After being relatively optimistic about 7th Sword’s change-up in artists early on in its run, I think that has caught up to it in the fifth issue. There’s a lot I liked about this issue in terms of the story and artwork, but they brought in a new artist to do layouts whose background is animation storyboarding—you’d think that would be a natural transition, but it shows itself to be an entirely different beast. In this issue, the six swords of ZenZion decide to take the fight to Kavanaugh on his Juggernaut-class tank monstrosity that’s sitting in the desert outside of their city. Cray left at the end of the last issue and after a brief moment at the beginning of the issue, is largely absent. It’s a nice change of pace to spend almost all our time this month with the rest of the gang, but there’s not much time for character development, as it’s almost entirely in heist movie infiltration mode. Things go predictably tits-up, and we’re in an even more dramatic spot than we were.
This issue changes things up nicely from the Magnificent Seven motif into a different genre exercise that should be equally fun, but this is where the animation storyboarding got extremely noticeable. It’s one of those Scott McCloud things you learn early on that the action happens between the panels—if you’re changing panels, it’s because you’re either changing your “camera” angle, or because a character was doing something that a reader could reasonably fill in with their own situational awareness. To pick on one sequence in this issue, if a character climbs up a rope onto a ship and then looks back to see their comrades climbing the rope, there doesn’t need to be two panels in between of him getting onto the ship and taking off his harness. In animation, sure there does, because you have to map out every movement, but it’s a different medium, and it hurt this issue. It ended up with there being a large number of ten-panel pages and me feeling sorry for Iman having to draw out all those finished panels, plus a sandstorm. Although, luckily for Iman, they all looked great and polished—there’s just so damn many.
Raffo’s writing remained strong throughout, as per usual. The guy has a tight grip on the world he’s created and the story he’s telling, and he’s progressing it nicely. My only gripe this issue is, assuming he writes a full script, he created a lot of wordless sequences that don’t necessarily read well with the amount of panels they have. There’s a sequence at the beginning where Cray sees some trees during a sandstorm and apparently reaches into a hole that we haven’t seen and pulls out the sword I thought he already had. There may have been better ways to direct that sequence in terms of what should have been in the panels and what shouldn’t have, but that’s in the past now.
This was a “meh” episode of what has been a pretty good series up until now. I don’t doubt it will bounce back, especially with the dramatic change-up for our heroes at the end of the issue, but still. It left me lukewarm this month, and that makes me sad.
Writer/Creator: John Raffo Artist: Nur “Popia” Iman Publisher: IDW/Darby Pop Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/22/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital