Superman Unchained #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jim Lee
2013 is the year of Superman, that goes without saying. The 75th anniversary of Action Comics #1, the release of the film franchise’s rebooted Man of Steel, and the introduction of a new Superman ongoing all take place this spring. Superman Unchained is one of the most anticipated new titles in DC’s New 52 promotion. Does it live up to the substantial hype it derives from the creative dream team of emerging star Scott Snyder and flagship artist Jim Lee?
For the most part, the answer is a resounding yes. Snyder delivers a nearly pitch-perfect Superman. I had high hopes for Superman during the initial New 52 relaunch. The character had become somewhat stagnant in the old DCU, and I was excited for some fresh blood to take over. The Superman family has been fairly mediocre the past two years. Some of this can be blamed on the creative teams, and some can be put on the editors of DC as well. Regardless, Supes has found his rhythm with Snyder and Lee.
Unchained opens with a flashback we all remember from history class, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the specific bombing of Nagasaki takes place somewhat differently than the history books led us to believe (more on this later). This is a great attention-getter from Snyder. We’ve always known the man can craft a story from his previous work at DC, but the scale of handling a brand new Superman title is huge. It’s hard to deal with a character who is nigh-invincible. It’s a foregone conclusion that Superman will always win in the end. With lesser writers, they may find themselves trapped in a corner in this aspect. The difference comes in the writing and how Superman gets from “problem” to “solution.” This is what makes the character interesting. Snyder gives us a peek into Superman’s thought process during his rescue of a weaponized nuclear space station that is on a collision course with earth (see what I mean regarding scale? This is beyond Batman’s paygrade). Life and death situations with mere moments to act. These are what make Superman the hero he is.
Of course, beyond the action, we have the normal cast of characters. Jimmy and Lois pop in for their obligatory introductions, but really don’t have much to say quite yet. This issue was setting the tone for Superman/Clark Kent himself. We can focus on everyone else down the road. There is still the mystery of who caused the space station, as well as several other orbiting objects, to come crashing down. Was it the neo-cyber-terrorist group Ascension? Or was it Lex Luthor? I love this portrayal of Luthor. The genius scientific mind. Played less for laughs than in Morrison’s run in Action Comics. This Luthor has grand ideas. I so much prefer this than the business tycoon head of LutherCorp/LexCorp other titles have given us. I look forward to seeing his involvement in this storyline.
There is nothing to be said about Jim Lee that hasn’t already been said thousands of times. Lee has been a force in the comic industry for over 25 years now. The scope of his art for this issue is breathtaking. He seamlessly goes from space stations to two guys in an office to an underground military bunker. There are many different settings, and the art really sets the tone for the story. Lee nails these on all fronts.
Of course, this is just the first installment of a much larger story. At the close of the issue, we revisit that mysterious object from the Nagasaki bombing that quite resembled a person. This is a very effective cliffhanger that left me with a number of questions. The biggest one, which bugged me, is if this unknown character has been in the government’s employ for such a long period of time, why is this the first we’re hearing of him? It seems like a character with that much power would have been put to use in some of the dire circumstances the DCU has found itself in during the New 52 relaunch. That is my only nitpick for the issue, and is one that I hope is explained away early in the storyline.
Snyder and Lee hit a home run here, there’s really no other way to put it. I look forward to the next installment, and I’m already upset that this book won’t be shipping in September.