Stuart's Pick/Disappointment of the Week for 12.31.13: Superman Unchained #5

Stuart's Pick/Disappointment of the Week for 12.31.13: Superman Unchained #5

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So Much Promise… Superman Unchained seems like it is the perfect storm.  It has my favorite writer paired with one of my favorite artists: Scott Syder and Jim Lee.  This series came out with a great deal of hype.  I remember listening to panel after panel with interviews from them about how much they loved the character and the direction they were taking the series.  How can this not be one of the best series out there?  Well it hasn’t been.  It has been a miss from the start.  It is like when I saw the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.   In the end, you leave the tale with a strange look of equal parts shock and frustration at what could have been.

No More Hiding, Kent…

The story opens with a flash back, drawn by Dustin Nguyen.   I found these to be the highlight of the book.   It has a very warm color pallet, takes us back to a more simple time.  Clark is with Lana, who falls off the roof.  Clark catches her but falls himself.  He suddenly finds himself floating in the air for the first time.  A neighbor takes notice and is none too happy with what he sees.  He sees Clark as some kind of freak and shoots him with a shotgun.  A more simple time, erased.

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You Live in a Limbo That Cannot Last…

The issue then moves to current times and we see Superman with Wraith.  Wraith is a bit of a mystery, his intentions not wholly known.  He said in earlier issues that he was going to kill Superman in no uncertain terms yet he has not done so.  In fact, he has saved Superman several times.  In this issue he speaks to Clark, not Superman.  He tells him that “as Superman, you live outside the law by choice, and as your human counterpart, you do so by nature.”  He tells Clark that he cannot live in two worlds any longer.  He asks Clark to look into the future, 10 years, 20 years, and so on.  Wraith points out that what he sees is that everything around Clark is getting older, save Clark himself.  Is this the world he wants to live in?  Wraith asks Clark why does he hide?  Why does he choose solitude in this fortress?  He cannot hide forever.  I enjoy these kinds of questions, exploring why Clark is here on this earth and why he stays.  These quiet moments are infinitely more exciting than the other things that are taking place in the series.  Wraith, after asking some hard questions, does indeed turn on Superman and tells General Lane he has him cornered.

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Jibber Jabber, Jibber Jabber, Jibber Jabber….

Speaking of the plot,  in this issue as well as the series,  it is utterly confusing.  There are a thousand things going on at once with none of them grabbing my attention.  There are huge sections of dialogue that may as well be in Latin.  It is as interesting as reading the phone book.  Here is a juicy sample…

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Um, what?  Surely there is a better way of saying things than this.  I was starting to lose interest quickly and at one point looked to see how many pages were left and realized I was only on page 10.  Not good.  Again, this is so frustrating because this is Scott Snyder we are talking about.  I’ve absolutely loved everything else I have read from him, from Black Mirror to Gotham by Gaslight to his run on Batman and Talon.  So to the plot, basically there is an origination that wants to send the people of earth back to the old days before the “green guys” arrived in the 30’s.  They want the humans to quit looking to the skies for answers.  Yea, that took about three pages to explain in the comic.  Batman lets Superman know that  the criminal minds have nuclear missiles and they have been launched.

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Why does Superman look like he is from 90210?  But I digress. This is often the superheroes’ dilemma.  They have all this strength but cannot be in all places at all times, unless you have the infinity gauntlet or something.  Who will Superman save?  Maybe he will save this series, that would be nice.  Oh, and didn’t they do a similar thing  with doomsday satellites in the first issue of Superman Unchained?  Why yes, yes they did.

I really like Jim Lee but I do not think he is shining in this book at all.  He is overshadowed by Dustin.  I looked for cool  Jim Lee panels to share that featured his work in this book and really couldn’t find any.  That is depressing to me because I really think this guy is supremely talented.  I suppose you cannot be great all the time.  In the end I feel these are to amazingly talented creators that are not on top of their game here.  I don’t know why this is the case.  Perhaps Superman is indeed difficult to write, as I have heard in the past.  Either way, you would think one of these guys will hit their stride eventually.  I will not be dropping this series, but I will not be particularly excited when the next issue comes out either.  Here is to hoping things change.

Matt Fraction's Hawkeye

Matt Fraction's Hawkeye

Paul Smith

Paul Smith