Another very good issue of Superman Unchained, it’s a shame this title comes out so damn infrequently, because it hurts the momentum of the story, and in fact, I had forgotten what had happened at the end of #5, so the first few pages took a little time to get adjusted to, but once the action got going, I was back in the zone with Snyder and Lee.
The issue starts with Superman telling an anecdote about how much he hates a TV ad for a mattress store that features a parody of him sleeping on a cloud. It’s not really outright explained why he hates it, but I assume it’s because Supes can never really sleep comfortably, and this is shown by his narration segueing into him talking about how he’s constantly monitoring the number of nuclear missiles on the planet at any given moment. Right now there are 919 nukes on Earth… and Ascension have just launched all of them. After briefly coordinating with Batman and Wonder Woman, Superman flies off with Wraith to take down Ascension and stop the missiles, but even then, the tension between them remains, as Wraith is only concerned about the nukes that might hit America.
At Ascension’s base, Lois Lane is trying to fight back, and she shows her characteristic feistiness, but there are too many of them, and they prepare to kill her. Of course, this is Superman’s cue to arrive right on time, take out the Ascension dudes, and save Lois. Lois grabs a shard of Earthstone, but before they can do anything with it, the head Ascension guy activates the self-destruct button, blowing everything up. Superman is able to protect Lois with his cloak, but there’s still those damn missiles to stop. Because the Earthstone is what allowed Ascension to hack into the missiles, it makes sense that it would be able to stop them, and that’s what Superman does, just in time, he saves the whole planet from complete destruction. Which is, you know, pretty cool.
Man, this issue is pretty non-stop, as right after Superman has stopped the nukes, Wraith shows back up, demanding he hand over the Earthstone to the US Government. Supes of course refuses, and the fight we’ve all been waiting for is on. However, Superman is prepared, as he and Batman have worked together to create a synthetic material in a ring that acts as Wraith’s own Kryptonite. I loved the little cutaway panel of Batman whistling innocently here, Scott Snyder’s work is often very serious, especially when it comes to Batman, so this was a nice surprise. Superman beats Wraith down, and has the guy vowing to kill him, but rather than fight back, he is told to retreat by General Lane. So for once, his following orders has been a good thing for Superman!
The main story ends with Superman taking Lois back to the Fortress Of Solitude in order to keep her safe from any surviving Ascension-types. She sees his alien zoo, and they study the Earthstone together, and they need to, as it starts acting strangely, re-writing itself or something. This happens at the same time as General Lane and the rest of The Machine arrive in the Arctic and declare war on Superman. This is a great ending, and I can’t wait to see how Superman will deal with his own country going against him like this again. This whole arc has dealt really well with the nature of Superman’s loyalties, and whether or not he should be more pro-America than he is. As a Brit, I don’t particularly have a dog in the fight, but I do much prefer the global approach. Not present with the Machine is Wraith, who, as we see in this issue’s 2 page Dustin Nguyen back-up, has headed to the Batcave and plans to kill Batman for his part in making the ‘Wraithtonite’. Does this mean General Lane knows Bats is Bruce Wayne? Oh man.
Jim Lee did what he does best in this issue, and that was draw exciting, classic superhero action. This run has really been much more suited to his strengths than his last Superman run with Azzarello. I’m not a huge fan of Lee’s, but Snyder has crafted a story that allows him to shine.
It’s a shame that this book is ending in only 3 issues, but when it’s all over, we’ll have a great, complete story that actually has something to say about who Superman is, and a great centrepiece for the 75th anniversary.