20 most upbeat superhero stories

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Cover of All-Star Superman omnibus (Image via DC Comics)

19. All-Star Superman

Superman can be a difficult superhero to get right. He’s often overpowered and almost annoyingly good. It gets to the point where writers feel as if they have to engineer tragedy and conflict into his life for the sake of the story. Hence, you get the destructive tornado and pervasive frowning of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

But, writer Grant Morrison leaned just far enough into Superman’s godlike powers that it’s gone back around into interesting and compelling all over again. In All Star Superman (2007), it’s not just that Superman can save plummeting planes or defeat Lex Luthor that makes the story interesting. Instead, the alien strangeness of his powers and life really helps to save the run. In this series, our hero deals with time travel, gravity guns, “solar-radio consciousness”, and a weird realm known as the Underworld, which happens to spit out a substance known as “black kryptonite”.

All Star Superman begins with rough news: Superman rescues a team of scientists studying the sun, but not before his cells get a massive dose of solar radiation. This enhances his powers but also gives him about a year left to live. However, Superman retains his essential goodness and continues to save humanity.

While he’s approaching his apparent death, Superman also manages to go on a series of increasingly strange and mind-bending adventures. All Star Superman is not laugh-out-loud funny like some of the other stories on this list, but it’s beautifully generous and strange, not to mention deeply satisfying.