Superman Unchained

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Superman Unchained
Cover of Superman Unchained #1 (June 2013). Art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format Limited series (formerly ongoing)
Publication date June 2013 – November 2014
Number of issues 9
Main character(s) Superman
Creative team
Writer(s) Scott Snyder
Penciller(s) Jim Lee
Inker(s) Scott Williams
Letterer(s) Sal Cipriano
Colorist(s) Alex Sinclair
Editor(s) Chris Conroy, Matt Idelson

Superman Unchained is a limited comic book series, originally billed as ongoing, featuring the DC Comics character Superman. It is written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Jim Lee. The series was first announced at the New York Comic Con on October 11, 2012. Superman Unchained takes place in the DC Universe, as part of the New 52. The series launched in June 2013.

Publication history[edit]

A new Superman title was first rumored by Rich Johnston. Johnston speculated that a series titled Man of Steel, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Jim Lee would launch in 2013, to coincide with the film of the same name.[1][2]

DC Comics later announced a new Superman series at the New York Comic Con on October 11, 2012, to be written by Scott Snyder with art by Jim Lee.[3] At this point, the title of the new series had not been announced.

On March 4, 2013, USA Today announced the official title of the series, Superman Unchained. To celebrate Superman's 75th anniversary, the series would launch on June 12, 2013, two days before the release of Man of Steel.[4] The series would also feature a back-up feature, written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen.[5]

Snyder has noted that the series, "like Court of Owls for Batman, it's a character piece for Clark—it's going to challenge him to his core."[3] Explaining his approach to Superman Unchained:

"I tried to take all of Superman's greatest strengths and turned them into weaknesses, turning them on their head to challenge him. There's new things and they will surprise you, it has all the iconic moments you'd want, but it's still classic Superman even though it's fresh and different."

— Scott Snyder, [6]

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, Superman Unchained #1 (June 2013) shipped with 8 extra variant covers, each one drawn in the style of a different comic book era featuring Superman.[7] Superman Unchained #2 (July 2013)[8] and Superman Unchained #3 (August 2013)[9] also shipped with multiple comic book era-styled variants.

The first issue included a double-sized fold-out poster, it fit in as an actual page of the story.[10]

The series was set to conclude in April 2014 with issue #9, however, following delays in publication, it was announced that issues #8 and #9 would be cancelled and re-solicited at a later date.[11]


The prologue of the first issue takes place during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki; the "Fat Man" bomb is revealed to have been a superhuman employed by the U.S. Military.

Superman stops seven satellites from colliding into the earth, letting an eighth object hit an abandoned military base. Superman initially suspects that Lex Luthor is behind this incident. This is because this attack is similar to a scheme Luthor had devised a while back. However, Luthor denies involvement as his research was stolen years ago. He asks Superman if he had considered the cyber-terrorist group Ascension. When Clark Kent writes up an article about the event, Lois Lane informs him that all eight satellites were stopped. Superman investigates the impact site of the eighth satellite, and notices that a superhuman had apparently redirected it. After a submarine fires two torpedoes at Superman, General Lane is revealed to be working in a secret military installation, housing a superhuman who has been in the employ of the United States for nearly 75 years.[12]

Superman is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to combat a rogue construction machine that has been tampered with by Ascension. In order to stop the Burj Khalifa from falling, Superman creates a whirlwind of water and freezes it beneath the skyscraper before it can collapse. Superman then goes to the Batcave where Bruce Wayne is testing a new suit that can manipulate the environment in order to render him undetectable by Kal-El. After studying a piece of the eighth satellite, Batman has determined that another being with slightly more power than Superman was responsible for stopping its impact. On top of that, Ascension concerns Bruce because they can access and control almost any technology and turn it into a weapon, like the construction robot from earlier. Clark calls Lois and inquires about her father's whereabouts. She mentions that his mail has been coming from Utah. While Superman was en route to Utah, Lois's plane was taken over by Ascension and crashes into the ocean. At the MAW, a high-security prison off the coast of Metropolis, Lex Luthor constructs a mech-suit out of various pieces of a model city and escapes.[13] Once in Utah, Superman confronts General Lane, who has been anticipating his arrival figuring that his daughter would eventually help Superman. General Lane has his men unveil the weapons they had been developing to fight Superman. One weapon can fire lasers that use black hole technology. Superman demands to know more about the superhuman, who is called Wraith.

