7 Psychopaths #1


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7 Psychopaths #1


  • Words: Fabien Vehlmann
  • Art: Sean Phillips
  • Colors: Hubert
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 26, 2010

For fans reading BOOM! Studios' promotional ads about Fabien Vehlmann's and Sean Phillips' 7 Psychopaths and thinking it simply a knock-off or liberal adaptation of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, think again. 

Not only did this book predate the film, but this latest BOOM! release is in fact an English translation of the 2007 French album published by Delcourt.  While it is unclear if this version is a direct translation or has been edited for American audiences unfamiliar with the pacing and style of European comics, readers will no doubt enjoy this irreverent interpretation of the World War II era.

Although Vehlmann may be a new name for Americans, the superb artwork of Sean Phillips should please fans of Criminal, Sleeper, and his various other works.  Usually basked in noir settings, Phillips' interpretations of 1940's London are stellar and show his breadth as a comic artist.  Desperate to counteract the German blitzkrieg and prior to the involvement of the United States, British intelligence is entertaining various proposals to halt the Nazi advance on the continent.  When Colonel Thompson proposes assassinating Adolph Hitler, his idea is ridiculed.  Spared from yet another Luftwaffe attack, Thompson is desperate in his self-loathing and turns to a letter from Bethlehem mental hospital.  It is here that the Colonel meets Professor Joshua Goldschmidt, a former professor of religious history at Cambridge and the co-architect of the plan to kill the Fuhrer.

Enlisting a cadre of psychopaths, mental defectives, and other outcasts, Thompson and Goldschmidt interview telepath Erik Starken, sharpshooter Susan, master of disguise Willy Wright, and infiltration operative Captain Stewart.  Issue #1 is mainly setup as little more than small character sketches are revealed for the various cast members; however, Vehlmann allows his characters to tell their own stories rather than relying simply upon omniscient voice-over narration.  As a result, the story is very well-paced and flows smoothly between panels and pages. 

It is unclear if BOOM!'s translation/adaptation will result in a four issue mini-series as only two issues have been announced.  Strangely enough, Amazon is already allowing pre-orders for the December 2010 trade collection which reveals a length of eighty-eight pages, which sounds about right.  BOOM! can obviously build off the notoriety of Tarantino's film for this book's promotion, but readers will quickly learn that it has much more to offer and a much more diverse storyline than the film.  If Vehlmann's story is any indication of the superior work being done by European writers off-the-radar of American audiences, then BOOM!'s move towards translations is a welcome way to diversify from the superheroes that dominates store shelves. 

Alongside the stunning interiors of Phillips and colorist Hubert, this story proves that historical fiction can be a viable genre for the medium.  Here's hoping that this is the first of many more European works to come from BOOM! Studios.

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