Unfortunately, this first issue of Superman Unchained doesn’t involve Kal-El being freed from slavery by a kindly German dentist and killing Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson, but it’s still pretty good. Ever since Grant Morrison left Action Comics and Andy Diggle’s run was curtailed before it even begun, this has been the book I’ve been waiting to deliver a Superman comic that is actually good, and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I think it’s a good start.
Scott Snyder (no relation to Man Of Steel ‘visionary director’ Zack) has become one of my favourite writers and one of DC’s best thanks to his work on Batman, Swamp Thing and American Vampire, and he brings his usual high quality to the world of Superman. Yes, he does return to some of his usual tics, like every issue beginning with an anecdote about the hero’s childhood or parents, but it’s one thing to read Bruce Wayne reminisce for the umpteenth time, than to read Clark Kent do it for the first time. Snyder has really built up a real and relevant world for Batman, and if he can do the same for Superman, then it’s all good.
We see that here in the scenes with the classic trifecta of Clark, Lois and Jimmy. The dialogue between all three of them is very strong, and Snyder manages to make the Daily Planet seem real, with Lois worrying about ad placement in the paper. We also see some commentary on the state of the media today, Clark has grown frustrated by the tabloidy nature the Planet has taken and so is an independent blogger, which is very cool. I also like how Snyder is establishing a living and thriving Metropolis, complete with Bagel Shops. I really like DC’s fake cities, and when writers like James Robinson, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder really endeavor to make them seem real and distinctive, then I’m going to love it.
The actual Superman plot here involves Superman stopping a space station from crashing to Earth, in a very exciting, widescreen sequence wonderfully drawn by Jim Lee. I’m not the biggest Jim Lee fan in the world, but you know what you’re going to get from him, and the scope of this crash was real Jim Lee stuff. That massive double-sized poster was something else (albeit a bit unwieldy and hard to read, are we supposed to remove it from the cardboard? I dunno).
Snyder manages to use this crash to not only show how awesome Superman is, but set up several interesting plotlines. There’s the possibility that a new cyber-terrorist group called ‘Ascension’ could be behind it. Lex Luthor could also be involved (and Snyder writes a pretty great Lex), and then there’s the biggy, the existence of another being, just as powerful as Superman who is working for the US Government and who stopped another Satellite from crashing. Who is this dude? We see in the opening scene that he was the cause of the A-Bomb explosion over Nagasaki in 1945, which is a very interesting divergence from real history. A lot of people seem to think it’s another Kryptonian, maybe Zod, but my guess? Captain Atom. I know we’ve already seen him in the New 52, but time-travel is part of his origin anyway.
This was a strong start to this title, with a movie coming out, there needed to be a good Superman story out there, and this was that, and hey, it’s a perfect introduction to the character for any new readers who stumble into comic shops after seeing Man Of Steel. This is the kind of Superman we should be getting, two of the industry’s top creators, writing the top Superhero kicking some ass.