A Damn Fox and a Half
After the phenomenal first issue of Superman Unchained, I've finally managed to read the second issue today. Late I know but I get my comics a month later. Anyway, given the success of the first issue, I hoped the second issue could live up to the bar set for it by Snyder and Lee’s awesome collaboration. SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW IN THIS REVIEW.
Admittedly, the first page is a bit pointless. It’s just Lex quoting from the Illiad and is Snyder’s vain attempt at foreshadowing. Lex doesn’t have a prominent role until the last two pages so this first page was a waste of the story. Nonetheless, with that gripe out the way, the next pages were a gripping read. Superman has to deal with the Burji Khalifa, the tallest building in the world located in Dubai, falling to the ground along with a prototype construction robot aptly named after a famous Roman architect called Apollodorus which has been hacked by cyber terrorist group Ascension. Here Snyder shows off his writing chops once again by presenting Superman with a gripping challenge of stopping a falling building in less than 20 seconds (he does it in 17 to be precise) along with getting past the out of control robot. Snyder’s narrative plays out exceptionally well here as Superman frantically considers options on how to stop the building. This is a manifesto Snyder and Lee have made clear in interviews. They’ve challenged Superman by not nerfing him but instead giving him complex problems that require a precise application of his powers to deal with the situation. To see Superman grasping at straws and not knowing how to deal with the challenge makes for entertaining viewing as you’re not sure how the situation will play out. Though there is one moment where Superman considers blowing the building back which may kill people. It didn’t jive with me for a moment but I guess it would have been better than letting the building fall. Snyder resolves this challenge neatly in a way that shows off Superman’s experience with his powers in its full glory. To me, these sorts of challenges are exactly how to write entertaining Superman stories.
Moving on, we see Superman meet up with Batman to discuss Ascension. These two icons are played off well and it’s pleasant to see Snyder handle both of them. But there’s this one moment of ultimate Batwanking from Snyder where he has Bruce show Clark a suit he made that can distort his super vision. First off, this is a PIS event as it is far beyond Bruce’s abilities to make a suit of that kind. Secondly, it doesn’t account for Clark’s superhearing or super smell so the suit is essentially pointless really. There was no reason for it to be included in the issue and I’m not a fan of writers who play up Batman’s capabilities unnecessarily to let him stand against Superman. But it’s to be expected given Snyder’s fondness for the character along with him being the Batman writer now that Morrison’s Inc run has ended. In any case, Batman’s appearance allows for some classic interactions between these stalwart friends and helps to further the plot in terms of Ascension’s plans and the mysterious handprint. I liked that Superman turns to Batman for this kind of stuff as not only is Batman one of the most qualified people to find such information out, it speaks of the trust these characters have forged. Batman is given a meaningful guest star appearance in this issue.
But an interaction that dwarfed this scene, despite its brevity, was Superman and Lois’ short talk. We get to see Lois showing how feisty, snarky and determined she can be in this scene and it’s a joy to see a writer like Snyder understand Lois’ importance to Superman mythology. She’s supposed to have a big role in the story and given the situation she’s in at the end of the issue, I’ll be very interested to see how Snyder shows off why Lois is a dependable, capable woman on her own without needing Superman for help.
Then we’re treated to some real story development as Superman tracks down the handprint’s location to the Salt Flats in Utah where he’s confronted by General Lane. I loved his return in the New Krypton storyline and Lane being set up as a tense antagonist for Superman with motives that are honestly understandable from a certain point of view. Fortunately, we get to see this continue in Unchained with Lane revealing a plethora of black hole related weaponry to deal with Superman. Now, if you’re wondering why I’m not mad about the black hole weaponry harming Superman or the construction robot posing an annoyance to him but am mad about the Batsuit, the first two have had money pooled into it by wealthy people. Superman has been up against Earth based criminals with weapons that can stagger him so the US Government having an arsenal of weapons to counter him makes perfect sense as to why they can hurt him. I mean they’re based on black hole technology! Batman’s suit on the other hand is another example of writers flaunting Batman’s capabilities for him to compete with Superman. Anyway, the black hole scene gives Superman another threat to face. And finally Wraith appears on the scene. I’ll admit, his presence is somewhat short and sudden but given the dramatic appearance he made, I’m sure Snyder has plans to flesh him out in the next issue as a physical and psychological threat to Superman.
Although Jim Lee’s art was brilliant in the last issue, this time he and Scott Williams are back on form with a fantastic display of art prowess. Lee’s pencils are full of captivating detail and grandeur. He brings a gravitas to the falling Burji Khalifa and renders the Salt Falls of Utah with an unusual amount of realism that pops off the page. But the best thing about Lee’s art is his knack for personal renditions of characters. Superman is portrayed in several awesome poses in this issue with a great use of slight of hand facial expressions. This is helped by Williams’ focus on primary colours which makes Superman the centre of the panel all the time. Not to mention his other inking is amazing and the colours ostentatious indeed.
Once again though, the back up is disappointing. It goes through Batman’s conflicting desires on Superman measures (which was covered in Justice League by Johns) and forces in some arbitrary development with the eyeless man from the first issue having a crystal on him. These back ups are too short and aren’t fleshed out enough. This means they don’t add to the issue. And I found Albuquerque’s art to be messier this time around.
All in all, there are more pitfalls in this issue. But the creative team still deliver on a great issue that uses clever story telling, pitch perfect characterisation and engaging plot mysteries that draw the reader’s attention in along with stunning artwork. This is shaping up to be an incredibly worthwhile Superman story with plenty of potential behind it
- · Story: 8/10
- · Art: 10/10
- · Overall: 9/10