Pullbox Reviews: Seven Secrets #2- Heart, Action, & Mystery all wrapped up in one awesome title… (really, it’s actually in the title)

Caspar, highly intelligent and ridiculously gifted, isn’t like other kids. But, most kids don’t spend their childhood among a society of elite warriors, coming from all walks of life and devoted to the protection of the Seven Secrets… briefcases, the mysterious contents of which could shatter the natural order of things if even one were to fall into the wrong hands. Any hands.

Or just a hand.

Yeah, it’s that serious. So serious, in fact, that after the second issue we still don’t know what the secrets might be. Are they artifacts of mystic power? Are they documents revealing penultimate truths, to remain hidden until humanity is ready to understand them? Do the briefcases actually hold pocket dimensions, rifts in the space/time continuum that if opened could propel us all into a New World Order of perpetual light… or conversely, darkness?

Whew, those are all really heavy concepts, and between you and me I’m kinda hoping that I’m not accidentally right on any of them, ‘cuz accidental spoilers still count.

Last month, Andy gave a pretty stellar review on the debut issue of this new ongoing from Boom! and I’m sorry to say that despite his urging (browbeating… whatever), I slept on the first issue. When we got our review copies of Seven Secrets #2, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a look seeing as how Andy would not let this one go. I might not go with a full review on it, because with all of the great indie books deserving attention it seems like overkill to hit on back to back issues in a title, but what did I have to lose? Now having read it, I’ve decided that I am occasionally a blithering idiot who needs to listen to his friends more often.

Seven Secrets is storytelling done in a way that only comics can pull off, and this team of storytellers is firing on all cylinders. And a couple more cylinders that I didn’t even know were cylinders that could be fired.

The artistic team of Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte, & Katia Ranalli are a dream team for a title based heavily around insane action and a globally based cast of characters who literally carry the fate of the world in their hands. The first thing that jumped out at me was the design work. Di Nicuolo has been handed the reigns on a book that could easily flop one way or another. The balance found between the cinematic action sequences and the deeper character work made Seven Secrets a genuine pleasure to read, both times I read it through (so far…). Di Nicuolo takes the characters & invests more personality into facial expressions and body language than is often shown over pages of dialogue. This isn’t to say that the writing (calm down, we’ll get to that in a minute) isn’t carrying its share of the load, but the art is so perfectly intertwined with the writing that it could have all been pulled off by the same person (has anyone actually seen Di Nicuolo & writer Tom Taylor together at the same time?), rather than two people working the same project.

The coloring by Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli does a really good job of picking up where Di Nicuolo’s illustrations leave off. The colors cover a wide range of hues, fitting for the diverse group of people and settings being featured, without ever going too far or too bright. Their work helps to fill the world of Seven Secrets with life & motion, and the pages almost look like they’re destined for animation. That’s a pretty impressive feat, and an important one given how prominently the action is showcased in this series.

Rounding out the visuals, Ed Dukeshire continues his record of solid work in lettering. I’ve said many times (and I’ll say it at least once more) that lettering can make or break a comic book. Too much flourish or stylization, and the writing can be almost unreadable. Poor placement can bring the flow of the artwork in a panel to a screeching halt. Dukeshire walks that tightrope like a pro, saving the embellishments for where they’ll best serve the story and the action in it.

I generally cover the work of a writer first in these reviews. If you’ve noticed that I haven’t touched on that yet here, bless you for actually reading any of this stuff. I wanted to put my thoughts on Tom Taylor’s work last in this write up because I’ve got a lot I want to say about it, and I figured I’d give you all a chance to opt out of the rest of the article before I really started to ramble. Don’t feel too bad about bailing. I have to be here, but I’m sure you’ve got other stuff to do. However, if you do decide to stick around…

Seven Secrets is the creative brainchild of artist Daniele Di Nicuolo & writer Tom Taylor. At face value, it’s got plenty going for it to successfully engage the casual reader. There are gunfights, martial arts mayhem, and gratuitous violence galore. Beyond all of that, there’s world building that’s being paced steadily but with subtle nudges given at opportune moments. By way of comparison, I’m going to direct your attention to the John Wick series of movies (with number 4 in development, it didn’t feel right to limit its impact by calling it a “trilogy”). The first movie had hints of a larger world, an underground society of criminals from all walks of life. The second & third movies worked to build on that idea, introducing fans to the “High Table” and broadening the mystique of The Continental. Likewise in Seven Secrets, as Tom Taylor spoon feeds his readers information, teasing elements as needed to keep the narrative moving and hinting at twists to come.

Populating this mysterious world of intrigue are some of the coolest, most well thought out and developed characters I’ve seen in comics to date. And we’re only into the second issue! The creative team of Taylor & Di Nicuolo (because no WAY did all of these lunatics come from the mind of a single person) have dreamed up a beautifully diverse and unique cast of misfits & ne’er-do-wells. Just a few examples… Among the first people readers were introduced to in issue 1 were Tajana & Canto, the Keeper and the Holder for the First Secret. At odds with their appearances, Tajana is a wise cracking self-aware force to be reckoned with while the colorful Canto is a dedicated member of the Order, carrying enough devotion to his duties that he’ll spare no criticism to the Order’s elder lead. Sigurd & Eva, another Holder/Keeper duo, are the ill-fated couple whose bouts with “alcohol and boredom” (heh) lead to the birth of the story’s point-of-view character, Caspar. Caspar, through whose eyes readers get to experience the world of Seven Secrets, generates empathy from page one as he describes growing up believing that his parents turned their backs on him of their own accord, and have done their best to ignore him (at the insistence of the many rules governing the lives of the Order’s agents) through his early years. Far from just being left hanging as a target for the reader’s pity, Caspar is written as a sharp & brilliantly intuitive young man who will face his challenges head on as opposed to being held down or defined by them.

The way the narrative itself moves along over the course of the first two issues shows some outstanding restraint on Taylor’s part. Instead of setting up the world of Secrets through text or exposition, he has the patience and skill to let it play out naturally. The reader is allowed to learn about the Order and its culture of hidden truths as the story unfolds. One of the most brilliant decisions Taylor has made here is in using Caspar as the story’s narrative voice. Instead of being strictly linear, it gradually becomes apparent that Caspar isn’t telling his story as it happens on the page. Rather, he’s walking us through his life from a position of hindsight. Caspar has already lived through the events of Seven Secrets, and has decided that it was a story worth telling.

And is it ever!

Seven Secrets is a title that should have a pretty broad appeal, for readers of multiple interests. The intrigue of the most complex spy novel, the action of the very best wuxia movie, and heart enough to satisfy fans of the family drama, are all represented in the pages of one comicbook. I try not to sound too gushy when I’m reviewing comics for thePullbox, but every now and then I just can’t help myself. This would be one of those times.

Final Score: 13/13

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Updated: September 19, 2020 — 12:58 pm

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