An Ascension attack on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, brings Superman to Dubai where a historic unveiling of a prototype construction machine turns into a battle for 36,000 lives.
Using quick thinking and incredible mental resolve to keep the building from crashing into the ground, Superman saves the day once again and sets his sights on the bigger picture.
The situation with Ascension has escalated to an extreme level, and Clark Kent isn’t too proud to pay a visit to the world’s greatest detective, Bruce Wayne. Wayne, who counts preparedness as a superhero trait, uses the occasion to put one of his batsuits to the test — a suit that’s designed to hide him from any sort of detection.
Kent and Wayne discuss the matters of the day and the mysterious handprint from the wreckage of the downed satellite found in the ocean. A lost signature of an incredible force over Utah gives Superman the lead he needs to investigate the Salt Flats where, oddly enough, General Lane waits for him.
Conflict ensues, and before General Lane can finish the mysterious nuclear-powered being responsible for destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki appears to claim the fight for his own.
Superman Unchained #2 builds on the premise Scott Snyder began last issue — it’s a series that posits Superman as a thinker with moral obligations. As the last line of defense, Superman struggles with being the one thing between life and death for the people relying on him. That kind of pathos gives readers more ground to understand and empathize with the Man of Steel, and it’s a characterization remedy that’s been desperately lacking in previous Superman stories.
That said, issue #2 makes a much better issue #1 than the first issue for the basis of this mini-series. Nothing in this issue is particularly groundbreaking, but first issues introduce the premise and build. Two issues in, it now feels like this series has something going for it.
Jim Lee’s pencils also feel elevated and are much better this time around. Issue #1 seemed to lack Lee’s trademark consistency — some pages were loaded with detail, while others seemed a little drab — and things feel like they’ve been turned up a notch this time around. The first sequence is loaded with wrist-breaking details, and there’s a greater emphasis on the minutiae. Panel composition has more dramatic tension, and the action is easy to follow without being over simplistic.
But with all of the improvements, there’s still an underlying sense that Lee is holding back. Some of the artwork sort of defaults to poses and expressions that don’t fully carry through which gives off the impression of something similarly akin to Jim Lee quality clipart. It’s also hard to distinguish between Kent and Wayne, and were it not for Kent’s trademark glasses, the exchange between the two could have been an unmitigated disaster.
Scott Williams, as usual, rocks the inks, with tight lines and detail. With the amount of pencilwork this issue, it’d be understandable if Williams called for a break a few times a year to prevent carpal tunnel. The colors by Alex Sinclair are vibrant, and it’s a credit to him that he uses tones that shift with the time of day.
As far as DC is concerned, Superman Unchained is a book created for success — it has a creative team full of heavy hitters, but for all of the hype for this mini-series, fans will be left waiting till next issue for something bigger and better. The potential is there, and Snyder and Lee have proven track records for creating great books. The concern, now, is the character of Superman himself. Does it take a certain type of writer to get him right, and is Snyder doing the Boy Scout justice by not forcing him to some extreme a la Grant Morrison? Superman’s been around for 75 years, and he deserves great stories. Could it be that he’s a victim of his own cultural impact?
If there’s anyone who’s able to get his groove back, it’s the one they call Superman. And while the title suggests he’s been given a pass, so far Superman Unchained #2 feels like the process has just begun. There’s action and excitement.
But fans want more.
Superman Unchained #2 (2013)
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Words: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Sal Cipriano