7th Sword is, as we’ve talked about, one of my surprise favorite comics every month. It’s not at the forefront of my mind like a Big 2 book (I mean, it is an imprint of IDW, which is not the biggest company in the world, but we love them anyway), but then I get the pleasure every month of being reminded that I get to read it again. This month is no different. This month, Cray narrows down his class of sword-seekers into the six that will stand with him and defend ZenZion against the wrath of Kavanaugh, who is the stereotypical evil genius who wants you to believe him to be good. If he had a furry white cat instead of an octopus, he’d be Blofeld. He has a clandestine meeting with one of the current power brokers in ZenZion, who seems a little less preoccupied with the huge invading force of Kavanaugh and more concerned with possibly getting into Kathleen’s desert pants. Meanwhile, Kathleen is bonding with Cray in between his training sessions, and they find out during the annual celebration that the invading force may be too much for the Seven Swords.
This issue goes a little bit more towards out-and-out symbolism than previous issues; there’s a sequence where Cray talks about the moment he decided that the killing he’d devoted his life to is not full of honor and glory like he thought it would be, and the whole time, he’s picking the leaves off of what looks like a lotus. Kavanaugh’s octopus is there to be a cool thing for guest artist Popia to draw, as well as a symbol of the lost planet Earth. They’re heavy-handed, but they’re not bad in any way. Raffo has already sold the readers on the swashbuckling anti-hero aspects of the story, now he’s delving into what it all means. It’s a little clunky, but I’m digging it.
Guest artist Popia is an interesting choice. His art is all very well done, and it doesn’t buck the tone of the series, which is what you want from a guest artist. My concern is that it seems early in the game to be switching artists or bringing in guests. I realize that comics are business and they have to come out once a month, but with a series like this that skews more indie than not, you can’t count on audiences to be able to immediately say, “Oh, that’s Cray and that’s Kathleen” like they can when you ask them to say, “Oh, that’s Captain America and that’s Black Widow.” Streamlining is key, unless it’s a book that hinges on an Artist-A-Month gimmick anyway. Luckily, 7th Sword is still doing just fine.
My only other concern is that the Seven Samurai-style tale is necessarily limited. The horde invades, and either the samurai/cowboys/space samurai save the village, or they don’t. That’s where both those movies end. That’s where the Stephen King riff on it in Wolves of the Calla ends, essentially. I’m not going to want to be done with 7th Sword if that comes soon, but I’m also not going to want to wait around for a year and a half for it to happen. Raffo does an excellent job with building the blocks in every issue. The students get trained this month, but things happen that make it necessary to call up some reserves. Plans work, but then it turns out they don’t. I don’t doubt that he knows where this story is going, but as a reader, I’m nervous for what happens after the defense of the village, though god knows that could take a couple of months on its own, and that will be A-OK with me.
This is a series that feels like it’s been around for a while, because the world is rich and thought-out, and the story is engaging. Luckily for you, readers, it’s only been three months, so there’s plenty of opportunity for you to catch up on the back issues before the shit hits the fan. Get on that.
Writer: John Raffo Artist: Nur “Popia” Iman Publisher: IDW/Darby Pop Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/25/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital