There’s a reason graphic novels have become synonymous with action-adventure stories within and beyond the superhero genre. Superheroes and graphic novels have had parallel paths into the public consciousness and the medium of graphic novels seems tailor-made to depict the kinetic action and fast-paced stories that thrill the hearts of readers. As action-adventure stories aren’t bound by the limitations of reality, and graphic novels use panels to tell a coherent narrative, medium and genre combine to create a uniquely thrilling experience for the reader. An example of this is the action-adventure title Seven Secrets, Vol. 1 by writer Tom Taylor and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo.

The storyline of Seven Secrets reads like a combination of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Mark Millar’s Kingsman series. The story begins with the Order, an ancient and mysterious organization that safeguards the Secrets, seven mystical artifacts that could doom humanity if they fell into the wrong hands. To ensure the safety of these Secrets, they are each guarded by a Keeper and a Holder. One such team is Eva and Sigurd. Their constant working together blossoms into an encounter that conceives a son they name Caspar. Caspar, the main protagonist, grows up within the Order and must soon find his place in it, because an army is hunting members of the Order. This naturally prompts the question: what will happen to these Secrets when the Order falls?

Taylor does not bog down the story with a great deal of character development or exposition. Readers are able to follow along with the plot just enough to strap in for this roller coaster ride and follow its frenetic peaks and valleys of weapon fights and betrayals. Taylor also borrows from the best YA and Adult action and fantasy genres. Elements of Indiana Jones can be seen as the Order travel to distant locations around the globe as they try to stay one step ahead of those actively pursuing them, just as it utilizes Kingsman’s use of weapons and technology that’s basically James Bond for millennials. Harry Potter donates to the DNA of Seven Secrets by incorporating a coming-of-age story that has young Caspar attempt to find his place within a secret society that only exists to keep secrets, even from their own members, even as their own organization is being attacked. It’s not a story that deviates from an established formula that fans of any of the aforementioned series haven’t seen before, but it doesn’t need to. Taylor wisely realizes that sometimes a story can focus less on characters and intertwining plots if the main plot is a fast, fun ride.

Which gets us to how Di Nicuolo’s art benefits this overall story. With a heavy Shonen manga influence, there is never any shortage of martial arts action and gunplay—the quantity could exhaust even lifelong fans of Hong Kong cinema. Placing all this in a movie could be disorienting, with a viewer possibly feeling bombarded by a cacophony of explosions, thrust kicks, and sword play. But there are just enough panels here to provide digestible bits of action and story. Everything from dramatic street chases to the eye-popping design of the mask worn by Order member Canto, possibly the series’ comic relief, is a sugary visual feast for the eyes. One of the reasons there doesn’t need to be a complex plot is that this is a comic book full of BAMs and POWS, and the art reflects this.

There may be less of a meaty, original plot here, but that doesn’t necessarily make this a bad book. People who eat Lucky Charms or Trix know they’re not necessarily getting a nutritious breakfast, just as readers who pick up Seven Secrets know they’re not getting a dense plot with highly nuanced characters. Sure, there’s the plot of Caspar trying to find out what kind of people his parents are, giving this title some YA appeal, particularly among older teens. This book definitely skews toward older teens and adults with its depictions of violence. It features a lot of gunplay, but the action moves so fast that the violence isn’t the focus, much more kung-fu cinema than Quentin Tarantino (offscreen deaths, including a hinted-at decapitation, notwithstanding). One concern a selecting librarian might have is the volume’s cliffhanger ending, which leans heavily into fantasy. One might feel compelled, or patrons might demand, the purchase of the next volume to see if the story branches out into more Indiana Jones fantasy territory while telling Caspar’s story. Overall, if your library is one where manga, particularly Naruto and the like does well, and action-adventure titles, your Die Hard and Kingsman DVDs are checked out on a regular basis, there may be someone interested in the action exploding from the pages of Seven Secrets.


Seven Secrets, vol. 1 
By Tom Taylor
Art by Daniele Di Nicuolo
BOOM! Studios, 2021
ISBN: 9781684157068
Publisher Age Rating: 12+ Only

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)

  • James

    | He/Him Circulation Librarian, Clark County Public Library

    Reviewer

    James Gardner is a Circulation Librarian at Clark County Public Library in Kentucky. Along with writing his own stories, he reviews horror for his own blog The Foreboding Home of the Scary Librarian and other places. But graphic novels are another love of his, having grown up loving Spider-Man and the X-Men. Reviewing graphic novels is a dream gig because the graphic novel is a medium that is full of great stories. One of the best things about being a librarian is always having an excuse to read graphic novels among other books, which is because readers’ advisory depends on reading books (while advising is the other half, of course). He also enjoys role-playing games, which is another opportunity for him to immerse himself in a story.

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