Superman Unchained #4 by Scott Snyder (Comics Review)

When I last checked in with this series, which was back in August with the third issue, the title was just about getting its legs and giving me enough to impress. The first two issues lacked the distinct firecracker vibe that has characterised Scott’s Batman or even his The Wake, and so they were a bit disappointing. But the third issue was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. So much so that I felt this could be an extremely promising series with future issues.

And I certainly wasn’t disappointed at all. The new issue, which was meant to come out last week but was inexplicably delayed till this week, built wonderfully on everything that Scott and artist Jim Lee have done till now to give an issue that is super-fantastic. And a lot of this has to do with how the two of them have portrayed Lex Luthor in this issue, and the big reveals about the global techno-terrorist group known as Ascension that has been harrying the Big Blue for a while now.

Superman Unchained 04In the previous issue, we saw that Lex Luthor had finally broken out of the MAW installation, a super-maximum prison where he’d been kept imprisoned, and had ended up kidnapping Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. And we saw that there was a big threat to Superman, bigger than anything else he has faced thus far. Possibly only Doomsday or Darkseid could give the Big Blue as much of a work-out. And this threat happens to be working for the US government, a secret military group led by General Lane no less.

Lex Luthor’s characterisation is what totally won me over. Thus far in this series, we’ve seen very little of him. He’s been built up to be a big bad, but we haven’t really seen into the character. This created some confusion as to what direction the character was taking, particularly since there’s no cohesiveness about the character in the New 52. In one of the Supergirl issues, he is locked inside a prison where he’s the sole inmate, but is allowed visitations from his lawyers and other legal representatives. In Forever Evil he is currently leading a rogue group of supervillains against the Crime Syndicate. Lots of conflicting things happening. Its a bit sad to see the character treated like this, but Scott and Jim are here to save the day because they give the best characterisation of him till now. And they do it largely independent of any of the baggage that has weighed the character down in the New 52.

Also, Lex Luthor does some wicked origami. Those panels are fantastic in how detailed they are with regards to the origami representations Lex creates of Superman and his friends. In one of the panels there’s a bit of an art inconsistency in terms of how Batman is coloured, but its a minor thing. Those were some gorgeous panels, no doubt of that.

We continue to see a developing camaraderie between Superman and Wraith as well, as they continue to fight Ascension’s… agents in Tokyo. There’s a very interesting theme going on in this series, that the world distrusts the Big Blue and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep him… controlled. There are some really big things going on here, and its really enjoyable because of the fact. Scott Snyder is not playing it safe at all, going all-out with each issue.

And then there’s the subplot dealing with Lois as she follows up an unsought lead into Ascension’s recent terrorist activities. The endgame of that subplot is unclear for most of this issue, but in the short backup drawn by Dustin Nguyen, a lot of things begin to crystallize and it is finally revealed that a certain character doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket.

What I like is that Scott is improving his storytelling here with each issue. Since its been more than two months since we last got an issue of this series, I re-read all three of the previous issues to catch up with this one. There’s a distinct improvement with each and it appears that Scott has finally hit his stride. He’s one of my favourite writers in comics, and I felt somewhat dejected that this series hadn’t shaped up to be as good as I expected right from the start. All it took was some perseverance though, and here we are.

Jim Lee’s art is quite phenomenal. It is extremely detailed and he offers some really gorgeous splash pages here, which are all inked by Scott Williams and coloured by the amazing Alex Sinclair. I am definitely enjoying the artwork in this issue, or series even. Its a style that, considering all aspects of it, works for the kind of story that Scott is telling. The art is loud, it pops off the page, it is bright, it is big. The 2-page epilogue drawn by Dustin and coloured by John Kalisz is fairly good as well. Lots of darkness and shadows to it, which thematically fits with how Ascension operates. Its nice to see little teasers like this since more artists can be showcased this way and it provides a nice diversity on each issue.

Overall, a pretty damn good issue, which leaves me hungrier for the next one than I was before reading this one. There are rumours of issue #5 being released later this month, which means Superman Unchained double-ships this month. I can only hope that is true!

Rating: 9/10

More Superman Unchained: #1, #2-3.

Posted on November 8, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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