Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Superman Unchained

I recently read SUPERMAN UNCHAINED: DELUXE EDITION, which is a graphic novel collection of a nine issue comic book mini-series by DC Comics featuring the talents of the publisher's dynamic duo creative team of writer Scott Snyder and illustrator Jim Lee, and was thoroughly impressed.  It was an impressive read with artwork that popped your eyes to the pages bringing the story to life.  Superman Unchained embraced the classic elements of comic books and enhanced them with a modern taste of life to provide an action packed adventure that pits the man of steel versus a like powered adversary, the entire world, and himself. 
From the skies above Metropolis to the four corners of the globe to the star-streaked spaceways beyond, one man is synonymous with the word “hero.” Since his arrival marked the dawn of the superhero age, Superman has waged a never-ending battle for truth and justice, no matter when or where.

But before the dawn came the darkness. When another with incredible power, far more than that of mortal man, fell to the Earth. One who could spell the end for the Man of Steel.

When I was a kid Superman's tag line was fighting for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" and that fit pretty nicely into the geo-political landscape of the time when Christoper Reeve was playing the superhero fighting villains on the big screen while it was the United States versus Russia fighting it out for power and influence every night on the evening news. Times have changed but the theme of "American Way" is a big part of this story...just not involving Superman this time but rather is the focus of a brand new character. Superman Unchained is the story of another alien landing on Earth decades before Superman and being adopted, not by a caring and loving Midwestern farming couple like Kal-El was but rather being discovered by scientists and  soldiers who trained him to be the ultimate tool of military might for the United States.  This alien, named Wraith, becomes the U.S. military's ultimate secret weapon.  Superman Unchained opens with a scene from World War II showing the bombing of Nagasaki but readers notice it isn't an atomic weapon unleashing radiation upon the is the Wraith.  The story reveals how scientists have used Wraith the enhance society's technological advancements during the 20th century and the military utilizes the alien as needed to protect the country's interests.  The Wraith himself believes his ultimate purpose in life is to protect and preserve "The American Way" as he is instructed by his handlers in the military. 

While you may think everyone in the world loves Superman because he always saves the day, a big focus of this story is on how no one trusts the Man of Steel believing that at sometime he is going to turn on the Earth for his own self-interests.  Superman Unchained shows how the Justice League led by Batman has created contingency plans to stop Superman if need be and the U.S. military has developed special weapons to deal with him and has Wraith ready to intervene if they believe the Kryptonian needs to be taken down.  And of course there are people like Lex Luthor who don't trust Superman because the hero stands in their way to power.  The story also delves into how Superman doesn't necessarily trust himself in being able to solve every problem he is faced with and deals with his need for perfection when it comes to saving lives.  In one scene Superman struggles with how can he save every life in a building when it is coming toppling to the ground.  Another scene has Superman distraught because while he was able to save the crew of a space station that is plummeting out of orbit he isn't able to keep all of the space debris from falling on a populated area of the Earth which of course would cause injuries and possibly deaths.

Yet the debris never landed and Superman is perplexed about how that collision was avoided and where it otherwise went to.  Clark Kent begins an investigation that discovers that the space station was brought down by a terrorist group called Ascension that wants to destroy the world's use of technology and take the planet back to a more simplistic existence.  It also leads Clark Kent to discover that someone else secretly intervened to save the space debris from hitting a U.S. military base ... Wraith.  Superman begins searching for Wraith leading him to "the Machine" which is a secret black ops division of the American government that General Lane (Lois Lane's father) was recently promoted to lead and which has been controlling events throughout the world since the 1930s thanks to Wraith who is an alien that may be more powerful than Superman who has been working for the U.S. government for over 70 years.

To go any further describing the story would be filled with spoilers, so we'll just say confrontations and conundrums ensue with Superman finally having to face the question how far will he and can he go to make sure no innocent human life is lost while he is serving as the planet's adopted protector?  Superman Unchained also examines can being too patriotic or passionate about something destroy one's practicality as Wraith's unbridled dedication and passion for the "American Way" leads to some destructive incidents that seem contrary to what he is trying to achieve.  The book also features the ultimate win-win scenario for Lex Luthor that reminds you that some of the most dangerous super villains use their brain power rather than brawn for some of the best confrontations.

You can pick up the SUPERMAN UNCHAINED graphic novel from  This is a super comic book - check it out!

DISCLAIMER:  I received access to read a digital edition of this comic book from the publisher for this review.  Access to the comic book was concluded at the end of my reading it and a positive review was not required .  I did not receive any financial compensation for this post.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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