Comic Review: Superman Unchained #1
As Superman movie Man of Steel is about to hit cinemas, the most anticipated Superman comic this year arrives: Superman Unchained. This new series pairs superstars Scott Snyder and Jim Lee together to tell a new story in the New 52. Superman’s New 52 stories so far have been very hit or miss. It’s bizarre that such a high profile character doesn’t have a high quality ongoing comic to match. Does Unchained finally remedy this?
This issue opens with a teasing flashback setting up the wider story before jumping to modern day with Superman in space. What results is an exciting scene of Superman intercepting a falling space station. Meanwhile through captions Superman himself is giving us an insight into what’s going on in his head and what’s led to this situation. Afterwards the issue gives us some interactions with the supporting cast and introduces some new story elements which I’m sure we’ll see explored in future issues. Thankfully this was the first time since the start of the New 52 that I actually felt like I was reading about Superman. The previous takes on the character seemed almost unsure and unfocused. Superman definitely suffered the most from the rebooted continuity so it’s refreshing to have a take on the character that feels rock solid. The story itself is intriguing and had me conjuring up theories for where things could go next, this isn’t a simple affair of just watching Superman throw his strength around. The implications in this issue could make for some very interesting confrontations down the line.
Lee’s art is regrettably a tad weaker than I expected. Directly comparing his work here with his first Justice League arc reveals a slight dip in detail. I also worry if his depiction of Clark Kent is actually too different from Superman. His facial structure didn’t seem to match what we’d seen just one page back, it’s hard to imagine we’re supposed to be reading about the same person. However, these criticisms only come from the high expectations placed upon him. Which is to say, average Jim Lee artwork is still great artwork overall.
There’s a very brief backup story positioned as an ‘epilogue’ to the main plot. Dustin Nguyen contributes artwork here, which is much more pulpy and surprisingly dark for a Superman tale. That said, it matches the grim tone of the backup perfectly. The plot, although very brief, also adds even more questions to the mysteries introduced earlier.
In many ways Superman Unchained #1 reminds me of the first issue of Batman in the New 52, also penned by Snyder. That issue opened with action but then slowed things down while planting seeds for future plot points that the rest of the storyarc would explore. It’s a recipe that comes together for a great first issue, on both occasions. There’s a lot of promise here, if the rest of the series keeps up the pace then this could push Superman into taking the top spot in the New 52, a position he rightly deserves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the rest of the Superman books slowly rally around Unchained as the new lead book. It’s the perfect blend of character and action, everything a Superman story should be.