It's only been just under 3 months but Superman Unchained #6 finally came out last week. I have enjoyed this book a lot so far, a more classic take on Superman and especially Lois with a multilayered plot. But there is something about delays that seems to sap momentum.
Thankfully, the delay didn't diminish writer Scott Snyder and artists Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen's abilities to put out a high quality book. As much as a Superman shines and even Batman has a moment of glory, this is really Lois' issue to shine. She really is brilliant in this book.
It is unfortunate that this book is disappearing with issue #9. Snyder seems to get Superman. And if Jim Lee can't keep the deadlines, they could have put another artist on the book. Wit that information, we also know that this is one big storyline that needs to stretch to fill three more issues after this. Despite that, there is significant progression in this issue, probably ending one of the plot threads and even starting a new one. Incredible!
Suffice it to say, I'll be sad when this title disappears.
But to catch everyone up, the Ascension movement used the Earthstone, a crystal that can communicate with technology, to launch every nuclear missile that exists on Earth. The Wraith and Superman are in the Fortress when the rockets launch.
This book just has the feel of being 'out of continuity'. There is something more classic about the character interactions here. Superman's relationship with Lois and Batman seem pre-New 52. And we see that again when Superman calls the league to figure out the best way to clear the air of the nukes. There isn't a whiff of romance with Wonder Woman. And Hal is on Earth. I actually like it.
But the League can't stop them all, or enough of them to stop armageddon. Another solution needs to happen.
A major part of this story is comparing and contrasting Superman from the Wraith. What are their motivations? Where are their loyalties?
Superman wants to save the world. If there is a way to stop all the missiles, it lies with Ascension, the root of the evil. While he streaks there, Wraith remains tied to his orders and rank. He decides that he is best served by heading back to the United States to defend America.
That last panel is a nice shot. These two are heading in opposite directions. Nice way to marry words and art, thoughts and images.
Meanwhile, over in the Ascension headquarters, Lois decides to open up a can of butt-kick. Remember last issue, Ascension had finally had it with Lois, deciding to kill her rather than have her report their story.
Instead of Lois quaking in fear, waiting for Superman to save her, she takes matters into her own hands, and skull, and feet.
I love a strong, independent, fierce Lois doing what needs to get done. Just fantastic.
Superman crashes into the site to help mop up the bad guys. But Ascension isn't exactly forthcoming with how to stop the missiles. They want the world destroyed to restart with a clean slate.
Again, Lois comes to the rescue. She knows the Earthstone can connect with technology. If it is how they launched the nukes, maybe it can be used to stop them.
I'll say it again, a strong Lois makes for a stronger Superman family. It is a shame she has been pushed into the background in the main books. At least Lois fans have Unchained and Smallville.
And I have to admit, Lee does draw a pretty great Lois.
When it seems that Superman might actually be able to stop this nuclear winter, Ascension resorts to a classic villain device - a self-destruct mechanism.
The whole headquarters goes up in an explosion but Superman is able to grab Lois and the crystal and fly away. There is something so wonderfully classic about Superman wrapping Lois in his cape to protect her!
So is this the end of Ascension? Is that plot thread over now? I'm not sure.
Luckily, Superman is able to access the crystal (I assume with his super-brain) and use it to defuse/destroy the nuclear missiles before they bring their atomic payload to bear. It is a bit of a deus ex machina ... but that crystal power has been set up throughout this series so maybe it isn't such a surprise.
But look at this great panel showing the power of the Superman and Lois team. She congratulates him for saving the world. And he congratulates her for the same. If it wasn't for Lois, he wouldn't know to use the crystal and things would have been a whole lot messier.
Now Wraith said early on that eventually Superman would cross the line and the two would need to fight.
I'm not sure exactly why the Wraith is so upset that Superman saved the world. I don't know why the military would think this crossed the line. But the Wraith shows up, ready to throw down.
In another of a bit of deus ex machina, Superman pulls out a radioactive ring made of a substance that is a Kryptonite equivalent for the Wraith. It turns out that Superman scanned the Wraith in the Fortress, sent the info to his 'paranoid friend' Batman, who made the weapon.
Armed like this, Superman mops the floor with the Wraith who needs to withdraw.
Again, this is a just a bit of a simple answer. We saw Batman way back in Superman Unchained #2
working with some material as an 'anti-Superman' weapon. And back then I guessed we might see this when I said:
But this completely feels like the loaded gun seen in the first act of a movie. You know it will be fired by the end. I won't be surprised if Superman ends up using some of these anti-Superman devices himself as he fights his dark reflection Wraith. So presumed nice foreshadowing here.
So maybe this shouldn't come as a shock as it was seen back then.
If the Ascension plotline is closed, another opens. The Earthstone crystal seems to be a communication device. There is a presence within it. That is an interesting new wrinkle.
But what I did like is seeing Lois in the Fortress, hanging out with Superman. Bandaged from her fight with the Ascension troops, she is drinking in the experience. This is, I guess, her first Fortress visit in the New 52. She looks around, shocked that it isn't more homey and comfy.
In my least favorite part of the book, it turns out the attack on the Wraith is an actionable offense by Superman. The US military shows up in the Arctic circle, outside of the Fortress, and armed to the teeth with their anti-Superman ordnance.
I am soooooooo sick of seeing Superman fighting the American military.
Please stop this.
But I also find it odd that the military knows the Fortress' location so much they can roll up to the front door. And I also am surprised Superman doesn't have long range scanners to warn him of their proximity.
I don't know, I am just sick of seeing this. Nice cliffhanger though.
The book ends with the typical Dustin Nguyen back up pages. The Wriath, upset at the Wraith-K shows up in the Batcave.
Again, we have seen Batman in this book showing off his anti-Superman armament. We'll probably see it again ... the cloak suit from Superman Unchained #2 and more of the "Kryptonite".
I still wonder if the Wraith would want to be so up close and personal. Wouldn't he just blow up Wayne Manor from space? Drop himself on the area like he dropped himself on Nagasaki? I suppose he thinks himself unstoppable so maybe he wants to relish things.
So overall, I thought this was a good but not great issue for this title. The Lois scenes are fantastic and the Earthstone plot is fascinating. But a couple of easy answers (even if foreshadowed) and a cliffhanger with Superman fighting American troops knocked things down just a bit.
I also think the wait between issues slowed down momentum such that I might not roll with minor quibbles as I otherwise might.
Overall grade: B