At least one Snyder can get Superman right
With Andy Diggle having left Action Comics and Scott Lobdell on Superman, I’m not the most thrilled with Superman’s status in the New 52. Thankfully, superstar creative team Scott Snyder and Jim Lee seem to have answered my wish with Superman Unchained. Yes I know I’m late to the party reviewing this but my comics arrive a month later so this is the first chance I’ve had to read it. My thoughts on it are as follows. There will be SPOILERS by the way
In the beginning, Snyder does set up a tantalising mystery via his introduction set in Nagaski on the date of its bombing. I liked that he gave the event a more personal inspection by focusing on a family worrying over the threat of war and the weapons possessed by America. And the boy’s childlike curiosity giving rise to him being the only one to see what was really in the bomb sets up Snyder’s story nicely for what’s to come. From there, Snyder brings us an awesome spectacle of action as Superman deals with a space station falling from the sky with a nuclear core whilst saving two astronauts. Immediately, Snyder sets Superman against a disaster worthy of his attention and manages to get inside the character’s head properly too. At times, Snyder can overload the reader with exposition and thought boxes but here, they’re balanced just right with the fast paced events of the story whilst also giving us Snyder’s interpretation of Superman. The action flows in the right direction and events are not rushed. Snyder devotes enough time to each part of the action so the end result is a sweet one indeed.
I have to say that I’m liking Snyder’s portrayal of the Man of Steel. There are more traits of the modern Superman that I know and love in Snyder’s depiction of Superman. He comes across as more charming and friendly yet serious and concerned about people as well. These are qualities that have been lacking in most New 52 appearances of Superman so far. What’s more, Snyder’s style of writing works well in guiding the reader through how Clark deals with the threat he faces. This is one of the strongest things about Snyder’s writing for me. He makes sure he focuses on the man behind the costume above all else so in costume, the character themselves comes shining through. And Clark is not given
Another benefit of Snyder’s writing is his characterisation of the rest of the Superman universe. His Lex is written with suitable delusions of grandeur coupled with the genuine sense that what he’s doing is benefitting the world more. Jimmy Olsen is written as possessing a healthy respect towards Clark and being inspired by recent events in Lobdell’s Superman title. Here, Snyder gives a nod towards current events going on in the Superman universe whilst using that nod to further the plot in his own tale. It’s a nice touch. And Lois gets some great moments in challenging Clark and his story whilst staving off Perry’s interference with the paper and giving Clark directions towards the next part of the story. Snyder writes Lois as a worthy equal to Clark which is exactly how she should be portrayed. His fondness for Lois as a character adds to the quality of her appearance and I’m glad Lois is not getting the short shrift like she has been in other Superman titles. It’s a good thing to see Lois as a prominent influence on Clark Kent’s life even though they aren’t working together.
Snyder does balance various events, developments and interactions in a cohesive manner. This really exemplified my enjoyment of the story being told. I was always engaged with what was going on and most of all, I really enjoyed it. Snyder has crafted an entertaining opening to his Superman run and I’m intrigued to what will happen. One area of concern does crop up in the story though. For one, how does Superman catch the Lighthouse and not crush the hundreds of people said to be below? That event was a bit bemusing. And another issue I may have with the story is this mysterious so called ‘Real Superman.’ Many times in comics, we’ve seen the so called ‘real Superman,’ a faux parallel to the Superman we do know as a means to challenge him physically and psychologically. This is what Snyder has promised to deliver in this story yet we’ve seen it before or seen it falter. I do hope Snyder doesn’t drop the ball in making a worthy addition Superman’s rogues gallery.
As for the art, my all time favourite comic book artist, Jim Lee, lends his pencils to the task. But his first 3 pages are not his best. Maybe that’s due to the inking but it detracted from the quality of the opening. It looked murky and not really emotive. Still, after those pages, Lee knocks it out of the park. His stoic, iconic renditions of Superman, Lois Lane, Clark Kent and more of Superman’s supporting cast have been sorely missed by me. He captures every facet of detail on the page, from the towering skyscrapers of Metropolis to the smallest bit of satellite debris. There’s a sense of order and attention to the art that I adore in Lee’s art style. And Williams paints the pages with a wave of bright colours. Superman’s costume is attention grabbing and focuses the reader’s attention on him, the explosions light up with an orange tint and the faces of the characters look all the more real thanks to his colouring.
The back up, if two pages can be called a back up, was decent. I liked Perry’s portrayal and the addition of his grandfather creating a humanitarian journalistic organisation. Perry and Jimmy’s interaction played well off each other. But the body in the fisherman’s net scene was a bit of a reach for connecting with the main plot IMO. Rafael Albuquerque delivers some good artwork. Their pairing works well together as Albuquerque translates Snyder’s story onto the page well. A credit to their partnership on American Vampire for certain.
Overall, I was very impressed with this debut issue. The story was incredibly entertaining and engaging whilst building upon itself for the future. The art was, for the most part, jaw dropping. So I’m feeling very hopeful about the future of Superman thanks to this series!