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Author Topic: A re-read: Superman Unchained  (Read 2074 times)
Jimmy T
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Posts: 5019

« on: January 12, 2015, 10:53:11 AM »

So, as before, SPOILERS will be included...but sometimes more in content than full reveals. Be warned.


I had the greatest joygasm in hearing that Scott Snyder would write an ongoing Superman title. Surely, SURELY, Snyder would do a run on Superman to rival the great work he's done in Batman for years. And, it would be given full attention by Jim Lee! This project has power behind it!

A sad day dawned when a month or 3 into it, they 'revealed' it's not an ongoing, but only a limited issue run...which then became 9 at some point. Fine, whatever, just give me the goods. It was going to stand on it's own, and only mention some of the N52 highlights (Luthor in prison, Clark quit the Planet to do his own blogging journalism).

After the full read of the issues through the monthly pacing, I felt that the story/Snyder was almost...disappointed in Superman. I'll elaborate more on that later. But what I can say is that during the reading of this during publication, I kept waiting for Superman to be....more. More what? I'm not sure. There are aspects which seemed to pull this story down to me. Starting with...

...Jim Lee's art. Hold thee rock; still thy arms! Listen to me with heart, not just yon ears!

Firstly, Lee's creation, rendition, and illustrating of the Super-armor is just garbage. Visually, it's stilly. Most designers, clothe designers will tell you that repeating motifs can bring a design down. The diamond shape, as it's initially presented framing the 'S' is repeated on both shoulders, the belt buckle, & upside down on the long sleeves over his wrists. Then, there are the armor lines which don't mesh, meet, or hold to any real design of body protection, but mostly appeal to Lee's busy-work illustration which then must be cross-hatched to death. I probably wouldn't have such a problem with it if the armor-line work actually drew the eye to something, but more than anything, it just gives Lee something more to do on the central figure since his backgrounds and illustrative narratives are poor.

NOW; his establishing shots are still grand. Whether it's the space station in orbit, a plane view of Metropolis, the Batcave, the Fortress, all are grand. Just amazingly grand. He doesn't spare the work here. However, after that, all I could notice is how often everything seems to be held in a destruction of rubble of buildings, snow, and rocks. You read all 9 in a row, you start to see how often the backgrounds just become cheats to the story. Also, yes, he's an Image guy, but wow, I'm not sure I could draw that many posed shots.

What I'm saying, is that I become less impressed with his storytelling ability over the whole of the story. With Superman always over rendered and take up three-quarters of each panel, he doesn't have to devote any time to the surroundings. I just came away uninspired from it.

The story? The presence of a new being, Wraith, who is a Superman himself, doesn't present to me that many problems of a created story cypher. I figured that somehow, by the end, this character would be gone-dead, returned to home, powers eliminated, whatever. I knew that Wraith was merely the storytelling device of this arc. With Wraith being the complete tool and weapon of the US (a very secret US military operation; natch), he fulfills the role that Superman "plays" at. Wraith stops dictators, eliminates wars, kills the enemies. Superman does a what a good person does-he helps out. Due to his powers, Superman can super-help out, but does not control the world, find end solutions, or work for a government directive or on dictates on how to handle certain matters.

So, this story is the juxtaposition of Supes versus Wraith. I got the most telling narrative about what this story was about while reading the first issue plot of Snyder's provided in the deluxe hardcover. It goes something like this: "...this will highlight more about perception versus reality. It's a theme that will be replayed in the upcoming issues. What Superman does is more about the perception of what he does versus the reality that is needed to see those perceptions become reality." (more of a paraphrase, mind you).

Snyder hits on this very, very well. Does Superman do that much 'good' when wars still rage, innocents are slaughtered by despots, or if he doesn't share his advanced technology (or weapons) with his government? Is Superman still doing good? Wraith is that Superman, and has done and made significant changes to the world with his powers.

I think that its in that where I get the feeling that Snyder, as expressed through Luthor's ending monologue, is almost disappointed with Superman. Superman; he doesn't even get to be the hero of the tale! A great danger is stopped by another, but at least it was Superman who caused that grinch's heart to grow 3 times larger that day.

Snyder weaves a lot of wandering elements throughout the course of this story with all the MVPs of Superman's world-the Planet, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor. Snyder has a great inside voice for Superman as he tries to work to save everyone in the 19 seconds left before the tallest building in the world collapses and kills all inside. Really appreciated that.

It's just...I think I do end up agreeing with Lex in the end. While he does disdain the world's reliance on someone who is not truly guided to shepard the world towards nirvana, Superman tries the best he can-which is something we all should do. And he always tries, no matter what. In that, he truly is our greatest hero. It just feels rather like this is a fact by omission, rather than conclusion by deduction.


Perhaps it is telling that I have a hard time wrapping my head around this piece. It has made me think; it has challenged me. Does that make this good? Really good? Great, even? Or am I attempting to justify to myself that this is a great Superman tale, and that I should like it? Why do I do that? Because it seems so hard to find these kinds of stories!!!

Or, just's not a pure face punching super powered tale, and it is something greater for asking the questions of what makes Superman super? Is it the work he does? Is it what he leaves behind? Is it what he does for others? Is it what he means to others?

Even now...I'm still mulling it over.

Jimmy T since 2001
HR Celestial
Posts: 11684

« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2015, 02:29:03 PM »

I dropped this early - around issue 2 I think.  Just didn't pull me in like I had hoped with Snyder and Lee on it.

"If I could go back in time and like tell 11 year old me that like not only do you get to go to Comic Con but you go every year.  So much so that you get greeted by Stan Lee when you show up.  And 11 year old me would be like - How did we get so fat?" - Kevin Smith
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