With the upcoming release of Man of Steel, DC Animated has graced us with a little something to whet our appetites. Superman: Unbound is based on the DC graphic novel Superman: Brainiac, by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank. The series introduced the New Krypton storyline into the DCU continuity. Superman is drawn to resemble the great Christopher Reeve. The same effect was attempted, with impressive results, for the animated film. What makes this story so fascinating is that this is the first time our boy in blue actually encounters the real Brainiac, not just a drone duplicate sent out ahead of him. The actual being Brainiac, the Koluan who changed his physical makeup with cybernetic augmentations in an attempt to become a better being. Please be warned, massive SPOILERS ahead.
We open into a much earlier time in Superman’s career. No one is aware of his and Lois’ relationship as Clark and Lois. Lois knows that Superman and Clark Kent are the same man. Even Kara, his cousin, has already arrived but it is evident that she hasn’t been here long. Lex is nowhere in sight in this particular animated film, but I’m sure he’s lurking somewhere within LexCorp tower. From the get-go, Clark investigates Brainiac’s first drone that crash lands on Earth. It is merely a probe, and even Clark initially has a bit of trouble with it. Upon his examination of it, Kara nearly flips out. She has seen it before. Brainiac, in this film’s continuity, had visited Krypton and shrunk the city of Kandor (as we all know from the Superman mythos) and added it to his collection. Also, somehow Zor-El and his wife (Kara’s parents, Clark’s aunt and uncle) have ended up in Kandor even though you see them escape with Kara. They, of course, later send her to Earth in fear of Brainiac’s return, rather than due to Jor-El’s warnings that the planet is going to explode.
Anyway, Clark takes Kara’s warning and decides to stop Brainiac before he can even set his sights on Earth (since the drone never sent a signal back to the host ship). Upon reaching the ship, he is quickly subdued and restrained and speaks to the real, not a drone of any kind, Brainiac. Brainiac even shrinks Clark down and adds him to his Kryptonian collection, placing him among the population of Kandor. Once shrunk down, he meets his aunt and uncle. Zor-El explains to him that Brainiac’s cybernetic programming is flawed. Since Brainiac has captured civilizations, and thus stopped them from further achieving technological, social, and cultural advancements, Brainiac can never truly know everything. Zor-El goes on to remind him that societies grow and change just as information does. Thus, Brainiac is flawed in his objective to learn everything in the universe.
Clark escapes, after finding a flaw quite cleverly in the security system in Kandor, and manages to subdue Brainiac and escape back to Earth. He warns Kara that they need to work together to stop him when he comes. However, despite their initial attempts, Clark and Kara are both captured, as well as a miniaturized Metropolis. While captured, and being subjected to scientific tests by his cyborg nemesis, Clark reminds the viewers where his truth strength lies; in his humanity. This is what makes him strong enough to overcome his restraints and take Brainiac outside of his ship and onto Earth for the first real time the Koluan has left his ship in centuries. Kara, meanwhile, is chasing a star-imploding rocket sent to destroy our Sun. Thankfully she does catch it and detonates it safely away. Clark, meanwhile, uses the Koluans own enhanced senses to overwhelm him. The chaos of all of the life systems and organisms around him throw Brainiac into a state of shock that Clark takes full advantage of, finally ending his streak of terror on Earth.
Overall, this was an excellent production, and though I’ve not read the graphic novel it was based from, I’m told it is incredibly close with some minor alterations. The best part of the ending is that not only does Clark restore Metropolis to its normal size, he and Kara find a planet to restore Kandor and its occupants also to full size. Voice acting credits include Matt Bomer as Clark/Superman; Stana Katic from the TV series Castle voicing Lois Lane; Molly Quinn as Kara/Supergirl; and the brilliant John Noble from Fringe as Brainiac.
Reviewed by Chris Gering