Review: Superman Unchained #4

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Superman Unchained makes a welcome return this month with issue #4, and the book continues to be great. Scott Snyder, who loves the slow burn of a good villain, does some his best here with Lex Luthor and his exposition with Jimmy Olsen about the future of all heroes, but especially Superman’s demise. Luthor uses paper origami dolls to represent the complexity but ultimate fragility of life and death, which Snyder knocks out of the park. Jimmy is in the worst possible position with no help insight and only Luthor left to twist his mind.

Superman continues his fight in Tokyo against Ascension and their drones with Wraith by his side. Snyder uses this opportunity to have Wraith teach Clark things about his powers, how they can be used and how they will grow in time. It’s a unique take on the teacher/student relationship while drones fire red kryptonite bullets exposing a weakness Clark doesn’t fully understand. Wraith and Superman work well as a team, and the battle is high intensity and excitement, which Jim Lee details so well but who also gives a nice balance between Superman’s action and Jimmy’s slower interaction at Lex’s hands.

There is a lot going around in this issue about the death of Superman. Lex explains who will cause it, and Lois is told by one of the crash survivors that Superman doesn’t have long to live. It’s all very mysterious, and there is an introduction of a shard, much like a crystal of Superman’s, which is the key with all the answers. Again, Snyder is a master at setting a larger mystery in motion with what seem like simple solutions, but longtime readers know it will go much deeper than you can imagine.

This issue is chock full of action, suspense, mystery and intrigue, and Snyder and Lee wouldn’t have it any other way. The best part for me is the look inside of Lex’s mind, and his evil really shines here with his torture of Jimmy. Snyder makes what seems innocuous come alive to be dark and dangerous, and as readers we are better off with this story in Snyder’s hands. There is plenty of Lex stories where he is the ultimate villain, but Snyder takes it too a new level. Saying Lee’s work is a thing of beauty is like saying the sky is blue, but it is awesome and exiting work as always.

I missed Superman Unchained, and this issue reignites the excitement the book brings to comic book shelves. This is classic superhero stuff but with enough new touches to make it feel brand new. I’ve often been asked by new readers what is a good place to start reading Superman and Superman Unchained is usually my response because it’s a great place to start and an excellent continuation to what has come before.

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