Architecture is the really appropriate theme to Superman Unchained #2 as Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are building what is becoming one of the greatest Superman stories ever with this series.
Lex kicks things off building the model city he made out of the pages of the Iliad in Superman Unchained #1 inside the Metropolis High Security Prison before we cut to Dubai where the tallest building in the world is falling down and Superman tells us about Apollodorus, the ancient Greek architect who built the Acropolis. Snyder and his classics and architecture, eh?
But this sequence is sensational – Snyder essentially puts you in the driver’s seat. Imagine you have Superman’s powers and you see a massive structure collapsing with 36,000 people inside – how do you save them? Oh and you have 19 seconds to figure it out. And a giant construction robot gone crazy is attacking you. Snyder not only shows you how powerful and amazing Superman’s powers are but the depth and complexity of his intelligence and imagination with the way he figures out how to save everyone just in time. Like the space station sequence that opened #1, this is another incredible and thrilling action sequence tailor made for Superman (with only one building damaged and no loss of life – take note, Zack Snyder, your brother from another mother is showing you how its done!).
Clark visits the Batcave in this issue and Batman makes an awesome cameo appearance as basically Superman’s tech guy, which, given Batman’s status in the DCU as one of the – if not the – smartest guys in the world, makes sense. Who else would Superman go to? Bruce has been analysing a piece of satellite from the last issue and has figured out that the superbeing whose DNA is on it is actually more powerful than Superman. Meanwhile, Lois hits the trail of the terror group Ascension, who seek to rebuild the world as a simpler, less technological world, and Superman follows the clues to a military installation where he meets a Doomsday-like figure who looks to be the powerful superbeing Superman’s looking for.
Snyder explores the idea of Superman as a threat to humanity, if he ever chose to use his powers for evil or lost control, through various characters – Batman is developing tech to fight Superman, should he need to; General Sam Lane is doing the same but with far deadlier weaponry that actually does cause Superman to briefly lose control; and Lex, who breaks free of prison to begin “saving” the world, presumably meaning by destroying his obsession, Superman, which is usually what he means when he says stuff like that. The superbeing (who might be called Wraith as the tagline for next issue reads “Who Is Wraith?”) could also be a reaction to Superman though his deployment in Hiroshima at the end of WW2 predates Superman’s first appearance. Either way, Snyder is ramping up Superman’s foes, building these various story threads in a really exciting way.
There were a couple of small details – and they are small – that bothered me. One was in the Batcave when Bruce began quantifying the power Clark gets from our yellow sun which felt like a Phantom Menace moment when Qui-Gon began talking about midi-chlorians in relation to the Force – guys, Superman’s power from our sun doesn’t need to be measured. It’s basically magic, let’s just leave it at the wonderment level, ok? Also, Superman’s New 52 armour outfit appears to materialise on him when he needs it to, so there’s no more looking for a phone booth to change in, he just discards his outer clothes and his Superman costume just crackles into existence. Is it holographic? Is it Kryptonian? I’ve not been reading all of the other New 52 Superman issues so maybe I missed the comic that explains how this outfit came into being. But it sure is weird.
There isn’t a poster-sized fold out in this issue but Jim Lee’s art is pretty damn good throughout. He still does action really well and those large page-and-a-half spreads look really good too – especially the Batcave! That said, Sam Lane does look too young here and the character design for Wraith is quite dull.
Bottom line, Superman Unchained #2 is an outstanding comic, it really is. Snyder is firing every chamber of his talent into this book and, if he keeps up this standard, this series might well end up being one of the finest Superman books ever written. It’s a quality superhero comic and, even more surprising, a quality Superman comic (he’s a notoriously hard character to get right). It’s Superman Unchained, go read it immediately!
Superman Unchained #2 by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee is out now
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