General Lane's men open fire on him as Wraith bursts from the ground, stating that he's been waiting a long time to deal with Superman. Superman uses his powers to destroy General Lane's weapons, but is stop by Wraith who kicks him so hard that he is sent flying and lands in Colorado. When Superman stands up Wraith lands in front of Superman telling him he was just doing what the General wanted but wants to take Superman back to his home. General Lane and Wraith show Superman "the Machine," a research facility dedicated to understanding and implementing the equation technology Wraith had brought them in the years since his arrival on Earth. Superman learns that Wraith has been working for America for all these years, eradicating anything the government considered a threat. In fact, the name Wraith actually stands for William Rudolph's Ace In The Hole. Lane also criticizes Superman calling him a coward. Lane argues that while Superman may save people such as the astronauts on the space station he is a mass murderer for not getting involved in political situations. For instance, not toppling dictators and warlords in various countries around the world. “ You’re deciding to let people live in misery, die suffering. You’re killing them. Painfully... Because you're afraid to do the tough things you know you should do". Before Lane could continue, Superman and Wraith fly to Tokyo to stop an Ascension attack. Wraith is excited to finally work alongside Superman while Lois's plane is recovered by a mysterious person using a crystal. Superman and Wraith arrive at the attack, but not before Wraith tells Superman that soon he will have to kill him. Lex Luthor captures Jimmy Olsen telling him that since he's Superman's friend, why not be his.

Luthor tells the kidnapped Jimmy Olsen that he knows how Superman will die. Superman and Wraith continue fighting the Ascension robots. Superman is hit during the fight and starts to bleed, Wraith tells him that the robots were designed by the Russians for one purpose, to kill Superman. Lois helps the man with the crystal to safety, after which he gives her the crystal and tells her Superman won't be alive for much longer. Wraith and Superman encounter an Ascension video telling Superman that he will die in the same place where "the great lie began." Superman and Wraith continue to fight as they come up with a plan to stop the robots. After the fight Superman asks Wraith why is he going to have to kill him. Wraith tells him that eventually he will do something that will cross the line and the US Government will need him to be removed. Perry White calls Clark saying that Jimmy is missing and that Lois' plane has crashed. Lois and the mystery man run away from Ascension guards, but as the man dies saving Lois from a car crash, he gives her the crystal, though she is captured immediately afterwards by Ascension. Lex tells Jimmy that Superman's death will be done by Jimmy Olsen himself. Lois wakes up in a room where an Ascension hologram tells Lois that they have the same father - General Lane.

In a flashback that runs throughout the fifth issue, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are standing on top of a grain store discussing their astronomy teacher. When they try to jump off the roof, Lana slips with Clark holding her hand. After closing his eyes in panic, Clark realized that he was flying while carrying Lana. Back at his house in Smallville, Clark stumbles upon Jedidiah Colder, whose property he and Lana had been trespassing on, pointing a shotgun at his mother. Colder tells Clark that he saw him floating in the air earlier. Realizing that he's not human, Colder shoots Clark while shouting "No more hiding!"

In the present, Superman brings Wraith to the Fortress of Solitude after their failure to detect Lois and Ascension. The Ascension hologram reveals himself to Lois as Jonathan Rudolph, grandson of General William Rudolph, the creator of "The Machine." Jonathan show Lois the Earthstone, a material created through the mixing of some of the rarest and purest stones on Earth. It's a technology far beyond any available to mankind in the 20th or 21st century, and seems physically similar to Kryptonite. Ascension attempted to erase the work that Wraith's equation had done to aid mankind progression, allowing them to develop on their own terms. Wraith notices that Superman doesn't share the technology in the Fortress with the US government. Superman believes that no country should have access to this kind of technology. Wraith tells Superman that he was once ordered to find out who Superman really was but refused because his human disguise will not last forever. Stating that as time passes he will constantly have to change his appearance to look older in order to blend in. "You're neither here nor there. You live in a limbo that cannot last". Wraith grabs one of the nearby weapons and alerts General Lane that he has the weapons. At that moment Batman calls Superman that Ascension has launched every nuclear weapon in the world at once.

Superman uses the data that he sent Batman to track Lois hoping she is still with the terrorist group. Superman arrives freeing Lois and notices the Earthstone crystals are similar to the ones that make the Fortress of Solitude. The Ascension leader blows up the base but not before Superman escapes with Lois and an Earthstone crystal. Superman uses the crystal to destroy all of the nukes. Superman lands with Lois trying to catch his breath, commenting on the fact he thought he heard a voice in the crystal. However, Wraith arrives and attacks Superman. Superman uses a ring that was given to him by Batman to weaken Wraith enough to beat him, causing Wraith to fly away. Superman takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude to try and study the crystal but are interrupted by her father and his Anti-Superman army.

