SUPERMAN UNCHAINED 1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jim Lee & Dustin Nguyen
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I was going to open this review with a stupid DJANGO joke, had it planned for weeks. But after reading SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, I frankly don’t want to sully the book with such cheap review parlor tricks. Instead I’m going to open this review with an apology. I wasn’t the biggest fan of JUSTICE LEAGUE when it launched. I felt it was too big and too bodacious, it lacked the intimacy of Johns’ past work so I put the onus of my distaste on Lee. I claimed he gave it splash page pacing and as a result took my beloved Johns out of his comfort zone.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED basically puts egg on my face. As you will see with the picture accompanying this article, it has one of the biggest god damn splash pages you’ve ever seen and it was still an intimate experience punctuated by epic grandeur – exactly how SUPERMAN should be.
I’m honestly amazed at how much ground the boys covered in such a short page count (aside from the aforementioned megasplah, there’s an epilogue, an interview, and of course…sigh…Channel 52). I’m going to say this is a basic SUPERMAN story and I say with that the utmost respect and reverence. It’s a balance that’s been missing in lieu of exposition in the New 52. We get equal doses of Clark and SUPERMAN in UNCHAINED, but Snyder melds them organically unlike the clear issue by issue delineation we’ve seen in since the day FLASHPOINT changed everything. As SUPERMAN, Clark is the ego controlling the id. As Clark, SUPERMAN is the id making the superego more interesting than your typical corn fed farm boy.
We all know the basic plot by this point, some satellites drop to Earth all under the control of…some new villain. Of course SUPERMAN stops the satellites and yes there’s a new villain, but those broad strokes don’t even begin to describe the famous Snyder retcon that takes place behind the scenes or the spot on characterization for SUPERMAN and his equally famous friends.
The book actually opens in 1945 in a small Japanese town. What comes next any of us could imagine, but not really. Yes, a bomb is released from an old prop plane, but instead of exploding above this town it breaks apart and releases a blue humanoid. Honestly, this figure was reminiscent of the days went SUPERMAN went blue (and I don’t mean his period as a stand-up comedian that swore profusely). This is a big change for DC to completely rewrite actual history. Sure Snyder has had his way with the history of Gotham in the past, but it’s only been his Vertigo work where he transformed our reality.
Flash forward to today when the satellites start falling, and that gorgeous page breaking megasplash. Be careful with this page dear reader, while gorgeous and bold in execution – the logistics could use some work. Mine is precariously hanging on by a small gob of glue right now as I gingerly slip it back into mylar. As the satellites fell I knew SUPERMAN was back on track. A little inner story about Kansas, a screaming in the head on the sanctity of life and real harrowing struggle as he tries to divert a hunk of metal with a nuclear reactor to safety were all things that embody the character packed into three short pages.
Once the satellites are landed, of course Clark Kent needs to cover the story (not before a quick diversion to shake down Luthor though) and here is where Snyder shows an aptitude for the ancillary characters in Clark’s life, especially Lois Lane. Up until now New 52 Lois has frankly been mildly cunty towards Big Blue. LobRocster’s run redeemed her a bit (along with the whole title actually), but we didn’t see “work” Lois during that time. Here, she is driven and focused, but courteous and dare I say mildly caring towards Clark and his freelance writer self. Jimmy is funny and Perry gruff. Basically a return to the core characters that has again been greatly obstructed with 5 years before and the politics of media up until now.
The book ends as it began – with our big blue nemesis. Or is he? While Clark learns he wasn’t the only one diverting satellites today we get the omnipotent look at this blue character’s lord and master – the US Government, specifically General Lane.
The back-up story (another welcome Snyder staple) is mildly confusing, but a wonderful soft contrast to thhe main event in both tone and visuals. We meet another mysterious character with burnt out eyes hauled in by a fishing net while Perry shows Jimmy a pair of binoculars his Uncle retrieved from the ashes of Nagasaki. A nice moment with an obvious and yet also mysterious connection towards revealing this new 75 year old government secret Uberman.
Look, at the end of the day this is a SUPERMAN story. This is not a Millar twist event nor anything overtly shocking. If you hate SUPERMAN stories, keep on walking. But if you’re like me and have been waiting to see the real SUPERMAN for the past two years, here he is. DC branding called this SUPERMAN UNCHAINED for some reason, me I’m going to call it SUPERMAN SALVATION.