I review Superman Unchained #5 by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, the latest issue in the series from DC Comics.
For me, I’ve always enjoyed Superman Unchained. I know it’s got some bad press but on the whole the book has been consistently awesome right from the start, and with the fifth issue things are just getting better and better. The Wraith arc is prehaps not quite on the same level as the opening Court of Owls arc for Snyder’s Batman, but it’s still pretty strong, with the writer managing to put in enough surprise to keep us reading the book. The series so far has never made mistakes that seem to plague most Superman books, such as Scott Lobdell’s Superman title, and includes a few familiar faces but not in the way that we’re used to having them. The book isn’t just an action packed movie blockbuster like Man of Steel or like what Greg Pak’s Action Comics has been so far. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both, but Superman Unchained is something different and fresh. And that’s just what we as readers need. The main weakness of the book so far though is that there are prehaps too many plotthreads going on so early on in the series, the subplot involving Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen wasn’t even mentioned in this issue with the focus mainly on Ascension and Wraith.
The artwork provided by Jim Lee manages to be as stellar as usual. I know he gets a lot of hate from fans but I for one really dig his artwork and he’s easily one of my favourite artists, ranking up there with the likes of Andrea Sorrentino, Greg Capullo, Francesco Francaviila and JH Williams III. He’s just that good, and the panels shown in this issue really work. It’s easily the best artwork that we’ve seen on a Superman book aside from maybe Tony S. Daniel (and Aaron Kuder’s Action Comics art is promising as well) and I love the way Lee approaches this comic, with him working well with Snyder to present a compelling and awesome read.
The main focus in Superman Unchained #5 is on Wraith and we finally get some important questions revealed about the character. Last issue saw them team up to save Tokyo and whilst this issue sees them hunting bad guys again, there’s a break with an unexpected thread that sees Superman take Wraith to the Fortress of Solitude. I’ve rarely encountered The Fortress in comics and it was nice to experience it here. There was a memorable scene that for me is one of the highlights of the book so far in this issue, where Wraith explained to Superman that everyone around him will age whilst he won’t. Questions are raised about how he will continue to change and adapt to the society as the years go by and it becomes apparent that unless questions are raised he can’t remain Clark Kent forever, with the strong character drama proving that Snyder can write good interactions just as well as he can handle the latest blockbuster epic.
Whilst Lex and Jimmy may be absent from this series Lois Lane also shows up towards the end of #5, with a strong portrayal of her character from Snyder as she learns more about Ascension in this issue. Like Wraith, it’s nice to learn more about Superman’s foes and the book sees a strong cliffhanger ending guest starring Justice League members. It’ll be interesting to see how this is resolved is dealt with in future issues, and I hope they continue to delve into the flashback sequences which feature the amazing artwork of Dustin Nguyen who gets more time with Snyder to explore Clark in his childhood and the end result, whilst at first it may seem unconnected to the main events, is still pretty good and the artistic switch isn’t as jarring as it could have been if the wrong artists had been chosen for this book.
Aside from the fact that this book’s main weakness, the overcrowding of various plots becomes more apparent in this issue due to the absence of Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor, Superman Unchained #5 manages to be a very strong read that although may not be quite my Pick of the Week, it’s certainly up there. Count me in for #6 next month.