Superman Unchained #1: The Leap
What are Superman’s greatest principals? His strong morality and sense of optimism? Or his ability to punch a falling space station the size of an apartment block away from a crowded city?
Superman Unchained has all of these facets. like a primer on Superman with a good story, and compelling artwork. Superman’s voice sounds right. There’s action, and it’s realistic, not forced. What I mean is Superman is a character who is indestructible, and has impossible strength; is fast, and has powerful sensory abilities. But he has limits.
Eight heavy satellites falling to the Earth is a problem – one of them is a giant space station. Superman is fast, but only fast enough to reach seven out of the eight. Superman still has to brace, and concentrate as he catches the giant space station. When the oxygen in the station runs out, he can’t speak, and probably has trouble hearing since there’s no air to carry the sound.
The bottom line: His abilities have limits.
That’s what I enjoyed most about this comic book. Superman may be an everlasting cultural icon, but he has limits.
What makes Superman even more human – drawing Clark Kent to the front of his personality – is a story Superman tells about what he calls “The Colder Leap”
Back home in Smallville, he would jump down a silo with his friends into a haystack. The jump was 30ft, possibly more.
30ft is like jumping from the second story of an apartment building to the ground. This little robot does it. Before he could fly, before he was Superman, Clark was already leaping from tall buildings. The Colder Leap story was a strong human element to add to Superman’s character.
The largest aspect of the art in this comic book is the fold out page. I would love to pour over the detail rendered on it, but the page is unwieldy. I did enjoy that the page captures the size and impact of Superman’s character. The poses Superman takes throughout the comic are suitably epic. This fold out page was made inconvenient, however, by sticky and stretchy tape, which crumpled the pages around it.
The graphic novel edition will most likely solve this problem.
Further, some panel arrangements felt flooded by text. Thankfully the writing is good, but the visuals were ultimately cluttered by it. Colours and inking don’t let the comic down and are consistently bright and suitably brooding.
I thought the best scenes are Superman flying through space. A good slow zoom sequence flows from panel to panel: space filled with stars is followed by space with a thin red blur across it, like a comet, before the final zoom, which reveals the red blur to be Superman’s cape.
A sinister looking new villain is unveiled, and their design is electric and powerful. Lois Lane has aggressive body language with dismissive, condescending, and rude facial expressions. I think that is her character, however I thought it was a one-dimensional and simplified introduction to Lois in the new comic book.
A bit more on Superman Unchained #1
Science fiction concepts are fun to read: robots with tungsten carbide arms designed to crush space rocks. Lex Luthor, however, is interested in making a “new solar chemical fuel”. Luthor either loses some credibility with this vague comment, or he was speaking down to Superman, but it’s not clear. Superman Unchained offers a compelling mystery to solve, and strong character voices.