretations of Superman’s traditional origin story, one written by Mark Waid and the other written by Geoff Johns. Birthright by Waid is my preferred of the two listed here, mostly because of the epic, cinematic scope of the story as young Clark Kent travels the world deciding what his place in it will be. That, and the final moment of the story is just… Go read it, all right? Johns’ version is somewhat different, relying more on updating tried-and-true methods of introducing Superman’s early years. This is not to say it is inferior (Johns’ writing never disappoints), but I prefer Waid’s more daring project. New readers should take in one or both of these to get a good handle on where the character began.

Superman: Camelot Falls by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco

Busiek’s second entry on this list is a somewhat lengthy story set firmly in DC’s pre-New 52 continuity. That being said, though the things that happen in this run on Superman may no longer be entirely canonical, they are still worth taking in. The core of the story revolves around time travel and Superman trying to figure out warnings from the future that he brings about some world-ending cataclysm. Interspersed with this story are many episodic asides that really dig down to the roots of Superman’s character and run the gamut from helping old ladies on the street to encountering other aliens stranded on Earth. If you’re up for a lengthier read, check this one out!

Bonus: Geoff Johns’ other work on the character in Superman and Action Comics is definitely worth looking into. I also enjoy J. Michael Straczynski’s work on the character, particularly his attempts at reinventing him under DC’s Earth One imprint. You can likely find all of these stories at your local comic shop, so go out and support it! I’ll return to Superman in future blog posts.

What are your favorite interpretations of Superman? Let me know below. Follow me on Twitter @quaintjeremy.

Image: Delirious Geek

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9 thoughts on “The Best Superman Stories since 2000

  1. “Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is my favorite. It has a definite end, which I appreciate (that wink), and I feel like I follow all the motivations of each character, which is unusual for me in a Superman story.

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    • That does have some interesting character moments and a good sense of closure to it, but I’ve always looked at it as another product of Alan Moore’s mid-to-late 80s quest to kill all things superhero best exemplified in Watchmen. Not to say it isn’t good; I just have a mixed relationship with Moore’s work at this point after the thesis.

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  2. Camelot Falls is the only one on this list I don’t recognize, I’ll check it out!

    Kingdom Come is sort of an ensemble thing, but it also makes it onto my personal list of favorite Superman comics.

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    • Camelot Falls is a great mixed bag of Superman character moments. And I think I consider the storyline to be broader than the Comic Vine link above suggests; it really was spaced out over quite a few issues of Busiek’s run on the title and honestly informed most of that run.

      I’ll always have a soft spot for Kingdom Come. 🙂

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      • Kingdom Come my first “real” comic… Watchmen was my first comic, but I thought I didn’t like the longstanding ones with all the continuity and whatnot. I’d just dipped into some very old Spiderman and X-Men. I don’t remember why I was reading Kingdom Come, but I got hooked on continuity, that’s for sure.

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  5. All you choices are great picks. But how about “Superman: Earth One”? I really enjoyed the fresh take on Supes in that book. Plus the art style was right up my alley.

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