Review: Superman Unchained #1 – Scott Snyder & Jim Lee

unchainedSuperman is getting a lot of love lately, and why shouldn’t he? He’s the superhero archetype, celebrating not only 75 years of his existence, but also essentially heralding the 75 years of  superhero comics as we know it. He’s got a new movie, new digital series, and now a new ongoing series – Superman Unchained. Courtesy of comics legend Jim Lee, and current superstar Scott Snyder (who we’ve established many times is killing it over on Batman), this new ongoing series is out to revitalise the otherwise decidedly mediocre current main title line-up. And boy, does it deliver.

Superman Unchained reads like a true Superman tale. We have flashy action, honest human (Kryptonian?) heart, and good old fashioned Clark Kent journalism. Following a mystery regarding satellites falling from orbit, as Superman exercises both his raw strength and journalistic skills – it’s standard fare for Kal-El and that’s a good thing. It seems like Snyder went out to make sure he hit all the right notes of  making a great Superman story and delivered. While it definitely doesn’t break any new ground, it’s 100% fun.

Snyder also manages to make it immediately accessible to new readers with only a cursory knowledge of the Man of Steel. Aside from needing to know that Clark Kent has left the Daily Planet, Snyder crafts a story that could be read by anyone, and stays true to the fiction. Lois Lane is smart and sassy, Jimmy Olsen is loyal, and Lex Luthor is… well, Lex Luthor. For the brief period each of these characters appear, you just get their character. Snyder’s grasp of the world of Superman is uncanny, and it makes you wonder why he hasn’t written him sooner.

Speaking of the world of Superman, this issue has a healthy amount of references to the DC Universe around him, not just the Superman family. Starting with a fun jab at Batman, Snyder treats this like a title within a universe, rather than just treating it like it’s own entity. It’s simple, but incredibly effective.

Jim Lee does not hold back for this issue, as we are treated to some of the more spectacular works I have seen from the artist. The issue comes with a large fold-out poster for print readers, which is treated like any other page for the digital crowd, and it looks amazing. Lee really seems to get Superman, and alongside making the New52 outfit look cool, really has a grasp of Superman’s character design. From the softly drawn quieter Clark Kent moments, to the more powerful “super” moments, Lee draws Superman brilliantly.

The only issue I have with Lee’s art is that at times it can feel a bit claustrophobic, with the more action packed sequences throwing a little too much at the page. This is only a minor quibble, as Lee absolutely kills it otherwise.

With a cool new villain set up, which leads to some interesting historical implications, Snyder and Lee have set the stage for Superman Unchained. While its first outing didn’t really break much new ground, if it is going to be this good I don’t really care. This is too much fun.