Everything that Jim Lee draws jumps off the page. He likes drawing Superman and it shows. This incredible artist has been in the business for twenty plus years and he keeps getting better. Throw in top DC/Vertigo writer Scott Snyder into the mix and what you get is the new global threat Ascension. I truly believe that ascension is a metaphor for this dynamic combination of talent. The tale Snyder has crafted for us over the last four issues of the series has also introduced us to the new anti-hero Wraith. Or is it The Wraith? Either way he’s a badass that could either lead to Superman’s downfall or to his salvation. For most of the issue Wraith and Superman battle Ascension’s drones in the skies over Tokyo desperately trying to find a way to shield themselves from destructive radiated bullets. This battle is fun to read and the pacing moves quickly from panel to panel. As the battle rages Wraith even teaches Superman some new tricks. Our sidebar stories follow Lex Luthor/Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, which Snyder uses as character development to set the stage for the bigger mystery.
I’m still not sold on the title of the series being Superman Unchained. It may just be me but Django Unchained/Superman Unchained? Come on now! This is a Superman comic so upon opening the first page of the book I diligently checked my reality gauge at the door. Now here's the unbelievable....I didn’t know Lex Luthor was so skillful in his arts & crafts. The likeness of the Lex Luthor crafted Justice League paper Mache figures was too phenomenal. As he was folding paper Luther added color and costume changes to his figurines and multi-tasked by taunting a helpless Jimmy Olsen. I feel that Snyder is more at home in Gotham than in Metropolis. My reason for this is Jimmy Olsen has never been a character I cared for. For Jimmy to be a major player in the story leaves me skeptical. I have no doubt Snyder knows Superman but it is his supporting cast that ties Superman to his humanity much like how Gotham grounds Batman/Bruce Wayne. The back-up story to the issue was also penned by Snyder but drawn by Dustin Nguyen and was quite good. It was dark in tone and in texture and was totally different from the main pages. I feel that the scale of this book may be larger than both of the mega artists and that could ultimately be its downfall. For example the fight started in Tokyo but I swore I saw Paris and San Francisco in the mix. In a big battle you always want to provide context to what you are seeing. Snyder/Lee did this in an earlier issue where Superman was knocked clear across a state but in this issue I guess the big blows were assumed.
I will keep reading Superman Unchained for its talent alone. Snyder and Lee have started a Superman story that is intriguing. I like that we now have a character that is shrouded in government mystery and cover-up. The fact that Wraith is more powerful and older than Superman is a fascinating premise alone. Is he Kryptonian, a friend, a foe, or something else? We also have a new global threat that mirrors today’s cyber warfare landscape. With Big Data and Cloud Computing on the rise the Ascension is a perfect villainous movement for today’s world. The creative team may not be the best fit but it’s fun watching them mesh together.
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