Thursday, 13 June 2013

Review: Superman Unchained #1

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jim Lee
Published by DC Comics

An unknown force is disabling satellites and sending them hurtling towards Earth. Only one man can save the day - Superman. Or could there be another?

Superman has always been a particularly difficult character to write, especially in the New 52. His self-titled series has floundered from the get-go, at first under the "guidance" of George Perez and then the omnipresent Scott Lobdell. 'Action Comics' fared slightly better with Grant Morrison's big concepts set in the Man of Steel's early days (essentially rehashing his origin for the billionth time), but has sputtered to a halt due to creative differences that saw top tier talent Andy Diggle leave after only one issue.

'Superman Unchained' is DC's chance to start all over again, giving us the Superman book we should've had in September 2011. Taking their top writer in Scott Snyder and pairing him with their top artist Jim Lee, DC are hoping to give this franchise a super kick up the behind.

I'm loathe to judge a series based solely on one issue, but so far this hasn't been the knockout blow that the publisher was intending. If anything, it's a fairly by-the-book Superman yarn. He performs a few herculean feats of strength, checks in with his supporting cast of Lois and Jimmy (despite no longer working at the Daily Planet) and butts heads with life-long nemesis, Lex Luthor. Even the new threat introduced at the end of the issue failed to illicit any real reaction from this humble writer.

The initial action sequence featuring Superman saving astronauts from a falling space station was quite fun, but nothing terribly original. My favourite part being Superman activating the falling station's heat shield with his eyes to protect the astronauts in their free fall. Having astronauts survive re-entry from space in only their standard issue suits was always a big question mark, so I'm happy to see it addressed and solved somewhat.

Big Blue's interaction with Lex Luthor was another fun scene, with our hero accusing the supervillain of orchestrating the issue's events, even from behind bars and without any evidence whatsoever. I've always been a big fan of the antagonistic relationship between the two characters and in this respect the issue was no letdown. I can't remember the last intelligent confrontation between the fan favourites, so the more Snyder mines this dynamic, the better.

I won't write this series off straight out of the gate, but it does no better job of attracting interest in Superman than his other two ongoing series. Which personally, I find hugely surprising, given the talent involved. In this week's batch of comics alone, Scott Snyder had two absolute masterpieces in Batman #21 (the beginning of Zero Year) and his American Vampire one-shot, The Long Road to Hell. To see him turn in a story so generic is a genuine mystery. Maybe his take on Superman will simply take a few issues to gain traction, but this one makes for a rare stumble on the prolific writer's resume.

6 out of 10

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