Review: The 7th Sword #1

I enjoyed 7th Sword much more than I thought I would. I’m generally leery of post-apocalyptic world comics where things have descended into wasted-resources chaos. Mostly, I would say it’s a consequence of the fact that I still don’t believe the first two Mad Max movies can be topped (come at me, Thunderdomers). So when 7th Sword begins on a post-apocalyptic tanker full of precious, precious gasoline, Inner Me groaned with the knowledge of what was coming. Except it changed. And it changed so good.

This book has more in common with a Zatoichi or Yojimbo sensibility than a Mad Max, it just happens to be set in a slightly more civilized version of Mad Max’s world. The man who is introduced as a space samurai is living in a city on a space colony inhabited by space pacifists who hate him for his violent ways, but will require his protection from the local warlord. If you take the word “space” out there, this story could be told anywhere. It’s archetypal, which makes it easy to fake, and tough to really knock out of the park. Fortunately, Raffo, Blake and McCaig are all knocking it out, handily.

7thsword01_cvrAThe story flows well with just enough surprises to keep you intrigued. Just when you think you’re seeing a trope you know, Raffo throws you a curveball and you’re back into the story to see where he’s going. It’s a deft trick, and I applaud him for it. This is a spare book, in terms of the narrative, but there’s a sense of propulsion to it, a sense that things are moving forward and not stagnating. He’s nailing his dramatic beats. My only complaint is that there could stand be a little bit more of emotional core, especially with Cray and his young charge, but Raffo’s hooked me on the adventure of the story enough to wait.

Blake and McCaig need to be talked about together, because they’re each feeding off each other in such a spectacular way. There’s a scene with the hero, Cray, walking away from a sunset, burdened with a loss of everything he has known, and even his sword. This sunset deserves to be talked about. This whole sequence, really, if I had more space, but this sunset particularly. This is a perfect emotional beat. It’s a wordless page filled with archetypal images, things we’re familiar with from centuries of media, but they still resonate, because Blake captures the facial features of our characters in a stark amount of detail, and McCaig colors the living shit out of it. It’s gorgeous.

I gotta say, when IDW announced this new imprint (Darby Pop Publishing) with their title lineup, I wasn’t impressed. Nothing seemed fresh, and they seemed like a cheap way to launch a new imprint. But if the rest of them are just having as much fun with the medium as 7th Sword is, I’m gonna have to catch up on all of them. This comic is good clean fun for everyone, and it’s having a good time doing it’s own thing. Whether it’s sustainable for an ongoing is yet to be seen, but this is as promising a start as any I’ve seen.

Score: 5/5

Writer: John Raffo Artist: Nelson Blake II Colorist: Dave McCaig Publisher: IDW/Darby Pop Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/23/14