Saturday, July 27, 2013

Over-serious Silliness in Seven Against Chaos

Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos
by Harlan Ellison & Paul Chadwick
DC Comics, 2013
A few weeks ago DC released an original creator-owned hardcover graphic novel from legendary sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison that really came out of nowhere: 7 Against Chaos. Evidently in production for quite a while (five or six years looking at the backmatter) and likely intended as a mini-series, it was adapted and illustrated by Paul Chadwick from Ellison's story. The provenance of Chadwick (best known as the creator of Concrete) and Ellison (who is, y'know, Harlan Ellison) certainly piqued my interest.

Chadwick's art is decent; Ken Steacy did the colors, pulled out of the same apparent mothballs as Paul Smith in this week's Rocketeer/Spirit crossover. The whole thing is really quite weird, though. Quite a ways in the future, some mysterious figure is pulling together a ramshackle team of unique individuals from across the solar system to avert some epic crisis going down on Earth, because supercomputers told him to. It's Seven Samurai in SpaceTime. The group put together is indeed quite colorful, and I like a lot of Chadwick's execution here. But the story is just not that solid. There are the fairly standard story beats of the group coming to terms with the conflict and each other, and then the main conflict happens, and its a weird one. There are disruptions in the fabric of reality across Earth, with vast physical destruction and overlapping epochs of time. The disruptions can be traced back several million years and the crew of oddities goes back to confront the culprit. What follows isn't all that satisfying and just too odd to like (pissed off lizard people!). It's all a little too silly to jive with the self-seriousness of Ellison's prose.

I can buy weirdness from a Grant Morrison or Joe Casey, but those are two writers who can strike the right balance of not taking themselves too seriously while embracing the bizarre. Ellison's seriousness just doesn't work, and perhaps a different attitude in the narrative (and the characters) within the same story might have better served the proceedings. If there is any saving grace, it is Paul Chadwick's art, wonderfully translating all the misshapen spaghetti Ellison throws at the wall. Very occasionally I'll read a comic that I think would be better served without word balloons or captions, and 7 Against Chaos is sadly just that comic.

No comments:

Post a Comment