Review: Superman Unchained #1 By Scott Snyder and Jim Lee

June 2013 Solicitations Superman UnChained #1 debut DC Comics New 52

Superman Unchained #1

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair

Epilogue art by Dustin Nguyen, Scott Williams, and John Kalisz


The short of it:

In 1945 a boy walked out of his parents house in Nagasaki, looked to the skies with his binoculars, and watched an America bomber fly over and release a bomb. A bomb that breaks open to reveal a very living payload. A blue skinned man with red eyes, and then everything goes boom.

Now, on the other hand, Superman is flying through space at top speed to intersect a space station called The Lighthouse…that has been hurled out of orbit. His job? Stop it. The curiosity? This is the eighth object to fit that criteria that he’s had to stop (well, seventh, he let one go when told it wouldn’t hurt anyone). This means lots of punching as he hits the ship, the defenses of the ship, and then uses his vision powers to work over the electronics before finally having to both catch and land this station without killing anyone. This totally looks like a job for Superman, and he shows why. Now to figure out who’s behind it though, which can mean only one man!

Lex Luthor! Well, maybe not, as Lex is on a prison transport reading a book…as his fellow inmates try to riot. He assumes it’s a cyber terrorist group, as he’s going to jail and only wants to help the world, even now as he’s transported all he can do is plan new inventions to help Metropolis. Speaking of helping and Metropolis, it’s Jimmy Olsen time! With bagels! Clark’s best buddy goes over to hang out with his no-long-employed buddy and there’s talk about what Clark is trying to do now, and how what the Daily Planet has turned into just isn’t right for him. He wants to do real news, human interest pieces, stories about the little man.

Which is what pisses Lois off when she calls him, because he wrote a story about Superman saving astronauts and didn’t even put Superman in the title. She thinks he’s slipping, especially since he got his facts wrong. He said Superman caught seven of the objects that fell from orbit, but she has photographic evidence of him catching all eight. He goes to investigate, after all, if he didn’t stop it then who did?

General Lane and the US military don’t want him to know, because if he were to somehow find this base and what is stored there…he’d find out that the United States has their own secret weapon.


What I liked:

  • The inner monologue of Clark Kent was a nice touch as we saw him out being Superman. Superman should appear to be ready for anything, able to do anything, and unable to fail…but Clark is just a guy, despite the abilities. He might know that he’s not going to get hurt, but that doesn’t mean he can be careless. It made for a nice little contrast to see his actual dialog as Superman versus the thoughts of Clark Kent.

  • Lois’s version of putting the paper together was great. Loved the holo-screens, and the running joke about where to put the ads was funny. If you’re going to do a newspaper, might as well make it look futurey.

  • I like the art here, which doesn’t surprise me as I’m a Jim Lee fan, but it’s different than what he did in Justice League. I mean, yes, the fold-out alone is evidence that the man loves drawing his pinups, but unlike his collaborate with Geoff Johns I get the feeling that he’s more than willing to draw what Snyder wants, as opposed to having Snyder write what he wants to draw.

  • An amusing, non-crazy, not-scarred up Lex Luthor? Yes please, I’ll take more of him.

  • I love the colors in this issue.

  • Dustin Nguyen did the backup!

  • Clark working for himself and not the Planet actually helps out a lot with long term potential. I mean, no longer will you need creative excuses to cover up his random acts of vanishing. It’s always so unbelievable when you see Clark Kent vanish for days or weeks or months and not lose his job.


What I didn’t like:

  • While I did think the art on both sides of the fold-out was top notch….I do not like the fold-out. I can deal with just about any cover gimmick, but the second you tweak the inside of the book so I have to do something my OCD starts going on full alert. I don’t like having a mandatory “remove this from your book to read it” in my issues, so the only saving grace here is that you didn’t have to actually take it out.

  • I still hate that title.

  • I don’t like the character design on the last page reveal. It’s too OMACy for my tastes. Though I am thankful there isn’t a mohawk.

  • The issue ends right when it feels like it’s getting started, hopefully not something that becomes a recurring issue.


Final thoughts:

A weaponized meta-human being dropped and called the Atomic Bomb? Alright, I’m cool with this idea. I was also cool with it when Justin Jordan did it in Team 7 not too long ago with Majestic as the weapon. Given the nature of the DC Universe, if there was a meta with that kind of power it would have been uncharacteristic to not try and use one as a bomb at the tail end of World War II.

When I went on my rant about how bad Superman has been lately, this is about what I had in mind when I said that DC needed to fix it. It’s not the best Superman issue I’ve ever read, but it’s better than anything I’ve seen in Superman in the New 52, and is infinitely more accessible than what Grant did in Action Comics. All in all, I consider this issue a win for putting out a Superman book with the idea that people should want to read it because it’s good, and not just because of the S shield.

So is the book Unchained because they’re unchaining some old and powerful metahuman? Are the chains metaphroical? Is Superman going to be in chains? How hard would it have been to call it “Superman: The Man of Steel”? I mean, there’s a movie due out tomorrow night with that name and it’s on pace to make a lot of money, so the name obviously works.

I still really like that Clark and Jimmy are best friends now instead of Jimmy just being “Superman’s pal”. Superman has plenty of pals in the Justice League, and it just made Jimmy feel like a lame and pointless sidekick. At least as a best friend it creates more excuses to do Clark Kent scenes and dig into the brain of the man when the glasses are on.

If I never see another fold-out like this issue had I will be a happy man. I’d rather have fancy and stupid covers every month than be required to open up a poster just to read two pages of the book I’m reading.

Smug, arrogant, non-spiteful Lex Luthor. How I missed you.

I’m hoping as this series progresses we’ll see more character driven moments as opposed to giant pinups, but the book is already off to a good start. It’s enjoyable and well written, and it features a Superman that is far more in line with who and what I view Superman to be than had been seen thus far in the New 52. I really hope this keeps up, because I’ve been fiending hard for some good Superman for a long time.

Overall: 8.5/10

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