This was originally posted on my review blog here.
Set in the post Superman #13 era where Clark Kent has quit his job at the Daily Planet in a fit of anger at the unethical dictates of the paper’s current owner, Superman Unchained is a new series with Batman superstar Scott Snyder and DC’s premier artist and co-publisher Jim Lee at the helm as they seek to explore the Man of Steel’s ongoing story in the New 52 universe. There was a lot of buzz on this issue, owing in part to Scott’s current status, and because the other two print Superman comics, Action Comics and Superman have continued to underperform in the last year, more so as premier superhero titles. Myself, I was pretty damn excited for this one, especially after seeing some of the art previews that were provided by DC in the run-up to the release. However, this is one of those rare times where my expectations have exceeded the reality, because I was rather disappointed with this issue.
For starts, I’m rather disappointed that the issue doesn’t really offer anything different from the ongoing Superman comic. Its a little better written, that’s for sure, but it just isn’t all that compelling. There are too many things going on, as if Scott is trying to fit in a 5-issue graphic novel into a single issue, and so the pacing is off, with little clarity in the direction the script goes. The cliffhanger-ish ending is also sign-posted from the very first few pages, so that wasn’t a surprise either. The issue just didn’t grab me at all. It was the same tired old formula with nothing to really distinguish this book from Superman.
Then, the extra dollar prince on the digital copy (and the print copy as well). I never gripe about the cost of a novel or a comic book or some such, but I fail to see why even as a digital reader I had to pay an extra $1 for this comic. There really isn’t any benefit as a digital reader, especially when this is JUST a regular-sized comic book and has almost no extra pages other than a short back-up story which covers a very minor plotpoint from the main script.
However, there are a few positives on the issue. Jim Lee’s big splash pages are fairly good. He still has a great eye for bringing live-action cinema to the comic book page, and this can be seen again and again throughout the issue. It gives the issue a blockbuster feel that isn’t matched, unfortunately, by the script. In general, the art here is much better than that can be seen in the ongoing series, because Lee is better at the character expressions, the poses, the panel compositions, and comes across as much more realistic than the often cartoonish or ink-heavy feel of the main series.
Scott, while he misses the mark on the script, seems to get the characters down pretty well, and that was really important for me. Clark, Superman, Jimmy, Perry, and Lois should feel like Clark, Superman, Jimmy, Perry and Lois, which they do. If nothing else, this is one thing that Scott gets down perfectly, and this alone would be enough to keep me coming back for more.
Superman Unchained #1 really could have been a much tighter comic, with a more focused script that flows naturally from one meta-scene to another, and its definitely the art that pulls it through. To draw a comparison between this and Batman #1 or even Scott’s other new book, The Wake #1, this book falls far short in the script department. The daring changes he makes to the Bat-verse, or at least the way he presents everything, in Batman #1 is spectacular. The way that he creates the entire mystery in The Wake #1 is far more impressive than the cliffhanger-ending in this book.
So yeah, it was a mixed issue. I’m in for at least one more issue. This is one of those titles that, like Team 7, I’ll be taking one issue at a time and going on from there.