Superman Unchained #1 by Scott Snyder – Double Review [Shadowhawk/Bane of Kings]
Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings review the first issue of Scott Snyder’s latest project for DC.
“An awesome debut for a new series. Count me in on the ride for sure – Superman Unchained #1 has just become my favourite ongoing Superman book.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“To be perfectly honest, the first issue is a bit lackluster and lacks the narrative punch usually found in Scott’s work on Batman but I’m definitely in for the next issue.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
Bane of Kings:
Art: Jim Lee | Inks: Scott Williams | Colours: Alex Sinclair
#1 – When thirteen satellites fall from the sky in one day, the logical suspect is Lex Luthor—even though he’s still locked up in prison! But a stranger question remains: If Superman didn’t stop the last satellite from falling, who did? There’s a mystery hidden where even Superman can’t see it—Can The Man of Steel drag a decades-old secret into the light? Don’t miss the debut of this red-hot new series from two of comics’ brightest superstars: SCOTT SNYDER and JIM LEE!
This debut issue also includes a bonus two-sided, tipped-in poster measuring 11.6875” x 18.875” that is part of the reading experience and can be easily removed for display!
It’s safe to say that, apart from the recent Adventures of Superman and Andy Diggle’s one-issue run with Action Comics #19, Superman has had a pretty terrible time in the New 52. Whilst I enjoyed the first three issues of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, they never stood out as anything too spectacular, and I never got around to reading Superman itself beyond the first issue. Superboy and Supergirl have fared no better – and only with recent newcomers to their titles (Michael Alan Nelson delivered a stunning issue of Supergirl #20), that things are starting to look up for the Super-Family of DC Comics.
And then came Superman Unchained, by the current Batman and Swamp Thing writer Scott Snyder, and the incredible Justice League artist Jim Lee. I was looking forward for this issue right from the start, and not even the raised pricetag for a poster was going to put me off, and I’m not that big of a Superman fan. Although – I am incredibly excited for Man of Steel, and am starting to think that I should give more of his comics a try. Scott Snyder came along though, stepped up, and knocked the ball out of the park for an incredible first issue, reinforced with Jim Lee’s spectacular artwork that is well drawn, and the colours from Alex Sinclair really add to the overall experience.
It’s a new era for Superman. Clark Kent no longer works for the Daily Planet, but that doesn’t prevent him from keeping in touch with his friends there – Jimmy Olsen still provides him with bagels, and Lois Lane will be there to offer her thoughts on Clark’s headline choices. Whilst it’s nice to have a Clark-Kent focus for certain things, the main conflict presented in the story is of course – the crashing of thirteen satellites falling from the sky, leaving Superman with a question, who is really behind it all? Lex Luthor? The terrorist group Ascension? Something else? The mystery is interesting and the action scenes are spectacular, Jim Lee’s art really reinforcing the fact that he’s currently one of my favourite artists in the New 52 right now, for I just love his interior portrayals of not just Superman Unchained, but also his work on Justice League was awesome as well.
There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t like about Superman Unchained, and in any other week, it would easily be my pick of the week – but it’s up against the latest issue of Snyder’s Batman, #21, which was also superb – and Jason Aaron’s awesome Thor: God of Thunder #9. So this is a very hard choice this week for me, however, I think Superman Unchained just clinches it. Count me on board for #2 for sure.
Set in the post Superman #13 era where Clark Kent has quit his job at the Daily Planet in a fit of anger at the unethical dictates of the paper’s current owner, Superman Unchained is a new series with Batman superstar Scott Snyder and DC’s premier artist and co-publisher Jim Lee at the helm as they seek to explore the Man of Steel’s ongoing story in the New 52 universe. There was a lot of buzz on this issue, owing in part to Scott’s current status, and because the other two print Superman comics, Action Comics and Superman have continued to underperform in the last year, more so as premier superhero titles. Myself, I was pretty damn excited for this one, especially after seeing some of the art previews that were provided by DC in the run-up to the release. However, this is one of those rare times where my expectations have exceeded the reality, because I was rather disappointed with this issue.
For starts, I’m rather disappointed that the issue doesn’t really offer anything different from the ongoing Superman comic. Its a little better written, that’s for sure, but it just isn’t all that compelling. There are too many things going on, as if Scott is trying to fit in a 5-issue graphic novel into a single issue, and so the pacing is off, with little clarity in the direction the script goes. The cliffhanger-ish ending is also sign-posted from the very first few pages, so that wasn’t a surprise either. The issue just didn’t grab me at all. It was the same tired old formula with nothing to really distinguish this book from Superman.
Then, the extra dollar prince on the digital copy (and the print copy as well). I never gripe about the cost of a novel or a comic book or some such, but I fail to see why even as a digital reader I had to pay an extra $1 for this comic. There really isn’t any benefit as a digital reader, especially when this is JUST a regular-sized comic book and has almost no extra pages other than a short back-up story which covers a very minor plotpoint from the main script.
However, there are a few positives on the issue. Jim Lee’s big splash pages are fairly good. He still has a great eye for bringing live-action cinema to the comic book page, and this can be seen again and again throughout the issue. It gives the issue a blockbuster feel that isn’t matched, unfortunately, by the script. In general, the art here is much better than that can be seen in the ongoing series, because Lee is better at the character expressions, the poses, the panel compositions, and comes across as much more realistic than the often cartoonish or ink-heavy feel of the main series.
Scott, while he misses the mark on the script, seems to get the characters down pretty well, and that was really important for me. Clark, Superman, Jimmy, Perry, and Lois should feel like Clark, Superman, Jimmy, Perry and Lois, which they do. If nothing else, this is one thing that Scott gets down perfectly, and this alone would be enough to keep me coming back for more.
Superman Unchained #1 really could have been a much tighter comic, with a more focused script that flows naturally from one meta-scene to another, and its definitely the art that pulls it through. To draw a comparison between this and Batman #1 or even Scott’s other new book, The Wake #1, this book falls far short in the script department. The daring changes he makes to the Bat-verse, or at least the way he presents everything, in Batman #1 is spectacular. The way that he creates the entire mystery in The Wake #1 is far more impressive than the cliffhanger-ending in this book.
So yeah, it was a mixed issue. I’m in for at least one more issue. This is one of those titles that, like Team 7, I’ll be taking one issue at a time and going on from there.