THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Superman Unchained has been a stellar series thus far, though not much has been revealed about the motivations of the various villains. Scott Snyder seeks to change that with this issue, revealing the insane Jonathan Rudolph as the head of Ascension, and giving deeper insight into to Wraith’s motivations.
Snyder gives readers a thematically fitting flashback sequence about hiding from the truth because much of the story this issue is about truth and identity. This concept makes these scenes poignant, but leaves the end of the issue with somewhat of a cliffhanger.
Readers learn more about Wraith, who reveals interesting motivation. It seems as though Wraith doesn’t want to kill Superman, and feels that it is an inevitability that Superman will end up taking sides with the US government. He talks about how Supes won’t age, but those he loves will eventually wither and die right before his eyes, and that if Superman doesn’t join with the government, General Sam Lane will have Wraith kill him. Wraith does present some interesting points, and for fans of the Big Blue, it’s certainly food for thought.
Ascension has used an object called the Earthstone to launch every nuke on the planet in order to bring about a new age of humanity. While this plot twist certainly “out there”, it does present an interesting problem for Superman to resolve in the coming issue.
Jim Lee’s art, as always, is gorgeous. From issue to issue, Lee is bringing more and more of a unique flair to his art to match with the story being told. The book would be good without Lee, surely, but it couldn’t be great.
Ascension’s motivations are hard to decipher. Apparently, when Wraith came to earth, he carried an equation that laid out a lot of technology from his planet. A US military organization called “The Machine” used this equation to advance technology and help humanity. Somehow this was evil, and Jonathan Rudolph decided that the Machine had to be shut down – and so he resolved to… nuke the whole planet? Honestly, Rudolph’s motivations make little sense right now. Hopefully future issues will flesh out what exactly Rudolph wanted to do or why nuking the planet is the answer.
A slow issue with some weird revelations, Superman Unchained #5 is probably the lowest point of the series thus far. Snyder does raise some interesting questions for the Man of Steel, but these questions are lost in the haze of trying to figure out Ascension’s motivations. Lee’s art is still stellar, and there is some great dialogue to be had, so don’t get too disappointed. Hopefully the next issue will resolve some of the problems with this chapter.