Between the weekly digital scratch for my Superman itch that “Adventures of Superman” provides and the promise of more Superman goodness already delivered upon in the first two issues of “Superman Unchained,” it sure seems like now is a pretty good time to be a Superfan, regardless of your feelings towards “Man of Steel.” Scott Snyder, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair and Sal Cipriano really bring everything they can to elevate this story and give readers a timeless adventure of the Last Son of Krypton.
While it was once taboo to tap into the thought process of Superman, Snyder opens up those thoughts for readers, helping to illustrate both the “Super” and the “man.” Unlike the cinematic interpretation, the Jim Lee-drawn champion possesses an innate sense to do good and to minimize lost lives and damaged property. There’s a balance present in his thoughts between the optimistic farmboy naivete and the meticulous studiousness of the most powerful man on the planet. Neither aspect trumps the other, but Superman uses both filters to do the most good. There are certainly going to be some casualties resultant from “Superman Unchained” #2’s opening conflict, but at least Superman tried to determine the best solution and readers were privy to his thoughts.
Lex Luthor should always be Superman’s greatest foil and that certainly appears to be the case as he takes on the greatest criminal mastermind in the confines of Metropolis Armory Ward high-security prison (or M.A.W.) with thoughts of his own. Lex feels like the schemer I know and while I’m more than a little envious of his scale model of Metropolis, I have no doubt that Snyder and Lee will make Luthor a worthy adversary for the Man of Steel.
In addition to making Superman more interesting to read than in new comics over the past couple years, Snyder dumps a significant amount of additional items into this issue. We meet the character soon-to-be-declared Wraith and learn that General Lane has been preparing for the eventuality of battling Superman. Snyder unleashes Superman against a foe and provides background on the terrorist group Ascension all the while along building out Metropolis and the cast surrounding Superman. Snyder and Lee kick off “Superman Unchained” #2 with a parallel to the opening of the first issue. Luthor’s concept of a solar tree looks quite a bit like an atomic explosion and the heads of characters are all inclined, gazing skyward when we meet them.
Those choices show the partnership forged between Snyder and Lee as both contribute to the story in “Superman Unchained” #2. For his part, Lee packs in page-buckling amounts of detail. Like George Perez, Lee excels when there is more to add to a page and this issue offers plenty of opportunity in that direction. From Luthor’s model to the actual cityscape of Metropolis to the stalactites and stalagmites of the Batcave, Lee etches details on top of details. Alex Sinclair is able to adhere to Lee’s details and does so with verve and grandeur. Bright colors accentuate the art and propel the pages of “Superman Unchained” to the level of visual spectacle. Sal Cipriano balances all of that with his lettering, giving characters and situations variation and depth. Lee’s pages work well to contain the splendor of this adventure, alternating between full-page (and frequently beyond) bleeds and more traditional white-gutter pages. This is beautiful work from the entire art team.
“Superman Unchained” #2 is a fantastic offering for Superman fans of any era. All of the requirements for an enjoyable, exciting Superman story are in place and well executed. Snyder and Lee take it all a step above, adding in relationship development between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne in the form of a subplot that might have legs later on. Readers should enjoy seeing Clark and Bruce depending on one another and the name-dropping of Cyborg helps tighten the universe ever so slightly. This issue is rounded out with a two-page backup that seems a little thin for the beefy story that precedes it, but offers a little more personality. The extra buck for the book gets us three more pages of lead story while Snyder is clearly using the two-page epilogs to inform readers of the impact Superman leaves on those around him. “Superman Unchained” #2 continues an incredibly strong tale of the Man of Steel.