When you think of the big name writers of the last ten years who comes to mind.
Top of your head:
Each great writers, all have told tales most could hold up as "quintessential" reading material.
All have worked on big name characters and walked away having told some great stories but out of the names mentioned few have told a story most could hold up as "the definitive superhero story."
Morrison's ALL-STAR SUPERMAN makes a great case for the title and while Simone is writing what I currently think is the best mainstream title going in SECRET SIX, it has nary a hero in the bunch and has become a beast, in and of itself.
If you asked me to show you everything a superhero comic should be, each and every time, the answer would always be the same:
Joe Kelly's ACTION COMICS #775, "WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY."
It's simply a comic that says something. About the state of comics, the state of the hero, the state of the genre and who better to represent it all than the original superhero, SUPERMAN.
From the photo-realism of the Tim Bradstreet cover to the brutal yet heroic interior art of artist Doug Mahnke, this is what I have come to call, "quintessential."
The story opens up with the world enthralled by the actions of the superteam, The Elite, a team known for the lethal brand of justice in which they dispense of foes. Countries across the world embrace their ways and hail them as the new heroes of the 21st century. In a world with a Superman, their feats make him seem passe', archaic. Superman knows their ways to be wrong and quietly stands in defiance of The Elite by standing firm by holding onto his beliefs. The new way seems to have won out as The Elite calls Superman out in front of a worldwide audience. Just as it seems The Man of Steel may have to resort to their tactics in order to stand against this new power, Kelly pulls a brilliant fast one that left this reader, literally, covering his mouth to muffle a yelp.
As the battle's done, Kelly gives Superman the final say, in what I think is the most perfect ending to a comic book ever, leaving The leader of The Elite and the reader with these words:
"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear until my dream of a world where DIGNITY, HONOR and JUSTICE become the reality we ALL share-- I'll NEVER stop fighting. Ever."These simple, eloquent words.
I was well into being an adult as I read them and I felt a shiver go down my spine as he put into words exactly the way I never could about the way I felt about truth, justice and ultimately, what I believed to be The American Way.
It's one of the rare times comics have ever transformed me, spoken to me.
Just as importantly, he brought into clarity why I love the comics medium so damned much.
It is where heroes soar.
Joe Kelly gave us back Superman, he returned to us, our childhood hero.
Better yet, he proved once and for all that he'd never left.