The second title in the All-Star DC Comics line, and by far the more successful and acclaimed of the two. Grant Morrison's 12-issue limited series touches on nearly every corner of the Superman mythos as it tells the story of Superman's final days.When Lex Luthor finally manages to poison the Man of Tomorrow with an overdose of solar radiation, Superman decides it's time to look back and wrap up his life. There are villains to overcome, answers for the woman he loves, and the Twelve Challenges of Superman to perform, but Lex is still planning something and there is a villain hiding just out of sight...An Animated Adaptation, written by Dwayne McDuffie, was released on Feb. 22, 2011 - the day after McDuffie's death.
"Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."
This also counts the Animated Adaptation in regard to the comic. It drops most of Superman's challenges and focus only on the storyline between Superman and Luthor.
Aesop Amnesia: Luthor — who had just undergone a case of Sudden Humility after duplicating Superman's Super Senses — instantly snaps back to his old self after the powers fade. The ending suggests that this was just an overreaction, and the lessons stuck with him once he calmed down.
Anti-Hero: Bar-El and Lilo at best. While they do use their abilities for good, they are also more than happy to lord their powers over humanity, have nothing but disdain for Superman and spent most of their time on page acting like superpowered bullies.
Bizarro Universe: In this case, the square Bizarro World is a shapeshifting planetary parasite from a higher-gravity dimension that grows inhabitants to appear more like the world it's feeding on. These include Bizarro versions of the Justice League: A Flash who is overcome by friction at the slightest movement, a Green Lantern who can't think of anything to make with his ring, a Wonder Woman who was turned from a goddess into a clay statue. And Bizarro Batman? He was shot in an alley by his parents when he was eight years old. He's dead.
Then there's Bizarro Bizarro, who is the Only Sane Man on the planet.
Breaking Speech: Played straight at first, during Luthor's interview with Clark. In the beginning Lex seems to try to erode Kent's selfworth by pointing out how insignificant he, and by extension everybody, is compared to Superman and that Lois will never notice him because of this. Then it gets subverted when Lex tries to protect Clark during the prison riot and admits to have always liked Kent, precisely because how flawed and human he is.
Butt Monkey: Steve Lombard. His new car gets destroyed by Krull, his hairpiece is set on fire by Bar-El, Superman loudly reveals to his coworkers that he's immune to the Bizarro virus because he takes "performance pills," and on and on.
Canon Welding: The appearance of Kal Kent and Solaris ties this comic to DC One Million (a crossover series plotted by Morrison), which is nominally in different continuity. Even though DC One Million was released years before All-Star Superman, it actually provides a conclusion for the events of the latter series, as we get to see Superman return from the Sun.All-Star Superman also gives us the origin of the infant universe Qwewq, who was an important character in Morrison's Seven Soldiers.
Cardboard Prison: Lex makes clear he could escape the prison but he choose to not to.
Card-Carrying Villain: Lex Luthor is a subversion — he identifies himself as a born dictator and all that, but truly does seem to believe that the world would be better off under his absolute rule and without reliance on Superman.
Clark Kent Held Hostage: During the Parasite's attack/Prison riot. Played with later when the Kryptonian astronauts show up at the Daily Planet and can clearly tell that Clark is Superman, to their disgust.
Clark Kenting: The image for that page comes from concept sketches Frank Quitely drew for this series. This series is probably the most believable Superman story in terms of people not being able to tell Clark is Superman.
It also explores the subject with his paramour. Lois refuses to believe they're the same person even after being told, partly because she doesn't want to believe that some part of Clark truly represents who Superman is and partly because it means he's either lying to her now or has been lying to her for years.
Cover-Blowing Superpower: The Parasite is being moved while Clark interviews Luthor, and Clark now has so much power that just being in the same room as him lets the Parasite burst out of his restraints. Clark then has to protect Luthor from the rioting prisoners and subdue Parasite without revealing his identity.
Cradling Your TKO: Jimmy Olsen (transformed into Doomsday) to Superman as he recovers from black Kryptonite exposure.
Crapsack World: The Bizarro World, making its only sane native, Zibarro, the Woobie.
Creator Cameo: In the artificial Q universe where a copy of Earth is speeding through its own history there's a moment where it's Cleveland in 1937 and a young Joe Shuster is preparing to draw a new character "that will change everything..."
Cryptic Background Reference: There are constant references to adventures Superman has had in the past including ones with Batman and the Justice League.
