Superman Unchained #8, by superstar team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Lee, came out this week, the penultimate issue of this comic's first and only arc. The book is ending with #9. Superman Unchained #1 came out 2 Junes ago. 9 issues in 15 months of a 'monthly' comic isn't a great rate.
Unfortunately, for me, that delay in the story has really hurt this book. I have looked forward to the book whenever it has finally hit the stands. But the stop/start nature of release has slowed the momentum of a complicated plot where 3 major threads are slowly weaving together.
Now I have to worry that the delays and then cancellation of the book has now hurt the story. Because while this issue is a slugfest with huge panels and splashes and double splashes, I am left knowing that this entire thing needs to be wrapped up in one issue, next issue, and I don't know if even a writer as great as Scott Snyder can pull it all together without it feeling rushed.
I realize I shouldn't damn this issue based on my preconceived concerns for the next. But I have to be honest, I felt a bit cheated with this issue because of the lack of story given the abundance of splashes. I always say 'big moments need big art' and the splashes are very nice. But knowing that we only had one issue left, I felt like the space could have been better used.
On to the issue.
As I said, the bulk of this issue is a knock-down, drag-out fight between Superman and Wraith with each gaining the upper hand momentarily only to have the other snatch it away.
There is a very nice opening near two-page splash of Superman about to drop a tanker ship onto the Wraith. It is a nice scene and captures the scope of the battle.
Snyder has a nice running theme through the issue of Superman asking himself how other people, other friends, other people he respects would deal with this fight.
Here he knows that Diana would 'unleash' the Warrior. She would push through. And hoisting a ship is a nice embodiment of that.
Superman then wonders how would Bruce fight? He'd fight dirty.
So he decides to try to suffocate Wraith, flying him to the moon and focusing his attacks on the trachea and diaphragm. The trachea/diaphragm lines sounded like Batman, how he always talks about the multitude of moves he could land on an opponent.
Superman then wonders how Lois would deal with this fight, this battle he is losing. Lois would 'dig down deep' and tough it out. I love how Snyder has handled Lois in this series. And here, having Superman include Lois' strength of character with the other members of the trinity shows just how 'powerful' Snyder thinks Lane is. It shows how powerful he thinks the Superman/Lois relationship is.
'Dig deep' sparks an idea in Clark.
He tunnels down to Earth's core. There, the internal magnetism of the planet interferes with the Wraith's control over the electromagnetic spectrum. All that is left is strength and invulnerability. It seems a little out of the blue but internally consistent.
Without his EM powers, the Wraith gets battered. It allows Superman the time to monologue a bit, the discuss his philosophy. He doesn't hide behind an army like the Wraith. He doesn't sneak attack like the Wraith. He does stand out in the open, stating who he is and what he believes. It has led to him being attacked. And he has become a good fighter.
Part of this story has been comparing and contrasting the Wraith and Superman, their origins semi-similar. This was a nice coda.
And then there was my favorite moment of the book, this epilogue to the fight with the Wraith unconscious in the magma.
Superman mentions his friends and allies. How brave they are. How steadfast they are in the opinions. How they aren't anyone's lackey. They live in the light.
Having read the issue you can rattle off a short list of those people: Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lois.
But there is the whole gamut of other plots that need to be wrapped up.
The Ascension cult seems to be dismantled. The Wraith is unconscious. Are those plots done?
But what about the Earthstone, the voice inside it?
What about Lex?
What about Jimmy and the device Lex attached to his hand?
What about the origins of the Wraith?
Can it all be wrapped up?
Suddenly it looks like they are all balled together. Superman, Lois, General Lane, Jimmy, and a holographic Lex all congregate near the half-destroyed Fortress.
The Earthstone is calling out to aliens. The aliens that sent the Wraith. They are approaching Earth to attack. They want to see what Earth did with the 'equation' that unlocked information. And Lex knew all about it.
What I thought was a deadly joy buzzer attached to Jimmy turns out to be a case holding a syringe of concentrated solar energy, gleaned from his solar tower.
It will make Superman super-powerful but will burn him out. He'll be on a suicide run.
It sounds a little like the All-Star Superman solar overdose. And I suppose we'll see some battle sequence against these aliens next issue.
But has this issue brought the story to the place it needs to be. I would feel so much better if we had 2 more issues!
As I said, I shouldn't damn this issue for preconceived concerns. I thought this issue's fight, particularly when you heard Superman's praise of his friends, was very good. But I have usually been extremely happy with this book.
And it is a shame that we won't be reading more Snyder Superman and Snyder Lois.
Overall grade: B