In Review: Superman Unchained #1

The cover: A decent action shot of Superman taken from a scene early in the issue. His hair is messed, he looks cheesed and he’s destroying something: always a good go-to look for him. The torso on Supes looks really elongated. I’m not a fan of computerized blurring to create a three dimensional quality to the art–it just makes everything in the foreground look blurry. It’s also a fairly dark cover; so dark that it gets lost when viewed against all the other books on the rack. Decent, but not dynamic, image by Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair. Overall grade: B

The story: The first three pages are a terrific opener by Scott Snyder. Setting this story back a few more years would have had the added impact of coinciding with Superman’s 75th anniversary, but I’ll take 1945. So what happens? A boy in Nagasaki looks up to see a bomb dropped from a plane. It’s April 9, 1945, and you think you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t! The bomb opens to reveal a blue man whose eyes turn crimson, his body bursts into flame, and then Page 4 shoots us to the present as Superman chases after a prototype space station that’s falling towards Earth. Superman does what he’s supposed to do and then he’s off to find those responsible for the station’s malfunction. There’s a nice appearance by a famous villain, though only fleeting, used to establish his presence in the series, then we’re greeted to Jimmy and Lois before heading to our final location. I loved the first three pages and the last five pages, but everything in the middle was your typical Superman and supporting cast filler. Was it bad? No, but “been there, done that.” For Unchained, the middle fourteen pages were bound in convention. I’d like to enjoy Superman’s adventures, but at this price ($4.99–add an extra buck for the combo pack with the Digital Copy), I wasn’t. There’s also an epilogue, though the story isn’t resolved–it should have been a “prelude”, which introduces a future threat. It was meh. And the open-out pages/poster: unnecessary for this story. Overall grade: B-

The art: This is a great looking book, with few exceptions. Jim Lee is a great penciller as Scott Williams is an inker in creating sheer power. I thrilled to the look of Page 7 (I’m counting the poster as Pages 5 and 6). I detest the blur in the second panel, but everything–Superman, the astronauts and the debris, look great! Pages 12 and 13 deliciously introduce a baddie in a position I’ve never seen before. Lois’ intro is silly–more Minority Report than Metropolis. The Andaman Sea scenes are spectacular. Just flat-out gorgeous. The two page Epilogue is drawn by Dustin Nguyen, channeling Jerry Ordway, with inks again by Williams. I like this look as I was a fan of The Adventures of Superman when it ran. Overall grade: A

The colors: Blues, greens and purples are used throughout by Alex Sinclair, due in no small part to the settings, exterior and interior. My hope is to see the book brighten a bit and not be confined by these darker colors. Let me give an example, I thought Page 15′s exterior shot was night when I first saw it, but looking at it more closely I can see it’s supposed to be day. This isn’t good for a reader to focus on. The Epilogue is colored by John Kalisz and it’s appropriately dark, almost film norish. Nice. Overall grade: B+

The letters: A lot of dialogue and even more narration provided by Sal Cipriano. Good job throughout with only a few sound effects. Overall grade: A

Extras: There’s also a four page interview with Snyder and Lee discussing Superman. It’s okay. There are also some nice shots of Lee’s original cover and poster with just the pencils, then with the inks added, and finally the color. I enjoyed looking at this more than the interview. I got a sour taste in my mouth at the tagline at the conclusion of the interview: “For more behind-the-scenes info on Superman Unchained (Editor Matt Idelson, titles are italicized), including the original script and pencils, check out the Superman Unchained Director’s Cut, on sale in July!” That was fast, DC. Overall grade: B-

The final line: Decent. Some things are fun, others rote, while others overblown and unnecessary. I’ll go one more issue, but not any more if it’s going to be $3.99. Overall grade: B+


Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comics Buyers Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and only recently taught 9th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

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