Seven Secrets is a joyride of a comic. By the sixth issue, normally a time when most storytellers wrap up an inaugural arc, writer Tom Taylor and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo are still firmly in media res with what feels like enough plot for three action movies already in their rearview mirror.
When the last issue ended, lead character Caspar, born from an illicit union between two members of a mysterious secret-keeping organization, is hiding with his allies in a fortress in the Swiss Alps. This hideout is no longer as impregnable as the secret-keepers once thought and it’s clear that the team has been betrayed by one of their own to the Seekers, an enemy order intent on acquiring the magical contents of the secret-keepers’ seven briefcases.
Things get weird as the secret-keepers retreat deep into the bowels of the fortress, where the nature of the briefcases becomes more visible, if not necessarily more clear. Taylor, like a madman set loose on the highway, has no desire to slow down and even when the setting of this issue radically changes, there’s no heavy-handed exposition to make sense of what we’re seeing.
The result is an issue that feels of a piece with the Seven Secrets stories that have come before while serving as a *cough* gateway *cough* toward something much different. What certainly has not changed is Di Nicuolo’s masterful use of action scenes. The Italian artist told Syfy in August that he loves to “speed up the action like hell, bouncing from panel to panel with the characters,” a sensibility that is particularly on display in this issue’s opening scene when the Seekers bear down on the secret-keepers’ hideout.
Letterer Ed Dukeshire is the understated hero of this sequence. He layers a series of ominous side effects down the opening page, adding an air of suspense to the Seekers’ approach. When the invaders finally fire on the building, Di Nicuolo draws the bullets crossing panel borders and almost leaving the page, an illusion that Dukeshire heightens by having his lettered sound effect edge into a different panel.
If that scene is a showcase for Dukeshire, colorists Walter Baiamonte and Katia Ranalli take over once the setting turns more psychedelic in the latter half of the issue. Even in sparer scenes, Di Nicuolo and his colorists show a remarkable flair for design that keeps every member of the book’s ensemble cast distinct.
That attention to design is especially important to Taylor’s work developing the characters. For a creator-owned book, Seven Secrets already has a fairly large cast and the breakneck pacing does not often lend itself to much time for dense character exploration. What we know about the characters emerges from Taylor’s smart dialogue and the art team’s memorable designs, which lean heavy on Di Nicuolo’s love of manga.
Caspar, for now, remains the star of the book and his narrative voice, originating from some unspecified point in the future, is the key driver of dramatic tension. Like Hazel in Saga, he serves as a source of exposition while dropping occasional hints of looming mayhem, including in the second issue, that he does not “make it to the end” of this story. How Caspar factors into the book’s endgame is one of several mysteries animating this vibrant, pulse-pounding series.
Reading this book, I was reminded of what James Tynion IV recently wrote about the state of the comics industry and, in particular, how superhero comics have become too self-referential and opaque to the point of seeming like “homework” to new readers. Taylor’s creator-owned characters don’t have that continuity problem, but the actual storytelling is what is so novel about this book. It’s by no means a dumb story or even a simple one, but it doesn’t demand to be deconstructed or held over with a magnifying glass—it simply moves. And when a roller coaster is moving this fast, you don’t stop to look around and describe the scenery. You just hold on and enjoy the ride.
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