Deface of the Moon: Jimmy writes on it "I Love Lucy" before his big date with Lucy Lane. Fortunately, it's a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" - so presumably P.R.O.J.E.C.T. can turn it back afterwards.
Bar-El and Lilo also cause temporary damage to the moon out of carelessness while fighting Superman and then basically tape up the crack they made using various Earth bridges.
Dissonant Serenity: Luthor's blase attitude toward his death sentence is really disturbing to those around him.
Energy Beings: The series features a brief appearance by things that look like energy beings, but it turns out they actually have some physical presence. Their energy patterns are contained inside some kind of biogenic crystaline structure filled with a conductive gas. In layman's terms, they're living neon signs.
Fun with Acronyms: The D.N.A. P.R.O.J.E.C.T. - at one point, Jimmy asks what "P.R.O.J.E.C.T." stands for, and the scene immediately ends before the answer is revealed.
Genre Blind: What the hell kind of prison actually allows Lex Luthor to invent things?!
A prison in the same universe as Arkham Asylum. It's a plot point that Luthor could escape whenever he liked, but stays there until he's personally ready.
Going to Give It More Energy: Luthor poisons Superman by giving him too much solar radiation, which in smaller doses heals and empowers him.
Good Counterpart: Leo Quintum to Lex Luthor. Both of them are infinitely wealthy corporate CEOs and scientific geniuses with a taste for the dramatic and an obsession with bringing human science into the next era. The difference is that Quintum genuinely cares about the betterment of mankind, and he isn't ashamed to look to Superman for help.
Jimmy Olsen makes a "short-term, cosmetic alteration" to the moon to get back in his girl's good graces.
Superman himself alters Lois's gene expression with "exogenes" giving her temporary powers so she can spend a day in his world seeing it the way he does. He also salvages and restores the Titanic for dinner, takes Lois to Atlantis, makes out with her on the Moon and wins armwrestling matches with Atlas and Samson at the same time to "win" her affections as she'd requested.
The Greatest Story Never Told: At the end of "The Superman-Olsen War", Jimmy laments that this is the coolest "what-I-spent-my-day-doing" story ever and he can't tell anyone. No one except some of the P.R.O.J.E.C.T. staff, Jimmy, and Superman himself know.
Luthor: Three months ago, I looked in the mirror at those nasty little spiderwebs of lines around my eyes, and I realized something. I'm getting older and he isn't. So, if I want to die happy, it's time to get serious about killing Superman, don't you think?
Guile Hero: Superman, who is potrayed being every bit as smart as he is strong. Hell, he even outwits Luthor.
Gypsy Curse: Jimmy Olsen believes he was cursed with bad luck after refusing to kiss the queen of the Gypsies. It's never stated whether this has any basis in fact, but considering all the insane things that happen to him on a monthly basis, it wouldn't be surprising.
It was only "bad luck until the next full moon", which, of course, covers the events of that issue.
Narcissist: Luthor. How vain is he, you may ask? He has drawn on eyebrows and his whole vendetta against Superman boils down to Lex feeling upstaged by Supes.
Narm: Invoked in-story by Lex Luthor to discredit Clark, The Daily Planet, and the entire U.S. penitentiary system. "And then the inimitable Lex Luthor opened up the floor and shook hands with a baboon in a Superman suit".
Nerves of Steel: Be it a prison riot, energy draining Humanoid Abomination which threatens to gut him, death sentence, or Superman, Luthor isn't impressed. Clark Kent even lampshades this, by pointing out during their interview in death row, that Luthor doesn't act like a man facing impending doom.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Superman spontaneously develops the superpower of biolectric field projection (basically, creating an energy net) to drag Quintum's probe away from the sun. Justified, considering the huge power boost Supes got from the sun. Its an homage to all the times it happened to Superman in the Silver Age.
Noodle Implements: In the first issue, Lex Luthor is remote controlling a monster. For some reason, he's also holding a baseball bat. According to the writer, this was meant to convey Luthor's stance as someone whose mind just operates at a different level than everyone else's, and that, to Luthor, holding the bat was an integral part of the plan.
In the animated film, Luthor is using it as a prop, as his remote-controlled bio-weapon is swinging a piece of metal at Leo Quintum and his assistant.
Noodle Incident: Nasty plans to marry her zombie boyfriend on a comet that will kill them and all humanity. Lex don't bat an eye.
