Unchained is the Superman book you’ve been waiting for. Pulse-pounding action, a Batman-worthy mystery, and impossibly beautiful art make this the must-read book of the summer. Storytelling in the comics medium doesn’t get any better.
The eyes are the window of the soul in Superman Unchained #2. Whatever is going on underneath the mysteries weaving intricate patterns throughout Scott Snyder’s storyline, the clues to understanding them begin with the characters’ eyes. It can’t be an accident that the first panel in which every character appears features a unique perspective on their eyes. Lex Luthor has glasses obscuring his eyes. Using X-ray vision, Superman is watching a building’s spine break. Batman is looking directly at the reader and has the drop on Superman. Lois is shown in profile looking at a computer screen, and her father is initially seen via X-ray vision. There is a considerable difference between what we learn about the characters when we see their eyes versus when we don’t.
The issue begins with Superman doing super things in Dubai. Technological terrorists Ascension have set an advanced construction drone loose on the city, and the world’s tallest building—not specifically named as the Burj Khalifia, though Lee’s rendering leaves little doubt—is collapsing. We are treated to an unnerving 19 seconds of Superman’s inner dialogue as he struggles to overcome the drone’s attacks while finally devising a plan to rescue the 36,000 people trapped inside.
After saving the building, Superman knows he is being watched but can’t identify the observer. This is a job for the world’s greatest detective. The Superman/Batman team-up is one of the best pairings in comics history. Snyder and Lee take full advantage of everything they love about the characters and compress it into a relatively short scene that is a good length for the story, but it’s so well executed that you’ll wish more pages featured these super friends. As if to illustrate the issue’s whole point, Bruce is wearing a bat-suit designed to be undetectable to Superman’s vision. Bruce offers some insights, but the mystery gets deeper. And at the end of their conversation, Bruce issues a warning, “Just keep your eyes open, Clark. For those things you can see, and those you can’t.”
General Lane proves to be a fearless opponent, and is a bit too much like General “Thunderbolt” Ross in his willingness to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s not the reception Superman was hoping for.
Lee’s expressive pencils give the story perpetual motion, and he doesn’t forget the eye candy—like the T-Rex in the gorgeous Batcave—that lets us understand the real identities of these characters. Adding Scott Williams’ inks and Alex Sinclair’s colors, Unchained is a perfect fix for art junkies.
Scott Snyder (W), Jim Lee (P), Scott Williams (I) • DC Comics, $3.99, July 10, 2013.