Comic Reviewer: Will Cooling
Teaser: Didn’t you know Brits do it best?
Title: Seven Sentinels: The Last Quester: Pt. 1 (page 5 to 26)
Story and Art by Marc Olivent
Back Up Story: Secret Gods: Pt. 1 (page 27 to 39)
Story and Art by Barry Renshaw
Engine Comics are one of, if not THE powerhouse of the British independent scene. As part of the Accent UK comics collective they continually put out great books including the always essential Red Eye and a series of excellent anthologies including the must read Pirates. However, they kick just as much arse outside of Accent UK as within it, with Seven Sentinels being a fine example.
Seven Sentinels is a mature readers story that follows the human resistance to their Vorman dictators. Ordinary humans are largely powerless against the mighty Vormans and so look to the superhuman Questers for support and protection. Sadly, the Vormans have been gaining the upper hand with seemingly only one Quester, Daler left alive. As we join the action he is hold up in the resistance camp of Praxon, with rumours flying of a Vorman mole in the camp.
Okay, that’s not the most original plot, indeed some people may even go as far to call it clichÃƒÂ©d. I mean there’s a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, humans are slaves ruled over by an alien master race, there’s one hero who can save the human race and there’s even a tough ass kicking leather clad women. However, such a superficial condemnation of Seven Sentinels would be unfair. Yes the story does plough a familiar field but it ploughs it very well indeed, with the story never being anything less than readable. What Olivent does well is that he doesn’t try to answer every single question straight away; instead he remembers that while he needs to step up the series he has to deliver an interesting opening act. This he does excellently, developing an interesting story whilst giving us tantalising hints of plot twists and turns to come. His writing is concise, with very little fat in this story as things are explained quickly and then we move on before the scene overstays its welcome (Brian Michael Bendis I am looking at you). If there’s one tiny flaw in his writing it’s the dialogue with Daler in particular having some stilted lines of dialogue such as “A Vorman Sympathiser? That’s…That’s just terrible”. Still its only a slight niggle.
Where there are no problems at all is with Olivent’s art, which is of the highest standard. It’s very reminiscent of Mick McMahon’s artwork during 2000AD’s Golden Age (or a more modern example, the Losers’ Jock) with an expressive and dynamic layouts being married to a wonderful jagged, stylised way of drawing. His artwork is perfect for this type of story, with the action scenes being particularly well done. In many ways it’s perfect for the story, managing have both an old school 2000AD vibe and a modern edge to it.
There’s also some excellent artwork in Barry Renshaw’s back-up strip Secret Gods. Again the plot is based on a slightly clichÃƒÂ©d sci-fi premise, this time it’s lone cultist predicting (and possibly bringing about) the apocalypse. And just as Oliverts does with Seven Sentinels, Renshaw manages to build on this premise with such aplomb that you both forgive and forget the clichÃƒÂ©d set up. In Secret Gods we see FBI agent Sebastian Finn investigate the bizarre effects and conspires surrounding a ritualistic murder. Renshaw’s writing is very effective, especially when you take into account how few pages he has to play with. Renshaw manages to concisely explains a very complicated and deep set up to what seems to be a detective/conspiracy series in an almost X-Files vein. His artwork is very good too, with a naturalistic style that whilst it doesn’t have the flair of Oliverts’ art never fails to tell the story and draw the reader in. An excellent back-up strip, that’s just as good as the main story.
The Final Word: Two interesting starts for two promising if at times unoriginal sci-fi stories. In addition, the production values are excellent, with gorgeous A4 pages and an excellent sketchbook as an extra adding to an already extra book. It won’t change the world, but if your looking for an interesting, exciting comic written by someone other than Grant Morrison then this a damn good choice.