In Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's "Superman Unchained" #7, it's zero hour for General Lane and his army. Up against technology specifically designed to take him out, Superman must rush to prepare for battle -- but he may have a few aces up his sleeve just yet. As "Superman Unchained" hurtles towards its conclusion, the miniseries' masterful setup is only just beginning to come together with a thrilling, gorgeously wrought climax and a world of promise for what's to come.
Like his work on other projects, Snyder leaves no plot point wasted here. Although there are two more issues to go before "Unchained" wraps, the pieces are clearly moving into place and the payoff has been more than rewarding so far. Snyder steers the story with subtle layers that demand a closer look, deftly inserting clever motifs like the countdown that neatly tie all the elements of this issue together, no matter how spread out the events may seem. His writing is fraught with nuance that enriches the plot at every turn, the pinnacle of which is the tense parallelism that irrevocably binds Wraith and Superman together. Never overbearing, never heavy handed, Snyder's writing packs a punch in all the best ways.
As epic as his scope may be, Snyder never strays from the essential humanity of his characters. Although a lot of old friends show up in this issue, he juggles them with a practiced hand, giving each one just enough time to feel critical to the plot. What's more, he manages to slip some humor into a rather serious story through these organic character moments, from General Lane's darkly funny overconfidence to Batman's dry and often hilarious one-liners (including a nice little wink at last year's "Man of Steel" film.) Lane, in particular, stands out for his subtly dehumanizing exchanges with Superman; using terms like "alien" to address him, Lane exudes his conviction that Clark is really, truly subhuman. As stubborn as her father, Lois likewise comes into play here for one of her finest moves in New 52 continuity so far, with Snyder saving the best for last.
Jim Lee is an industry legend for a reason, and it shows here in his astonishing attention to detail and intricate designs. With the debut of all new anti-Kryptonian tech, Lee -- with help from inker Scott Williams -- got a lot of room to play and, damn, does he deliver. Lane's dogs of war, in particular, come packed with dizzying complexity; from the caging and bolts on the exterior to the elaborate control panels and wiring on the interior, Lee makes the mechanics feel grounded despite the outlandish design. Likewise, he covers each and every page in rich detail, though some pages offer more Easter eggs than others, like an incredible homage to the Batmobile through the years during an action sequence in the Batcave. He pays close attention to continuity throughout the issue, plotting out the falling debris and Superman's crumbling suit of armor in a way that just flows from one panel to the next. Additionally, Alex Sinclair gives Lee's Fortress of Solitude ethereal shades of blue, which contributes wonderfully to the isolating, alien atmosphere of the Arctic, and uses bright colors like red and yellow sparingly so that they pop for the issue's more intense moments.
Snyder and Lee flex their mastery of the medium with every bit of grace and poise in this issue, pulling out all the stops for an absolutely riveting ride. Brilliant, nuanced, and gorgeous, "Superman Unchained" #7 will leave readers pumped up and ready for the concluding issues of this spectacular miniseries.