Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos

Harlan Ellison's 7 Against ChaosWritten by: Harlan Ellsion
Illustrated by: Paul Chadwick
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Hardcover, 10.5 x 7, 208 pages, Full Color, $24.99
ISBN: 978-1-40123-910-7
Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf

Pairing one of science fiction’s most distinctive writers with a critically acclaimed comic artist, 7 Against Chaos is a smart, gripping, action-packed sci-fi classic.

Readers familiar with Akira Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai or its American remake The Magnificent Seven will recognize the plot of 7 Against Chaos: A veteran gathers together a disparate band of warriors in an attempt to ward off the advances of a formidable enemy.

In this story, the enemy is an alien overlord who's created a device that will re-write all of time. A disgraced former general is granted a reprieve in order to recruit six fighters – each an outcast in their own way – to find and destroy the device before the known universe is destroyed.

The story features a classic sci-fi set up, which Ellison deftly uses to explore both science and humanity. There are a number of interesting concepts that are used incidentally in the story, from the supercomputer whose predictions fuel the need for seven warriors to romance-enhancing drugs made from the soil of one of Jupiter's moons. At the same time, humanity's propensity for subjugation and exploitation – as well as exploration and compassion – are shown in full measure.

Much of the story is spent building up to the confrontation with the enemy, and is this space Ellison explores the personalities of each of the seven, and their individual and collective growth. The book was initially conceived as a four issue mini-series, and Ellison uses the episodic structure and pacing to flesh out the action, giving a dramatic weight to the final confrontation and aftermath.

Chadwick – who gained numerous accolades in the 1980s and '90s for his series Concrete – invokes the feel of Marvel Comics' "cosmic adventure" comics from the 1970s and '80s, combining clean lines and dynamic actions shots, Jack Kirby-esque fantastic technology, and some fairly bold layouts (a scene depicting the robot hero Urr moving through a corridor takes on an Escher-like quality, and provides a great example of how the reader is made an active part of the comic experience).

The book would feel at home among the cosmic adventure comics from Marvel in the 1970s and '80s, and is suggested for older teen or adult graphic novel collections.