It’s often been said that Superman is difficult to write for because he’s too powerful. He’s so powerful that no matter what challenge he may face, he’s more than powerful enough to take it on; in fact, it’s probably too easy for him. I’ve always felt that’s just an excuse for a lack of imagination. Yes, for the most part, the way Superman does or doesn’t use his powers has mostly been a plot device – he uses them when he needs to do something and doesn’t use them even when they might make sense because then the story would be over too quickly. Well, Scott Snyder is showing with Superman Unchained that it’s possible to have a powerful Superman who’s still very interesting.
The way Snyder has approached this is by showing us that just because Superman has a lot of power, doesn’t mean that it’s always helpful. In fact, sometimes the greatest burden in being so powerful is figuring out what the right power is to use in the right situation to save as many people as possible. In short, Snyder shows that Superman understands that the use of his powers has consequences, and part of what makes him who he is comes from how he’s constantly debating within himself how to use that power judiciously. It’s one of the key aspects that’s making Superman Unchained one of the better Superman books in recent years. It also doesn’t help that it has more classic elements, such as reporter Clark and his relationship with Lois being more along the classic lines, not to mention a more classic approach to Lex Luthor as someone who sees himself as saving the world. All good stuff. Toss in a couple of mysterious characters, and we have some good stuff going on here.
However, getting back to Superman’s power, there was one scene pertaining to that which I thought was rather interesting. Despite all of his power, despite being practically a god himself, there’s a moment in Superman Unchained where we see that Superman relies on a higher power. In a desperate attempt to save others, he tries something he isn’t sure will work and, get this, prays that it will. When it does, he then takes a moment to say “Thank you up there.” Granted, there are no specifics about who the “you” in question might be, but it’s an interesting thing for Superman to say. After all, if there’s anyone who should be able to rely on his own power, it’s Superman, right? Yet even he acknowledges that he can’t totally rely on himself, even he needs a little “help from above.” Now, if Superman can admit that, why can’t we? Many people don’t like the fact that the Bible says we can’t make it on our own, that we need help, that we need a Savior. Yet, even Earth’s greatest hero is compelled to ask for help every now and then because he know his limits, he knows that there are things even a superman can’t do. There are some things only God can do, and your eternal salvation is one of them. All I’m saying here is that it’s interesting to see Superman pray, to see him rely on a higher power, and since the Bible tells us exactly who that power is and what he’s willing to do for us, why wouldn’t we do the same? It’s a least something worth thinking about, isn’t it?
Superman Unchained #2 shows that the first issue wasn’t a fluke and that perhaps Scott Snyder will turn out to be just as adept capturing the unique voice of Superman as he has in capturing the unique voice of Batman. In addition, with Jim Lee doing some fantastic art for this book, that’s two reasons why you should pick it up. It truly is a great Superman book that really “gets” how to tell stories with the character that some say is just too hard to write for. As Snyder is proving, all it really takes is a little insight and imagination.
A BIG thanks to Astro-Zombies for providing the material for this review. Learn more about them at astrozombies.com.