SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Dustin Nguyen
Release Date: June 12, 2013
It’s Man of Steel week, and DC is celebrating, first and foremost, by releasing what could be the best Superman title since the start of the New 52. Helmed by Batman scribe Scott Snyder and Justice League artist Jim Lee, there’s no question this book has creative chops that speak for themselves. So why does it leave me wanting more?
Superman, under Snyder’s thoughtful grasp, is definitely a man of dual purpose — brains and brawn — as we get to see the Man of Steel have to think his way through the problems facing him even as he flexes his considerable muscles. The voice behind our hero is real and avoids the sense of alienation that other writers in recent years have been so fond of embracing. This guy is not above us, not apart from us, but a true human hero through and through. Lois and Jimmy make short, but significant appearances as well, with Lois Lane’s usual all-business attitude taking center stage. It’s a bit too early to tell how much either of these perennial cast members will figure into the ongoing story, but the banter each provide with Clark (even though he is no longer on the staff of the Daily Planet) is welcome and familiar feeling.
And the mystery Snyder is setting up is one perfect not only for a hero that could use a good intellectual challenge, but also one designed to pull at the strings of someone who cares deeply about the loss of life and devastation that evil men bring. By the end, when I realized what Snyder was implying about the history of World War II in the DC Universe, my mouth dropped. This tease as a prologue for the series’ first story is big, and definitely stands up to anything Lex Luthor can throw at Kal, although his presence is ominous as well.
Lee definitely has adjusted his drawing style to match the needs of his writer, giving us multiple panel single-page layouts and really reserving that bombastic splash page for the two-sided poster insert. Fans of his work should still be very pleased by his sharp pencils, but those who feel they never get enough story out of each panel will be well-satisfied by the compromise between them. The layouts on the double page spread across 2 and 3 are the best example of some innovative shapes and large amount of visual information shared, without having to sacrifice the wow effect Lee characteristically provides. His poster pages, cleverly included in the book — via cardstock and gluetab — so it does not fully necessitate removing it (if one does not desire to hang it upon a dorm room wall), provide that Lee full-page bang instead. For my taste, I wish those pages did not simply feel like blown-up versions of a regular comic page, however. If the detail on the drawing amped up four-scale along with the size, I’d probably be a bit more receptive to what many are calling a gimmick. As it stands, I just feel like it could have been fulfilled better.
The real issue here is the price point. At $4.99, it’s not the extra dollar I lament for the fold-out poster (my hesitations there aside), but the other extra dollar meant to cover 8-10 additional story pages, of which we get 2 by Dustin Nguyen. It’s a nice epilogue, but certainly not of a quality that matches similarly charged second stories in Batman or Detective Comics — all running 4 times as long. Instead we are treated to an interview transcript with Snyder and Lee that I fully expect to see posted for free on DC Comics’ website by the end of the week. This is not content I really think belongs in our monthly comics.
Overall, while the price may be a bit steep, and that will definitely hold off many skeptical readers from experiencing this title, I do have to be mindful of this story’s value in comparison to the many Superman stories of the past two years I’ve paid $2.99 of $3.99 a shot for. Superman Unchained #1 has already given me a lot more confidence in the character and story future than 6 issues of any other recent Superman series has. By that measure, $4.99 remains quite the deal.