7 Psychopaths #1

Written by Fabien Vehlmann
Art by Sean Phillips
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s hard to not make the obvious comparison between 7 Psychopaths and Inglorious Basterds, both of them being about a team of slightly crazy people in World War II trying to assassinate Hitler. Once you move past that, though, the first issue this comic imported from France has little else in common with Quentin Tarantino’s film. 7 Psychopaths is a much more sedate story, at least so far, but at the same time Fabien Vehlmann and Sean Phillips are doing a good enough job that you’ll want to read more about these seven psychopaths.

Originally published as a longer album, Boom! Studios is serializing 7 Psychopaths into individual issues, and so far I’m pleased that they’ve found a good place to stop at the end of the issue, and are paying attention to the adaptation into this slightly different format. Vehlmann’s story moves at a leisurely pace because of its original longer page count, but it never feels like it’s dragging its feet. We discover the plan to send seven deranged people into Germany to go after Hitler, and while the reason for just seven is a little out there, you do also have to consider the source of the insane person that has come up with the plan in the first case. From there, it’s a typical "assemble the troops" series of scenes, except of course that so far each of the squad members has their own specific problem. It’s entertaining, but reading it serialized made me wish for the entire volume in one fell swoop so we could get to the action.

The big attraction, though, is Phillips’s art. It’s as beautiful as his work on books like Criminal and Incognito, able to draw character portraits that are striking and full at the same time. As strange as it may sound, though, it’s some of the layouts of 7 Psychopaths that gets me the most excited. He’s able to use the original oversized dimensions of these pages to play around with the extra space; on one early page, he keeps slicing away at a square he’s created on its top and left sides until we’re whittled down to the final panel in the bottom right corner. Other times, he creates almost-mirror duplicates on a page of his layouts, stacking horizontal and vertical panels into configurations that in other hands might be hard to follow but here flow perfectly across the page. None of these layouts ever detract from the storytelling that’s going on here, most importantly, and that’s why at the end of the day you have to raise your metaphorical hat to Phillips.

7 Psychopaths #1 is early enough in this mini-series that it’s hard to judge it too terribly much, but based on this first issue I definitely want to read more. The story’s good so far, and Phillips is unsurprisingly at the top of his game. 7 Psychopaths is part of a seven volume series of books by different creators, and if they’re all this strong, I hope Boom! Studios brings over the rest as well. It’s a good start.

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