Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
So, Lane wants to blow the Fortress of Solitude to hell. Superman has adopted the “you can have this earthstone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” approach, and Lane is all too willing to oblige him. While Lois and Superman argue about whether or not he’s going to go fight and she’s going to go hide, Batman is literally throwing everything he has at Wraith.
Superman dons a badass suit of armor and trashes some tanks; Lane launches all of the missiles he has, and Superman is about to be krytonite-bombed when Lois appears, channeling the earthstone, and shuts it all down. With the situation in the Arctic under control, Superman heads to Gotham to help out Batman and Wonder Woman as they try to fight Wraith.
Man, there are a lot of big dudes thumping their chests in this issue. Seriously, I haven’t seen this much male posturing since the last time I was in Wrigleyville during a Cubs game. The fight between Superman and Lane was the worst of it; it was almost heavy-handed in its testosterone-laden approach. When Lane had his sergeant put on “that death metal you like,” all I could do was roll my eyes. Even the Batman/Wraith fight left me unimpressed; it’s so ridiculously over the top it’s just absurd. Just like last issue, I find these sorts of tropes to be kind of tired. The massive fight is too massive; for me, it’s less dumb fun and more just dumb.
The issue isn’t all bad, however, not by any means. Scott Snyder continues to explore what makes Superman Superman in a way I haven’t seen before. He acknowledges that the choices he’s made have created an entity that can’t last forever. I really like this idea; it’s like Superman himself is acknowledging his limitations as a character. Snyder knows that Superman is too powerful, too good, too clean; he recognizes the flaws in the character, and as such has the character recognize them as well. It’s also nice to see Superman and Lois becoming closer; Supes’ “Lois, I want you to know something…” shortly before the first shot is fired sounds like a perfect setup for him to admit some feelings for her. That’s exciting, not because I think Lois and Clark have to be together because they always have, but because it frees up Wonder Woman to start spending some more time with Batman.
It’s no secret that I am very much in favor of the Batman/Wonder Woman relationship. Hell, I have a painting of the two of them as a couple in my living room. And as badass as all the fights in this issue are, it was this little moment of Jim Lee’s that caught my eye. Just that smile on Bruce’s face as Diana helps him to his feet gives me hope for the relationship I want. Although, that would be pretty bad news for Superman/Wonder Woman.
My biggest question about this book, though, has got to be concerning its release schedule. I had kind of forgotten this title even existed, which isn’t surprising since the last issue came out in March. So much time had passed since the last installment, I assumed I had missed an issue. While it’s nice to see this story held separate from the Doomed nonsense, I do think the story suffers from getting dragged out over months and months. Scott, what did you think? Had you completely forgotten about this book like I did? Did you think the massive fights were absurd/awesome, or just plain absurd? What about that guy with the bomb teased on the first page? How do you think Alfred is going to clean up the mess Bruce made of the batcave?
Scott: You’re totally right about the strange release schedule. When I realized I would be writing about this issue I figured I must’ve missed a few issues. I hadn’t read anything from this title in ages! It’s funny how you can get so used to the rhythm of monthly releases that a longer break like this can really feel jarring. It didn’t take long to reorient myself, though; once I remembered what the earthstone was all about, the rest of the issue was very straightforward — just a bunch of good guys and bad guys going at each other for 20 pages.
I know this is a Superman book and all, but I found the Batman-Wraith fight to be the more entertaining half of the issue. Shelby, I couldn’t agree more about Superman and General Lane’s banter coming off as uber-macho posturing. I’m not even sure lines like “Swing the big ball” or “Make it look like war” actually mean anything, they just sound like things a guy wearing camouflage with a megaphone is supposed to say. It’s not like the Batman-Wraith side of things is much better, but I’m more willing to forgive it because Batman gets the better one-liners.
I like seeing this cocky, wisecracking Batman. It seems like Snyder is willing to have a little more fun with the character outside the context of his Batman title. And while I like to think that the look Batman and Wonder Woman share near the end of the issue is just that of two characters who haven’t always seen eye to eye recognizing each other as true friends, part of me worries that Shelby might be on to something. Personally, I hope we don’t see Batman and Wonder Woman getting together anytime soon. Not because they wouldn’t be a good fit, I’m just worn out with the whole super-couple idea. If it were to happen though, hats off to DC — after investing so heavily in the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship, it would be a shocking change of course. (And I have to disagree with Shelby; I think it would the greatest thing that ever happened to Superman/Wonder Woman. What better way to spice things up than to have her run off with his best friend?!)
Despite its incredibly high sound-effects-per-page (including some surprisingly musical death metal) this issue is never quite as much fun as it seems to want to be. To be fair, it was aims very high in that regard, what with Batplanes and dinosaurs and kryptonite bombs, so even coming close is an achievement. I’m not sure how they’re going to top it, unless the Superman-Wraith fight involves the characters literally jumping into an Olympic-sized pool of testosterone. (And we’ll actually find out next month. Yay!)
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?