Superman Unchained #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
Published by DC Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
What strikes me most about this second issue is that it’s interesting to see how methodical Snyder envisions Superman to be in Superman Unchained. This is no naïve super brute. This a Superman who is all about taking a deliberate, systematic approach to the business of being a superhero. There is a certain way that the Man of Steel thinks through every step he will take to save the day. But instead of being an uncomplicated tactician who’s able to think himself out of every situation, which would feel somewhat two-dimensional, Snyder subtly sneaks in a little more nuance to his vision of Superman. There are various plans he could employ to deal with the situation he faces in the beginning of the story with varied outcomes, some of which would necessarily include civilian casualties. In the wake of Man of Steel's controversial decision about Superman and death, it’s interesting to see Snyder’s Superman implicitly leaning in the direction of the more human take on the character over the other, more iconic notion of the hero who never fails even if the results are different.
But the issue doesn’t actually begin with Superman. Instead, the story opens — and closes — with the classic Superman villain in a traditional set up. With everything taking place throughout the story, however, the question arises over how Lex Luthor’s machinations will factor into the bigger picture Snyder is putting together. There are some elements of his take on Luthor that recalls the one readers encountered in Grant Morrison’s acclaimed All-Star Superman, but frankly, it works. And on a bit of a random note, the little classical references Snyder injects into the story are also appreciated. Sex and violence alone aren’t the only means to address a more mature audience, so this was a nice touch without coming off as pretentious.
The other enjoyable element to the book was the introduction of the Batman/Superman relationship in this issue. DC has Batman almost everywhere; however, there’s no mention of him on the cover, so it’s fair to suggest he’s not being used to cheaply drum up sales here. Rather, Snyder aptly deploys his Dark Knight to highlight some of Superman’s vulnerabilities and possibly foreshadow things to come. And when it comes to writing Batman, there are few writers with the knack for tapping into the Dark Knight’s voice like Snyder. For my part, this aspect of the story was one of the more enjoyable elements.
Artistically, Jim Lee’s work is as polished as one might expect; however, it feels like a slightly different rendering of Superman from some of Jim Lee’s previous executions. In fact, one could almost mistake the square-jawed Bruce Wayne for Clark Kent at one point during a discussion they share in the bat cave as Superman appeared somewhat leaner than the bulkier Bruce Wayne. As Clark, Superman had more of a narrow and younger looking face, which in turn gave him a less physically dominating presence. It could have been as simple as one man being in costume while the other was not, but still… it was an interesting choice especially given how Superman seems to be leaning on Batman for intelligence on his enemy in a number of ways in this issue. Different isn’t always a bad thing.
We also see Lee, Williams, and Sinclair take advantage of an opportunity to really dig into some different visual depictions of Superman’s powers from the Man of Steel’s perspective. The scene where Superman is seeking out General Lane using his hyper-sensitive listening is a great example of where the artistic team provides a superhuman perspective that is not often shown in comics. In a previous review of the first issue, I mentioned I hadn’t seen anything drastically different from Lee; however, this was a nice example of adding something unique for the readers to enjoy. And admittedly, kudos on the design of the new villain, who make his grand entrance towards the end of the issue. Where much of this issue continues to help move the story forward in terms of the connection between the U.S. military and this mysterious super-powered being, it becomes clear the third issue is going to be all about delivering an old-fashioned slugfest of epic proportions.
Readers could expect a “slow burn” from Scott Snyder based on Superman Unchained #1, and everything from this issue points to this being the case. And there's also the issues surrounding the mysterious and technologically savvy terrorists from Ascension and what they have in store for Lois Lane. Readers who were still unsure of the direction this new series would take will likely find issue #2 to contain a mixture of familiar narrative elements, as well as some really intriguing new territories to be explored.