Even having never read Hal Clement’s 1950 novel Needle, it’s clear just how much Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles is diverging from its inspirational roots at this juncture. Though its premise is almost wholly that of Clement’s sci-fi yarn, 7 Billion has taken on a gradual transformation not unlike that of the many twisted mutations within, pulsating and pounding into a different beast entirely.
Volume two spent a lot of time exploring the past of protagonist Hikaru, now burdened with not just one, but two alien entities in her body. Horizon—who kicked this series off hunting the malevolent Maelstrom—now shares Hikaru’s inner real estate with his quarry. Beyond the obvious (and sparing) bickering enemy dialogue, the two quickly find a common cause to join forces against, however temporarily.
The appearance of an evolutionary Moderator portends the beginning of the end, as animals and humans alike begin to change erratically. Massive creatures from the past stomp about the planet, disparate species intertwine into perverse abominations, and dogs and cats live happily together (okay, it’s not quite that mental). To put it simply, things “get hot” in this volume of 7 Billion Needles, helping cement it as something more than an illustrated riff on a 60-year-old concept.
I’ve already said too much about the story, but then again, you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t already read the first two volumes. They’re very brisk reads, as I had to refresh myself with volumes one and two again before reading the third (which I then read twice). Honestly, there are times that Tadano’s artwork comes off as slightly amateurish; awkward poses and angles abound, mostly from human characters. However, he makes up for it in spades in almost every other area. The hulking mutations are reminiscent of Akira‘s Tetsuo—organs and appendages spewing and twisting together in a tidal wave of flesh.
This style lends itself well to unique action, too. With the power of both Maelstrom and Horizon, Hikaru absorbs creatures, analyzing their genetic makeup from within. Our floating, nude Moderator brings to mind Valiant-era Barry Windsor-Smith, not only in his overall look but in the way he casually disintegrates; a being with godly power, purely observant and analytical.
Tadano is certainly steering this tale toward an intriguing destination. Volume two ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, and the third ups the ante even more. From the spiraling story of macro-evolution to—yes, it must be mentioned—the design of the book itself, 7 Billion Needles is one of Vertical’s most enjoyable, and re-readable, contemporary releases.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Nobuaki Tadano
© 2011 Nobuaki Tadano