Only Sane Man: An extreme case with Zibarro, the only one out of billions on Bizarro World that is sane.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Actually averted this time: Quitely's Clark can contort his muscles to where he looks more fat than ripped. Thus, nobody would suspect the flabby Clark is really the mighty Superman. He also wears oversized clothes to help the illusion (which has since been imported to the mainstream character.)
Perky Goth: Nastalathia. Not so much perky as very laid-back and not depressed at all.
The Philosopher: Luthor, whose arguments against Superman during his interview are understandable, at least to a certain extent.
Play-Along Prisoner: Luthor can leave his cell any time he likes, as he demonstrates to Clark Kent.
Recursive Reality: Superman creates Earth-Q, a world without Superman. Within Earth-Q, we see Nietzsche invent the concept of "the superman" and then we see an artist, Joe Shuster, drawing the Golden Age Superman, saying "This is it. This is the big one. Third time's the charm..."
Right Makes Might: This is implied to be the case with Superman. When he is under the effect of Black Kryptonite, Jimmy notes that the bigger Jerk Ass he becomes, his powers seem to wane.
Rousseau Was Right: Morrison states in an interview that the series is built on this. Steve Lombard has a good heart, and even Lex Luthor might change, if only he could see the world the way Superman sees it.
Rule of Cool: Morrison remembers that Superman was built on this, then runs with it.
Schroedingers Cat: Lois is briefly held in this state while Superman is challenged with a riddle. It's comic book science.
Hilariously or heartwarmingly recursive: Both The Iron Giant and All-Star Superman end the exact same way: the hero sacrifices his life by flying into space to fix a nuclear problem, there are strong hints of their resurrection in the future, with the loved one in a park near a statue honoring the hero, both sad but comforted by the Heroic Sacrifice. Maybe the Iron Giant saw All-Star Superman somehow, because just before his sacrifice, he says reverently, "I'm Superman!"
Quintum's spaceship, the Ray Bradbury, which Quintum flies into the sun for a scientific mission in the first scene of the book. It's a reference to Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man", which ends with an astronaut's spaceship falling into the sun.
Stable Time Loop: The Daily Planet article headlined "Superman Dead," which Samson shows to Superman before Clark Kent wrote it. This gets a lampshade in the final issue, with Lois pointing out that it's not even an accurate headline, but they had to run it to close the loop.
Stealth Pun: Superman ends up inside the sun at the end of the comic, having turned into an energy being - he's all star now.
The Stoic: When Superman is told he'll die, his reaction is to request that his doctor tell nobody, followed by immediately setting out to do what he can with the time he has left, i.e help people.
Sudden Humility: Lex Luthor got empowered with abilities like Superman's for a day. While he at first reveled in the power and used it to terrorize Metropolis, at some point, the Super Senses began to kick in, and Luthor suddenly gained a newfound perspective and started to Go Sane From The Revelation. For the first time, he understood the wonder of the world that never mattered to him and the enormous weight that was on Superman's shoulders every day of his life.
Superdickery: Referenced with the fourth issue, which is called "The Superman/Olsen War!" and has a cover which depicts the Man of Steel attempting to kill his best pal.
Superpowered Date: Superman and Lois's date, with the variation that Lois gets temporary superpowers as well.
Superpowered Evil Side: Superman under the influence of black kryptonite is an inversion. While Black K Superman does behave immorally, he also grows steadily weaker and dumber over time. He also turns out to be something of a Dirty Coward, who actually quakes in fear when faced with something that can actually stand up to him. Presumably, this is due to black kryptonite inverting everything about what Superman is and not just his sense or morality.
Word of God: Superman's superpowers come from the light, so it stands to reason a dark Superman would slowly lose them.
Faced with the choice of letting a black-Kryptonite-influenced Superman rampage or watching him sent to the Phantom Zone, Jimmy Olsen decides on a third option — turning himself into Doomsday and fighting Superman to a stop.
Also see below, Superman's answer to the riddle of the Ultra-Sphinx.
Taking You with Me: Luthor isn't dying any time soon, but the realization that he's aging normally and Superman isn't is what spurs him to try to kill Superman once and for all.
Word of God says that all that stuff we see about Superman's past adventures (for instance Batman gets mentioned a few times and even has a mannequin in the Fortress) is supposed to be like your dad's high school days; they were important once but not anymore.