Superman places Lois in a safety area while he puts on a battle suit. He fights but is overwhelmed by the General's machines. Lois escapes and uses the Earthstone crystal to save Superman. Superman opens General Lane's mech-suit asking him where Wraith is. Superman crashes into the batcave seeing that Batman and Wonder Woman are fighting a losing battle against Wraith. He fights Wraith in a battle that spans the globe. Eventually, their altercation ends up in the center of the earth. Wraith realizes that the magnetic field is disrupting his power. Now that both aliens are on an equal playing field, Superman uses his superior fighting ability to beat Wraith.

Superman flies back to Lois and Jimmy Olsen is there with the device on his arm. It actually has a message from Lex Luthor. Wraith was secretly planning on his people invading and taking over the world. The voice in the crystal was actually the armada on its way. Lex has a plan to stop them but it would mean the death of Superman. Inside Jimmy's device is a solar reactor that could charge the entire city of Metropolis. Since Superman absorbs solar radiation he could absorb that power but he would become a bomb. Batman and Wonder Woman call Superman informing him that something in orbit is approaching. Jimmy's device opens up and revels that there is a needle inside. Superman takes the needle and flies into outer space as all the electronics in the world begin to shut down. While in space, Superman first tries to destroy the ships but is overwhelmed. Before he can inject himself, Wraith takes the needle and injects himself. He pushes Superman away as he explodes taking out the entire armada. In the end, Superman captured Lex and Jimmy had the device cut off by Argus.


Reception to the launch of the title was largely positive. IGN gave the first issue an 8.9 out of 10, saying the issue was "the most entertaining Superman story in some time." In addition, they praised the story's embrace of elements from The New 52, rather than shying away from them.[14] Comic Book Resources gave the first issue 4.5 out of 5 stars, saying, "DC has found the right creators to make Superman great again." [15] Newsarama gave the first issue a 7 out of 10, saying there was enough to pique reader curiosity, but the story "seemed to lack the same 'punch' from other story arcs" Snyder has recently done.[16]


Sales of the comic were strong, topping sales charts during the first three months of its publication.[17] The first issue in particular sold more than 250,000 copies and generated $1.25 million in retail sales, estimates ICv2;[18] thus taking the #1 sales slot by a wide margin in a month where DC Comics dominated the top ten spots on monthly sales chart.

Collected editions[edit]


Title Material collected Publication date ISBN
Superman Unchained: Deluxe Edition Superman Unchained #1-9, material from Superman Unchained Directors Cut #1 December 10, 2014 978-1401245221


  1. ^ Johnston, Rich. "Jim Lee And Scott Snyder To Launch Man Of Steel Comic For 2013?". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ Johnston, Rich. "DC Execs Refuse To Deny Jim Lee / Scott Snyder Man Of Steel Rumours – And No More Before Watchmen Plans "Right Now"". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Esposito, Joey (October 11, 2012). "NYCC: Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's New Superman Series". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ Truitt, Brian (March 4, 2013). "DC Comics makes the most of Superman's 75th year". USA Today. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  5. ^ Sunu, Steve. "JIM LEE, SCOTT SNYDER DISCUSS "SUPERMAN UNCHAINED," DEBUT NEW ART". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  6. ^ Young, Bryan (October 11, 2012). "DC Comics Announces a New Superman Book!". The Blog. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ Truitt, Brian (May 30, 2013). "Superman gets a new DC Comics logo for 75th anniversary". USA Today. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  8. ^ "DC Comics reveals SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #2 variant cover artists". ComicList. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ "SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #3 lineup of variant cover artists revealed". ComicList. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Final SUPERMAN UNCHAINED Double-side Jim Lee Poster Revealed". Newsarama. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ Doran, Michael. "DC Cancels SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #8-9, To Be Resolicited". Newsarama. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ Superman Unchained #1 (August 2013)
  13. ^ Superman Unchained #2 (July 2013)
  14. ^ Yehl, Joshua (June 11, 2013). "This Superman Is Off The Chain.". Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  16. ^ Helvie, Forrest C. (June 13, 2013). "Best Shots Rapid Reviews: Superman Unchained, Thor, More". Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Supes' Million Dollar Book Leads June Titles". ICv2. Retrieved January 11, 2014.