It’s the 75th anniversary of the Big Blue, and DC is celebrating with the release of Superman Unchained, a new addition to the Superman comic title family. The varied and extensive amount of variant covers for Unchained (a whopping nine covers) try to evoke the different eras of Superman – from Golden Age to Bruce Timm’s animated style. While it can be seen as a celebration of Superman over 75 years, the time-hopping variants can also be seen as a sign; a sign that Superman Unchained is meant to be the next great era for Superman. With a team like Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, the potential is certainly there, but is the #1 issue worth the 4.99 price tag?
Snyder has a gift for writing inner dialogue, giving us a peek into the head of Superman. We see Supes think out a situation from different angles, never questioning, just moving forward to save the day. This is a strong contrast to another of Snyder’s work, the current Batman run. When Batman would analyze, looking for the path of least resistance, Superman acts, pushing forward, and thinking along the way. The concern many have had is that after a good run writing a character like Batman, Snyder might have some trouble settling into Superman. Well, have no fear, Snyder seems to have a handle on both Superman and Clark Kent. Clark is verbose and speaking with a sesquipedalian vocabulary, as a journalist should. However, Clark Kent is more about his interactions with Lois and Jimmy than diction.
Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and the Daily Planet crew are back, unsurprisingly. Lois is still a passionate journalist who pulls no punches, and Jimmy Olsen is still the young, funny photographer. Snyder doesn’t take any liberties with the supporting cast in this issue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lois and Jimmy have been such static characters in the Superman mythology because they work for the story rather than against it. Snyder’s clever writing keeps the bite in Lois’ words and attitude—and Jimmy is suitably fearful of Lois, which means that Snyder also has a good grip on more than just the big man with the cape.
The comic ends on the tease of a new villain, who apparently had something to do with the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in World War II. This very unexpected piece of information at the very least makes for an intriguing new baddie. It ends on the villain tease, as well as shedding some light on the events going on in the comic. All in all, the ending teases are an interesting first arc for Unchained.
As always, Jim Lee’s art is fantastic, and it really works for Superman. The stellar art is especially easy to see in the gatefold fold-out poster, which seems a little unnecessary, but is nonetheless impressive.
For 4.99, the comic itself is rather short. DC justifies this with the inclusion of a fold-out poster, which is nice but extraneous.
Snyder and Lee have started off Unchained with style. The comic is worth the $4.99, not because of the poster, but because these two comic greats have started something exciting for Superman. If the art and the writing stay at this level, Superman Unchained will be what the variants signaled—a new great era for Superman.