Friday, September 22, 2023

Review: Superman #6

Superman #6 came out this week and was another very solid issue in this new run by writer Joshua Williamson. This time he is accompanied by artist Gleb Melkinov who was artist on the Knight Terrors Superman book which put the title on pause.

So yes, I needed to remind myself that Superman #5 ended with Superman deafened by Silver Banshee allowing Lex Luthor to be brutally stabbed in prison. Thankfully, we pick up right where that left.

This issue continues the breakneck speed Williamson has brought to the book. The back half of the issue introduces us the 'The Chained', a new villain with immense power and a connection to Luthor's past.  We have seen recent villains added to the Superman gallery but none of them have stuck. Remember Ulysses? The Wraith?  Rogol Zaar? Synmar Utopica? I barely remember them. Will The Chained stick? At the very least, he has a compelling visual. 

But I like some of the other character moments we get here. A frazzled Lois realizing being an editor isn't easy. Livewire gleefully podcasting from prison. A Supercorp worker happy creating tech that helps the world. Even an electronic simulacrum of Lex poking fun at our hero. There is a lot of emotional and character depth to the book that makes me happy. 

Melnikov really brings some action to the art. He veers into a sort of Frank Miller vibe here, more than I am used to seeing. It certainly amps the horror of the new villain. And his Superman is appropriately bigger than life. 

Another solid issue. Glad the book is back on track after Knight Terrors. On to details.

The book opens with Luthor being shipped to the hospital, his chest covered in stab wounds. Now you'd think that if someone was sent to kill Luthor, they'd slit his throat. But we know Lex can't die, so instead they just stabbed him a bunch.

I always have to chuckle at medical scenes where someone invokes the Hippocratic oath. Yes, physicians will try to save everyone. Luckily, the stab wounds aren't fatal. 

There is a fun little action sequence at the beginning where Superman thwarts some bank robbers. It is implied he has been in non-stop action for a while. He doesn't even pause to chat with the Metropolis PD. 

But it is fun to see Superman vaporizing bullets, hoisting getaway vehicles, and crunching guns.  I especially like that heat vision panel. Pretty slick.

There is time for Clark though. He walks in on Lois who is simply overwhelmed with the fact that being the Editor means more than just editing the paper. She has to be a babysitter and therapist too.

Lois is always in control. We rarely see her like this. It humanizes her. I like it.
And I like Clark calling her 'Metropolis' like she calls him Smallville. 

Superman flies off to SuperCorp. This is where a scientist says he has changed a project which was intended to weaponize toxic water into a water cleansing system. This is the effect Superman has. 

Superman asks about 'The Chained', someone from Lex's past that he learned about from Pharm and Graft. Mercy says that as new CEO, Superman has unrestricted access to all records. 

What is hilarious is that the interface is a hologram of Lex, dressed as a Kryptonian, and dispensing wisdom like Jor-El. Now that is funny and completely in-line with what I would expect Lex to do.

The Chained was a super-human that was imprisoned in a sensory-deprivation invulnerable cell years earlier by Lex. Someone who is still there. But how great is it that the prison was made by Lex, Stryker, and Carl Draper!

Carl Draper! 

AKA 'The Master Jailer' from the Bronze Age!

I love when creators lean into a character's history instead of destroying it. 

Gobsmacked that someone is still imprisoned after all these years, Superman heads to the prison site (a giant metal cube littered in chains) and releases the man.

No this is one creepy looking dude. It looks like a villain in a horror movie, or a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol book, or someone in a Frank Miller historical drama, chained and imprisoned. 

And guess what, he still harbors a grudge against Lex. 

Whoever 'The Chained' is, he has power. Power enough to stop heat vision mid-air and redirect it. Power enough to warp the materials around him with his mind. Powerful enough to ensnare Superman in these chains designed to imprison whoever they surround. 

This whole sequence is well done by Melnikov. Here is where I got the most Miller-esque vibes. These small panels, the bodies of the combatants, the heavy chains. It all feels like DKR or 300 to me. 

And we get a solid cliffhanger.

Superman is helpless in the chains. The Chained is hovering over Metropolis, ready to get his revenge.

I have been very impressed with this book so far. One thing I have to say is that Melnikov is much better suited for this story than usual artist Jamal Campbell. 'The Chained' needs to look scary and grotesque. Melnikov is better for that.

Plus a Carl Draper mention! Rock on!

Overall grade: A

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