I still couldn’t tell you for sure what it is about 7th Sword I like so much. I think it’s quoting just enough of my favorite movies from my childhood and making them just new enough that I’m super into it. Last month, it was very Mad Max. This month, it’s very Seven Samurai. All on a very edge-of-the-Star-Wars universe canvas. Stranded in a pacifist town on an alien planet, David Cray, mercenary samurai badass, is offered a choice: help them learn to fight, or die with the rest of them when the neighborhood warlord shows up in two weeks with a mad-on to kill, like, everybody. Even that little kid that Cray saved early on and who he is now a father figure to whether he wants to be or not.
It’s a story full of archetypes, in a way. It’s a lot like reading relevant parts of the Bible; there’s a lot of parts of the story that you’ve seen eight billion other places, and this one is putting them together in a way that’s new, and it’s fun. I mean, the existence of Seven Samurai doesn’t lessen the existence of The Magnificent Seven. There are times when archetype can be used as a crutch, and it makes for stale storytelling.
When a writer sits down and says “Okay, so I have Hero A, and if I just plug him/her into the Hero’s Journey, I hardly have to do any work! Excellent!”, that’s a horrible, horrible thing, and it relies on archetypal crutching. Conversely, a writer can sit down and look at other kinds of stories and think of them as flavors that he wants to bring out. “Okay, I want the lone samurai aspect and town-in-peril aspect from Seven Samurai, the dystopian wasteland aspect from Mad Max, and the future from literally every piece of sci-fi where robots exist.” It’s a different ball game, and it’s one that can actually pay off. For this reporter, 7th Sword is paying off.
My only serious beef with the book is that the art is lovely. For a planet where they’re living in the only place with clean water for at least two weeks in a radius, I don’t expect everyone to look perfect. I’d even say I’d like to see some dirt and grime. This world is fun, but it doesn’t feel lived-in in a way that pulls me in all the way. East of West has a lot of sterile settings where people look scary perfect, but it also allows places in the world where the dust of the West hasn’t been settled yet. 7thSword could use some of that grit. It lacks just that bit of oomph.
7th Sword isn’t going to be a game-changing comic any time soon. But I’m more than okay with that. It’s well-crafted, and each issue leaves me satisfied, but also waiting for the next one, which is a delicate balance and difficult to strike. Especially for a launch title from an imprint, I’m more than impressed. Take it for a test drive, I think you’ll like it.
Writer: John Raffo Artist: Nelson Blake II Publisher: IDW/Darby Pop Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/21/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital