One of the most satisfying things about reading good high-concept science fiction is the well-handled reveal, when you see a mass of initially fragmented plot pieces slot together to form a cohesive whole. This month, Arcadia #7 sees the groundwork laid in earlier issues by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer continue to pay off in a big way, their unfolding revelations cementing the series’ status as the science fiction comic to be reading just now.
Having only just figured out the dark secret behind the genesis of Arcadia, Lee Pepper finds himself at the mercy of Uncle Cosmas and his crazed evangelicals, who claim to have discovered a back door to their digital utopia. As Coral, Jack and the homesteaders gather to learn the disturbing truth about the simulation they call home, Valentin reveals that one stable connection still exists between Arcadia and the real world, and it’s in the most unlikely of places. As our heroes are confronted with the very real prospect of their reality being torn apart, the mysterious Corey Bloom suggests a unimaginable course of action.
With a large cast of characters, it’s always tough to make room for everyone’s development, but Arcadia #7 revels in its supporting cast in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Corey Bloom still remains a mystery, but an intriguing one, whilst Valentin is turning out to be a much more complex character than he seemed in the first couple of issues. Fisk’s seemingly contrived switch of allegiances is ultimately well explained, and Uncle Cosmas is revealed to be a despicable but fascinating villain. In fact, part of what makes Cosmas work so well as a character is one of the key strengths of Arcadia #7 as a whole: the dialogue. Paknadel’s skill as a writer has rarely been in doubt over the last 6 issues, but here his dialogue really sings. The words of Pepper and Cosmas are particular highlights, possessed as they are of a kind of rugged beauty that’s potently euphonious.
Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s artwork is once again worthy of special praise; while his talent for switching seamlessly between the intimate and the epic is once again on show, Arcadia #7 also requires him to render some harrowing character work that evokes a visceral response from the reader. But good as Pfeiffer’s art remains, the real star of the issue is undoubtedly Paknadel’s plotting, which continues to piece together the story’s underlying mysteries with expert pacing, in a satisfyingly cohesive manner. While so many science fiction comics seem to subsist on contrivances, Arcadia‘s elegantly constructed plot continues to pay dividends, and Arcadia #7 in particular leaves the reader desperate to know what’s going to happen next.