Superman Unchained #9| Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Scott Williams | Colorists: Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz | Publisher: DC Comics | Price: $4.99 | From my column at Forces of Geek.com
With several publishing delays, drastic character changes (Lex Luthor being a member of the Justice League) and the Superman ongoing series getting a new superstar creative team in the form of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr, it was obvious that Superman Unchained wasn’t long for this world, even though it has been the quintessential telling of the Man of Steel’s exploits in the New 52.
Superman is faced with a choice instituted by Lex Luthor. To save the planet, Superman will have to seemingly take his own life. This isn’t new ground because Superman has been put in countless situations over the years where the selfless hero makes the sacrifice play in order to save the day.
However, Scott Snyder accomplishes an impressive feat with this moment by bringing back that much sought-after feeling of inspiration. To do this, he uses Lex Luthor’s voice to hammer the point home that Superman is a candle instead of a beacon of light because he is just a man who stumbles through life.
It’s during this poignant dialog that we see Superman fly up into space towards an armada of warships, without a plan. The no-strategy part is what Luthor was alluding to when he mentioned stumbling through life but, Superman knew he was the only one capable of stopping the aliens approaching the planet. So, he flies straight ahead, prepared for the worst, and hoping to somehow deliver the best outcome.
A lot of artists have drawn Superman over the years but there is something about the way Jim Lee illustrates him that brings about such splendor. From flight to fight, Lee’s tells an inspired story which shines during five pages of wordless imagery where one minute, Superman is clinching his fist with a look on his face that could topple a mountain and the next, to a weakened and frail state due to a red sun onslaught where it appears that he is about to make the ultimate sacrifice.
This conclusion is bitter sweet in a sense that while we were provided this nine issue arc with an ending it so richly deserves, but it’s still over. Wraith proved to be a phenomenal antagonist because he challenged Superman on such an innate psychological level that you almost forgot about the big brother physical strength he had over him as well. While it may be back to the mediocre storytelling for the Last Son of Krypton, this series is a perfect example of how to portray him in 2014.
Score: 4.5 out of 5