Reviews

Review: Superman Unchained #1 (Spoilers)

Superman Unchained #1 Cover
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Lee
Release Date: 6/12/13

In case you have been living under a rock, let me get you up to speed. Superman is celebrating his 75th Anniversary and there is this little movie coming out this Friday about the Man of Steel. Coinciding with this is the release of a new comic by two of DC Comic’s biggest creative talents. Scott Snyder, widely acclaimed for his Batman run (which is starting on the “Zero Year” arc today as well), teams up with superstar artist, and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer, Jim Lee to create a new adventure and series for the Man of Steel. Ever since the launch of the New 52, Kal-El has been having a bit of trouble when it comes to his stories; be it a convoluted origin change in Action or constantly rotating teams on Superman. With Man of Steel on the horizon and a major anniversary being celebrated can Snyder and Lee finally be the team to save Superman?

Yes.

Our story begins not in our present, but our past. In one of the darkest days in history, America drops its second atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. This time, through the eyes of a Japanese boy, we see that something else, hidden in a bomb casing, is responsible. But what is it…. In the modern day, Superman is dealing with eight satellites, including a major space station, that are plummeting to Earth. With said space station having both astronauts and a nuclear powered fuel source, Superman tears in to save the day (that would be the giant poster everyone is talking about). However, the space station has been attacked by a computer virus; and, in a manner and look similar to HAL, decides to attack Superman with drones, cables, and arms. While Superman is able to save the day, he wonders if this is the work of a new cyberterrorist group called Ascension. He does suspect one other person, and decides to pay a visit to Lex Luthor, presently being transported to a new supermax prison. Lex, however, has no idea what’s going on. However, he does admit the virus was based on his doctoral thesis.

Superman leaves after Lex shows him his plans for “a great golden tree”, a giant solar tower, that he somehow will be able to plan and construct from prison. Back in Metropolis, it seems Clark still works for the Daily Planet, but as a freelancer. While Clark may seem to stand by his values by not working directly for the Planet, guy’s still got to eat. Jimmy Olsen is still his roommate, but at least now he’s bringing Clark bagels. Lois Lane is now more of a hands on editor than reporter (much to Perry White’s frustration) and the Planet‘s got itself a brand new holographic layout system. The exchanges between Clark, Lois, and Perry during this scene is hilarious, as Perry is trying to make sure an ad gets placed in the right area and Lois wants to bury it all the way in the obituaries. But when Lois mentions that one of the satellites Superman disabled and sent to crash harmlessly to Earth went off its planned course and into waters off the coast of Thailand. Superman’s investigation will connect to a project of General Sam Lane’s, and a secret that has been kept locked up for 75 years…. An epilogue by Snyder and Dustin Nguyen (L’il GothamHeart of Hush) ties things back to the beginning of the main story.

Story wise, this is the strongest Superman tale since the start of the New 52. Snyder seems to be setting up another one of his great plots, this time involving the US Military under General Lane, an on Superman Unchained gatefoldand off opponent to Superman. He gives us plenty of action and wit, and Superman is introspective without being moody. Jimmy is funny as ever and Perry as cantankerous. His Lois is one of the better written New 52 versions of the character since Andy Diggle’s short and recently finished run on Action with a latent chemistry still lingering between the two. Superman himself just feels more like Superman. While he might not be Mister Smiles, his first concern is for the people around him and not the giant robot tentacles trying to murder him. Lex, of course, is perfectly smarmy yet charming. This is the man who hates Superman more than anyone, yet his barbs and venomous wit is quite funny in a sarcastic, dry manner.

As for Jim Lee’s art, he brings his A-game. His first issue since departing from Justice League, he gives a swooping heroic Superman. He is as adept with combat scenes as he is with backgrounds and cityscapes. Superman is strong, charismatic, and even genuinely smiles for once. His depiction of the high-tech editing suite of the Planet, with its holographic screens, feels like a busy newsroom. But what can be considered the most beautiful part of the book is not the giant space station fight set piece or busy Metropolis, but a sculpture Lex makes out of pages of The Iliad to show Superman his grand plan for his solar tower. As for other character designs: Jimmy looks like the goofball we all love finally, toying around with a camera drone in the apartment’s kitchen, Superman’s armor looks the best it has in a while, and this is possibly the best and most beautiful depiction of Lois in a Superman book in a long time, sexy while remaining the hard-nosed reporter-turned-producer. The colors by Alex Sinclair complement Jim Lee’s art; setting up the placid day turned nightmare in the beginning to the deep blue sea towards the end of the tale in lush hues. Dustin Nguyen’s art gives the epilogue, a conversation between Perry White and Jimmy Olsen intersected with a gruesome discovery, gives the tale a nightmarish, yet fairy tale like, tone.

If you haven’t been reading a Superman book, I highly recommend this one. There have been other reviews of this book; while its been met with praise, one review seemed overly negative and bitter. I must question whether my peer had read the same book as I, because I think this is the best New 52 Superman book out there. This book is the perfect read heading up to the release of Man of Steel and a good way to celebrate 75 year of Up, Up and Away.

Look, up in the sky! Hope it’s not another satellite!

10/10

Notes:

-No Space Station voice going “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Kal-El?”

-No scar on Lex! I don’t know why some stories give him that scar, I think it detracts from Lex. Lee’s art, sans scar, still gives Lex a level of menace.

-Lex just chilling as a prisoner transport ship riot breaks out; of course he would do that!

-Lex’s low blows to Superman shows that even his good intentions are to be slaps in Superman’s face.

-Jimmy’s encounter with Bruce Wayne under Edge’s orders is hilarious, as is Clark’s response.

-Superman is not going to like what Sam Lane has locked up

About the author

Daniel Kalban

Daniel is the writer of The Eagle webcomic and aspires to one day join his favorite writers at the Big 2. Until then, he keeps plugging away at various projects, as well as serving as a reporter for Word of the Nerd on various subjects, especially the DC Comics "beat".

Contact him at [email protected]

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