Friday, January 16, 2015

Superman Unchained Deluxe Edition

 DC does another of their famous "Supergroup" books, where a team of "Hot" creators are given an extended arc with a major character, and get to do whatever they want. (See also BATMAN: HUSH, SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW, etc.) This time it's Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on SUPERMAN UNCHAINED.

Sooo...how did they do?
 I'll give you a tip: I literally just finished reading this book, and I can pretty much guarantee that, by tomorrow morning, I'll have forgotten much, if not all, of what I've just read.

 Scott Snyder is one of those baffling writers that I just don't "Get". His work on BATMAN is solid, if kind of stupid. I found his work on SWAMP THING to be decent, and I hated THE WAKE with every fibre of my being. I don't have anything against the guy...I just don't see what the big deal is, especially when DC, on the back cover of this very collection, calls him "Comics' Biggest Writer". Did I miss something? The art is provided by Jim Lee. At this point in our careers (His as an artist, mine as a reader), I can safely say that I've seen every trick that Jim Lee has in his repertoire, and his shtick is getting old. When I was a kid, I despised seeing any book that featured new art by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko...They were "Too old-fashioned" for my sophisticated 11-year-old tastes. I have since learned the error of my ways, but that's what came to mind when I read this book...The sameness of all of Jim Lee's art has grown really stale, and it hasn't been helped by the overexposure of the style he had everyone aping at Image and Wildstorm and Homage. SUPERMAN UNCHAINED looks like it came from the 1990's, and I don't mean that in a good way.

 Storywise, SUPERMAN UNCHAINED is kind of a mess. The main thrust of the story is Superman encountering an alien who came to Earth in 1938 (The year Superman debuted in ACTION COMICS). This character, Wraith, has been secretly working for The United States ever since, and he's finally drawn into Superman's orbit thanks to a cyber-terrorist organization known as The Ascension and the machinations of Lois Lane's nutty father, General Sam Lane, Wraith's current boss.

 Wraith starts off as a nice guy, but becomes predictably bad, which Snyder telegraphs miles off. The whole Ascension subplot is a red herring (One I still don't fully understand...), as is Lex Luthor's prison-break, which rates barely a blip on Superman's radar, aside from setting Lex up to be a Deus Ex Machina at the very end of the story. There's a sequence where the U.S. Army declares war on Superman, but that's quickly forgotten, probably because Snyder wanted to wrap up the series before Jim Lee got tired of working on it. (See ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN for one of many examples of that phenomenon.) Also, we get a massive alien invasion that is similarly wrapped up in an instant. All of this adds up to a singularly forgettable book. Throw in Jim Lee's ugly "New 52"  Superman costume, and an uninspired look for new character Wraith (He looks like Maul from WildC.A.T.S., except he may or may not be naked...I could never really tell.), and I was longing for the old DC Universe that I knew and loved. Snyder also does that thing that drives me nuts about BATMAN by having little added-on epilogues after each issue, illustrated here by Dustin Nguyen. They run two pages.
1)- They're two pages! Jim Lee couldn't draw them?
2) THEY'RE...TWO...PAGES! You couldn't fit this meager bit of entertainment into the main body of the story....?
Weird...

 On the plus side, this is a big chunk of a hardcover, with a few dozen variant covers (A...FEW....DOZEN....I kid you not.), some Jim Lee pencil pages, and Scott Snyder's script for the first issue.  

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DELUXE EDITION collects issues 1-9 of SUPERMAN UNCHAINED and SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DIRECTOR'S CUT #1.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.