If you like reading reviews, check out whatever you're researching on goodreads and comicbookroundup too.
4/5 is still a very respectable rating, but Morrison's New 52 Action Comics run isn't the best place to start with Superman anyway.
This is what I'd recommend for Superman "modern essentials" (in suggested reading order):
How to Get Into Comic Books (13:40) | Patrick Willems
Consider your intent/commitment. Think about your favorite shows, movies, books, etc. Do you seek quality storytelling or encyclopedic superhero knowledge? Plan to collect? Do you have the time/money to read 50 or 500 comics per character?
Don’t try to read everything at once. There’s too much. Forget about catching up, continuity, universes, etc. for now. Think of it like solving a jigsaw puzzle one small piece at a time until you finally start to see the big picture. Older comics can be an acquired taste for modern audiences, so they aren’t always ideal starting points. Creative teams change often, characters get re-worked, and origins are re-told.
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their most popular/acclaimed stories. Focus on self-contained/complete stories. You will encounter unexplained references/characters/events—just keep reading or Wiki. Don
Without knowing what you've already read, here are some 1986+ favorites:
DC Vertigo/Wildstorm (mature readers):
> I’ve read like 7 issues of All-Star Superman and don’t get it
He's the pinnacle of optimism, inspiration, idealism, hope, and probably the most memorable character of all time in western culture. You shouldn't turn to Superman comics if you're in the mood for grit, crime, edgy, dark, etc. You read Superman when life seems tough, when drug cartel torture videos make you angry, when your worldviews are failing you, or when you just want some wholesome superhero fun. Like watching a Pixar film to cleanse your palette after Requiem for a Dream. A character that feels comfortable and safe like home. When you explore further, you'll discover even more depth and variety, but I wouldn't worry about that when getting acquainted for the first time.
All-Star Superman is about solidifying the character's historical/mythological significance, just as we still believe in/tell stories about gods like Hercules carrying out 12 labors. It can also simply be an amazing hero that accomplishes amazing feats. It incorporates many different "versions" of the character and his adventures into one book in creative ways like his interactions with Bizzaro. In this sense, it's the definitive "tribute" story to Superman, which is admittedly appreciated more by fans of everything that came before.
> I’m not sure why I should care if Superman dies
I can see why you'd feel that way if this one story was your only exposure to this character. You should know, however, that superheroes rarely "die". Like most of his stories, it has less to do with the danger of death than it does with how he lives. How does he handle having those powers? How does that create problems/solutions for his environment? What decisions does he make, being aware of his own limitations? What does this character do, even when he knows he's dying? Does that inspire you? Or, do you just think it's still totally unrelatable because he has freeze breath? Is it meant to be relatable? Are ideals attainable or do they just provide purpose/direction/meaning to keep us moving forward?
> I see people recommending All-Star to people who already don’t like Superman thinking that it would change their mind, does it?
> Art is nice, but face and the back of hands look kind of weird.
Agreed. Quitely isn't my favorite character artist (wrinkles!). There's a lot of solid color, flat, low-detail backgrounds in All-Star Superman too. He can be pretty great in other aspects, though.
I think All-Star Superman is a story that new readers CAN enjoy, but is also definitely enhanced with more appreciation/knowledge/experience with the character. If you're approaching comics from the perspective that these stories follow traditional 3-act structures (beginning, middle, end), then you'll find that not all the context you feel you need is included in every story. Comics are perpetually stuck in act 2—the beginning happened decades ago and there is no end in sight. Morrison writes All-Star Superman as a monument—a single work that focuses on a well-known character to be appreciated/celebrated/remembered. It does not aim to introduce, explain, deconstruct, twist, experiment, etc. like you'd expect from a more "traditional" or long-form story.
Here are my usual Superman "modern essentials":
Birthright and American Alien are self-contained, modern, limited series that focus on his early days. Secret Identity is a much more grounded/realistic approach about a boy that gains superpowers in a world where Superman comics exist. If you don't want to commit to the whole list, I'd recommend these to start.
There isn't really a "main story" that every comic is constantly connected to. Think of it more like a web of smaller stories. Every comic is self-contained in its own little bubble UNTIL it's mentioned somewhere else. Occasionally, there are major crossovers/events where a selection of series will be connected briefly (e.g. Civil War). That said, there have been a few attempts at planned, long-form plotting with an overarching story e.g. most of Hickman's Marvel works builds up to Secret Wars.
Here is my usual new reader guide:
Consider your intent/commitment. Think about your favorite shows, movies, books, etc. Reading primarily for enjoyment or encyclopedic knowledge? Collecting? Have the time/resources to read 50 or 500 comics per character?
Don’t try to read everything at once. There’s too much. Forget about catching up, continuity, universes, etc. for now. Older comics can be an acquired taste for modern audiences, so they aren’t necessarily ideal starting points. Writers change often, characters get re-worked, and origins are re-told. Remember, there are many great characters, creators, publishers, etc. to explore.
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their most popular/acclaimed stories. Focus on self-contained, complete stories in one corner of the universe. There will be unexplained references/characters, just persevere or Wiki. Don’t let the tangled web of shared-universe comics overwhelm you. Think of it like solving a jigsaw puzzle one small piece at a time until you finally see the big picture.
Discover your preferences and let them guide you. Don’t get stuck preparing/over-analyzing, just start reading. Do you like/dislike old/new comics? Specific writers/genres? Cartoony/realistic art? Familiar/weird concepts? References/self-contained? All-ages/mature content? Follow these instincts. Didn’t understand a reference? Maybe read that next.
Or skip to the 2016 re-launch DC Universe: Rebirth event and then any Rebirth series #1.
You can skip to the 2016 re-launch with DC Universe: Rebirth and then any Rebirth series #1.
You can skip to the 2016 Rebirth re-launch with the DC Universe: Rebirth event and then any Rebirth series #1.
Consider your intent/commitment. Think about your favorite shows, movies, books, etc. Do you seek quality storytelling or encyclopedic Marvel knowledge? Plan to collect? How deep are you willing to dive?
Don’t try to read everything at once. There’s too much—you’ll burn out. Forget about catching up, continuity, universes, and timelines. Older comics can be an acquired taste for modern audiences, so 1st appearances/early origins may not be ideal starting points. Creative teams change often, characters get re-worked, and origins are re-told. Remember, there are many other great characters, creators, publishers, and genres to explore.
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their best stories. Don’t get stuck preparing to read. Focus on acclaimed, self-contained, and complete stories. You may encounter an unexplained reference/character/event—just ride along or Wiki.
Discover your preferences and let them guide you. Do you like: old/new comics? Specific genres? Specific writers? Cartoony/realistic art? Familiar/weird concepts? References/self-contained? All-ages/mature content? Follow these instincts.
Where to buy (US):
Modern DC characters/teams:
Events/crossovers can be fun and/or tedious. They are most appreciated by readers already well-versed in relevant continuity. Regardless, you may want to familiarize with major plot points.
Modern DC events/crossovers:
Vertigo/Wildstorm DC comics (mature readers):
Suggestions to improve the guide welcome.
You can skip to the recent DC Universe: Rebirth event and then pick any interesting Rebirth series #1. Check out the /r/DCcomics sidebar for more info.
DC also has separate universes (imprints e.g. Vertigo) for varied-genre, creator-owned comics usually targeting mature readers:
Let me know if you're interested in specific character recommendations.