There’s no way to reinvent Superman.
To that, I say you are wrong.
To that, I say Superman Unchained.
Yes, I think we can all agree that the title of this new series from Batman scribe Scott Snyder and iconic artist Jim Lee leaves much to be desired. However, within the pages comes something new and refreshing for a hero often thought to be too powerful. Snyder is firing on full tilt here. He’s gone through the laundry list of well-worn Superman plots and characters and injected a burst of energy to them. He’s also revisiting the idea that only Superman can defeat Superman, doing it both literally and figuratively.
On the literal side, there is another Superman. While the hero we know and love has only been around six years, an entity with Superman’s powers has been assisting the U.S. military for seventy five years. Currently, this Superman is under the orders of General Lane, Lois Lane’s father and a prime example of bad parenting. The general is scared of Superman, so he’s designing weapons that can beat him. How this “other” Superman fits into that idea remains to be seen. What’s interesting here is that this newly revealed Superman has been around for 75 years – the length of time Superman would have existed in the old DC Universe. Is something from that era leaking into the New 52, or is this how we introduce Bizarro?
On the figurative side, Superman’s greatest enemy is still Superman, though this time it’s his fear of failure that hurts him. The beginning of Superman Unchained #2 has our hero in Dubai. The tallest building in the world resides there and it’s currently tipping over. An anti-technology terrorist group named Ascension is responsible. Superman can’t figure out how to save the thirty six thousand people that will surely die when the building crashes. His fear of failure paralyzes him, and adds real excitement to a scene that could have been just another run-of-the-mill Superman adventure.
As far as supporting characters go, Snyder has made Lex Luthor and Lois Lane interesting again. Luthor is just weird, something between a mad genius and pure psychopath. For years, we’ve gotten the cold, calculating Luthor. Snyder brings in more of his bizarre nature, which instantly makes him more interesting. Lois Lane isn’t just an over-achiever with a super husband backing her up. Snyder gives her that feisty identity again. She’s Lois Lane, fearless to the point of death wish. That makes her a character worth following and not just a damsel in distress. Even General Lane is interesting, something I never thought possible.
Jim Lee’s art is exceptional in this issue. The opening scene is a testimony to how well Lee brings movement and action to his pencils. Pacing in these scenes is crucial, as is the decision what to draw and what not to. Lee is not only great at showing us what’s going on, he also knows what to insinuate so our imagination fills in the rest. His lines are always strong, each character has weight, detail and a real presence. Lee is not an icon by accident – his talent is undeniable.
Superman Unchained is an exceptional piece of work. A fun, imaginative, and exciting story produced by one of the finest teams comic book fans could ask for.
(4.5 Story. 4.5 Art)