All Star Superman #12 is finally here, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s twelve-part epic (and it truly is an epic) has come to its long-awaited conclusion. For a while, Morrison was teasing that this conclusion would be the be-all end-all of all Superman stories, so I was somewhat surprised when I got the final page and wasn’t presented with any sort of twist or revelation but rather the final piece of a puzzle that, I think, we’re supposed to put together ourselves.
So with a great deal of thanks to Kal-L at the Comic Bloc and our own Gabe Mariani, I’m going to try to see if I can figure out what was really going on for these twelve issues. Spoilers, obviously, below the fold.
I find it very difficult to believe that Leo Quintum is anyone other than Lex Luthor himself, heavily implied by both the similarities in the trenchcoat and the appearances of their female assistants (Nasthalthia’s helmetgun is somewhat similar to Agatha’s hairdo).
Starting from there, consider that Quintum’s coat is a rainbow rather than green – much like Lex’s experience in ASS #12 where he’s brought down by the inherent beauty of the universe now that he can sense the entire spectrum of life, Quintum is a new, reformed Lex Luthor who’s finally saving the world as he always claimed.
Rehabilitation has been a major theme throughout the work, as has the “neverending battle” between Superman and Lex Luthor. In #4, Superman solved the riddle of the Sphinx – “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” – with the answer that would provide the thematic center of this conclusion, “they surrender.” At the end of All Star Superman, Superman has retreated to the heart of the sun – literally becoming a Sun God! – essentially realizing Luthor’s dream of a world without Superman. And what is he, according to (hilariously enough) Quintum and Lois? Bored. He’s got no more drive. He’s lost the fight. He’s surrendered. He can’t save the world now; everyone wants him dead. So he goes back in time.
And now, we come to the enigmatic final page of the book, and what it might mean, especially intertwined with the “God creates man/man creates God” theme of #10:
Quintum: “Now that we know how it’s done…”
Okay, what’s going on here? We’ve got the door implying that inside, in P.R.O.J.E.C.T., is a second Superman. But it’s not a “Superman Reborn” or “Cloned Superman” symbol or anything, it’s a Superman symbol that looks like the number two. As in, the second attempt. And Quintum’s line – “Now that we know how it’s done”…
Did Leo Quintum createSuperman? Was there ever a Krypton? Or was Krypton all the fever-dream of an older Lex Luthor, now Leo Quintum, imagining a planet of super science-gods as the backstory for his project? I recognize it’s not easy to reconcile this with the appearances of Kandor, the Phantom Zone and the Kryptonian astronauts, but P.R.O.J.E.C.T.’s resources are vast and thematically the idea of Lex Luthor going back in time and atoning for his sins by creating Superman to inspire humanity is so utterly perfect that I’m continually drawn to the idea. Is Morrison implying this? Or am I just dreaming? Because otherwise, I’m really not sure what the Superman-2 project is supposed to represent.
UPDATE: Or, as David Brothers just pointed out, it could just be the birth of the Superman Corps leading up to DC One Million, using the vials Superman gave Quintum during #11. Still, though, I think there’s seriously something to the theme of redemption and the Luthor/Quintum connection. I’m curious to hear what everyone else thought of the issue.