Come On, Let's Go.

In Praise of Brevity, Pt. 2

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All-Star Superman #10, 2008, Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Morrison and Quietly, as they tend to in this series, get along so many emotions and ideas in so few words and such very simple illustration. There a million reasons – some I can describe, some I cannot – but this panel gets me right in the gut every time I see it. There's a context to it revealed organically, previously in the issue: Superman stops a runaway train, riding which is Regan's psychiatrist. He is on other side of the telephone – that small pink thing Regan (nice choice of name, by the way) drops the lefthand panel.

Her facial and body expressions tell the story in a way that dialogue never could. There's sense of disappointment and resignation in her body language: one hand at her mouth, rendering her mute, the other hovering over the dropped phone, unsure of what it has done. With her eyes shut that tight, you know she doesn't want to do what she is about it, and inside that wide-eyed surprise at Superman's silent arrival, there is a sense of relief and closure; things have gone wrong for her, again, but this time it may not be so bad. She still tries to get away from him, almost by reflex, in that Tim-Burton-doll way she is exists, not believing his words but just as quickly embraces him for dear life.

Her sense of alienation is painted perfectly; she's a dark, scratchy splotch against the majestic impersonality of the Metropolis skyscrapers. Superman's speed, too, is conveyed brilliantly as faster than the speed of thought. He arrives silently enough to not spook Regan, in the midst of her last thought, and his touch is calm and soft enough to simply surprise her. He is much larger than her, as invulnerable but not as impassable and numb as the environment which has driven her to suicide. His embrace lets her know that there is a part of her just like him, and in that way, just like the buildings, just like everything in her world, and that she is in no way alone, nor can be.

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  1. your analysis hits almost as hard as the page itself.

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