- Writer: Scott Snyder
- Pencils: Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen on flashbacks
- Inks: Scott Williams
- Colors Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz on flashbacks
- Letters: Sal Cipriano
- Publisher: DC Comics
- Release Date: 11/5/14
Superman Unchained comes to an end this week in an extra sized issue courtesy of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, with Dustin Nguyen along for the ride. As I reviewed its alpha, it only makes sense that I review its omega. It’s been a long adventure for the Man of Steel: confronted with a being similar to him who is helping General Lane, Superman has been repeatedly forced to reflect on his own mission, and on whether he is doing the right thing. But with an alien invasion about to happen, will Superman do the ultimate Hail Mary play?
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
With Lex Luthor gloating about the alien presence heading towards Earth, and that Superman can only stop them with a device that will likely kill him as well, it’s up to Superman to save the day, perhaps for the last time. This is juxtaposed with a flashback to Clark’s childhood, where an insane man attacks Clark and his mother as he found out Clark’s secret…not expecting Clark to fight back with horrific consequences. Lex is eroding Superman’s confidence about his long going mission to save the people of Earth, noting that Superman more often than not plays it by ear. In many ways, Lex’s words are the words of “fans” who deride Superman as the “Big Blue Boy Scout”; always reacting instead of acting. He, once again, considers Superman to be a hindrance to mankind’s progress. But, in many ways, Superman’s constantly trying to improve himself for next time by learning from his experience has actually earned Lex’s respect, even as Luthor is trying to off Superman by forcing him into a scenario he might not survive. But, there might be someone inspired by Superman who might save the day…
Snyder gives this tale a great, if not 100% perfect, send off. He challenges not only Luthor’s criticisms of Superman, but those in reality who dismiss him as “perfect”, “too good”, etc. In an interview with Newsarama, Snyder says “He’s constantly making it up as he goes, and instead of being a symbol for us or trying to lead the way (saying, “This is how you act”), he’s trying to figure it out for himself, case by case. And that, I find 10 times more inspiring than someone who thinks he knows what he’s doing all the time.” This is shown in the climatic battle with the aliens, with Superman trying again and again, resisting the urge to follow Luthor’s deadly plan. Lex is perfectly smarmy as he monologues to Lois about Superman, though it is interesting to see Lex finally have a small soft spot for his long time nemesis. It’s also nice to see a kind of romantic moment between Lois and Superman, a moment fans have been wanting since the beginning of the New 52. The most horrifying moments of the script are in the flashbacks, with a madman threatening Martha Kent, and seeing young Clark lose control of his powers; but this is followed up by showing young Clark already has the seeds of heroism in him. The one drawback comes during the battle’s climax, which feels kind of forced in than naturally evolving. It pulls you out of the story somewhat, and to be honest it kind of lessens Superman; however it does prove Snyder’s idea of Clark constantly trying to learn and be better for next time.
Lee’s art, complimented by the inks of Williams and the brilliant colors of Sinclair, are nothing short of fantastic. The soaring battle in space is worth the price of admission alone. Superman is perfectly heroic, and Lee also shows him in a weakened state that one might not have expected. Lex is perfectly smarmy, Lois is beautiful and hopeful, and the designs of the alien ships are well done. While they don’t get much screen time, Perry White is grumpy and fatherly as ever while Jimmy Olsen is perfectly dorky as drawn by Lee. Lee also is great at his backgrounds, ranging from the frozen Arctic, to space, to the concrete canyons of Metropolis, to the fields of Kansas. Nguyen compliments this with his sepia tinted, water-color-esque flashbacks, which contain both horror and wonder.
An almost perfect book, it is the delays in printing the title as well as the deus-ex-machina finale that ultimately takes points away. However, it is a strong finish to a strong series that will make you reflect on Superman, and is a story that is worthy of its star.
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