When I first read 7 Against Chaos I didn’t know how to feel. I enjoyed it as an intergalactic swashbuckler however some features of the plot’s design puzzled me. I’ve read it a couple of times now and I can state with confidence that 7 Against Chaos is a fun book with a jolly, adventurous tone and a thought-out world, however some parts of the plot have a slow pace and a lack of tension.
This graphic novel by acclaimed author Harlan Ellison and artist Paul Chadwick is essentially Seven Samurai in space. As Earth is being torn apart by a mysterious force, seven rejects from all over the solar system are gathered to use their talents to save humanity.
The Tone and Genre
While the premise clearly suggests that 7 Against Chaos is a sci-fi, the artwork suggests a more pulpy inspiration. The rocket ships, technology and spacesuits are reminiscent of adventure serials like Flash Gordon. A lot of the art reminded me of the 1980 Flash Gordon film and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
The tone matches the genre precisely. There are numerous action scenes with ray guns and giant monsters, just like from a sci-fi serial. The comic clearly wants to amaze and to entertain and, combined with the pulpy genre, I think it succeeds. 7 Against Chaos is a lot of fun.
In just a few pages the book gives you a good idea of the setting while at the same time pushing the story forward. I appreciate this quality as most sci-fi, fantasy stories will either focus too much on establishing the world to the point where it gets boring or do the opposite and explain very little about the world, confusing the reader.
While introducing the seven principle characters, 7 Against Chaos presents a world where humanity has colonized the solar system with the labour of both robotic and genetically engineered slaves. The world seems to be inspired by Dune and Blade Runner with its interplanetary mining and artificial slaves. It feels real and at the same time is presented in a way that doesn’t drag the story.
For me, the plot is both the book’s great strength and weakness. Its strength is in its ability to surprise. For the most part the plot is similar to that of any adventure serial as it chronicles the team’s journey to defeat the mysterious menace. However, twists occur that’re much darker than your average sci-fi adventure. I won’t spoil any of them but I will state that the twists present a unique and very grim picture of action and adventure.
The plot’s weakness is in its pacing and forces of antagonism. In the beginning of the book we see six episodes of action, each one establishing a member of the team and their backstory. As stated before I think this is a good way of setting up the world and pushing the story along. However, after the third character has been introduced you notice a pattern. Each episode is around three to five pages long and all seven characters get one. I understand that each character needs to be introduced but when reading I just wanted the introductions to be over and done with so I could get to the actual story.
Regarding the forces of antagonism, towards the end of the story the group must travel back in time to prehistoric Earth, as that’s where the mysterious force is operating. They’re attacked by apes, locusts and octopuses. These forces could make for some tense and thrilling action scenes, however the team defeats them in less than two pages. They’re dealt with so quickly they feel pointless and a waste of time.
With its joyous tone, pulpy sci-fi genre, defined world and shocking plot twists, 7 Against Chaos is such an entertaining graphic novel that the boring and repetitious bits are worth enduring.
I give 7 Against Chaos a jolly 7 out of 10.