NB: This Superman Unchained review refers to the Deluxe Hardcover Edition
The premise of Superman Unchained may be familiar – a superpowered alien being dangerous enough to threaten Superman is loose on Earth – but the execution definitely is not. The comic’s main antagonist, Wraith, bears a certain resemblance to Death of Superman’s (one of the best Superman graphic novels) Doomsday but he turns out to be a much more complex figure than that.
One of the good things about Superman Unchained is that Superman isn’t the boy scout that he is in many adaptations. A common complaint about Superman is that he’s ‘too good’, but this isn’t the case in Unchained. As Luthor ultimately figures out, he’s just a man muddling his way through. If you’re tired of the ‘goody goody’ Superman that features in some adaptations, you’ll definitely find this portrayal refreshing. Now, more on the presence of Luthor…
Lex Luthor’s presence in Superman Unchained is a means to an end – you’ll see what I mean if you decide to read it. After appearing a few times early in the graphic novel it almost feels as if the writers have forgotten about him until the end of the story, when he suddenly reappears. Throwing a third villain into the mix (General Lane and Wraith being the others) suggests that the first two aren’t enough to carry the story, which doesn’t seem to be the case.
Without giving away too many details, Superman Unchained offers an interesting look at things like the balance between good and evil, as well as patriotism and even an uncomfortable glance at the unsustainable future Superman has created for himself with his invention of the alter ego Clark Kent.
A couple of parts of Superman Unchained feel a little out of place, the sepia tinted story about Clark’s youth for example. That’s not to say it isn’t an interesting addition, just that it’s a bit disjointed. That, the fact that things are rather black and white in the world of Superman Unchained, and a rushed ending aren’t enough to stop this being a very enjoyable graphic novel. Both the art and the story itself are ambitiously blockbuster, and this would make a great movie adaptation after Cavill’s turn as the big blue is over – Superman Unchained feels very much like you’re ‘reading a movie’.
Superman fans will love Superman Unchained and, while it’s not perfect, I think there’s enough here to keep folks who avoid Superman because he’s too overpowered or moral entertained too!
Collects: Superman Unchained #1-9 (+ a bunch of variant covers, extras etc!)
Check out Superman Unchained here:
Amazon — Amazon UK — Forbidden Planet