Writer(s): Fabien Vehlmann
Artist(s): Sean Phillips
Published DATE May 2010
Seven men, one impossible mission – assassinate Hitler! With World War II in full swing, there’s only one way to draw the war to a quick end: kill Hitler. But who would be insane enough to try? Joshua Goldschmidt knows just the men to do it. Insane? Psychotic? Mad? Call them what you will, but the Seven Psychopaths are now the only hope the world has.
I love a graphic novel that starts with a preface where either the writer or the artist talks about the pains of bringing their product to life. It should be almost mandatory for any good Graphic Novel to start this way, darn it!
Even though I will acknowledge that most readers just want to be entertained and don’t care to find out about the creative process, I think the time has come for comic book artists to behave like proud artists, and put the right amount of pride in their craft. The preface by artist Sean Phillips explain how he was recruited by a French publisher to work on a script by Vehlmann, while on a visit to the comic salon in Barcelona, and proceeds to narrate the efforts and labors he endured to see their baby to term.
The result is a mature graphic novel that resembles adventure comic in the most European style and flavor, and yes, one of these days I will publish here a primer on how to distinguish European from American comics, so stay posted Friends of the ComicWatcher.
Back to the main topic, the story is heartless and ruthless as if written by someone who had witnessed the horrors and tribulations of that great conflict that was WWII. The writer plays with our heroic expectations and I enjoyed that play. We expect with the turning of every page that our flawed heroes will redeem themselves and surprise us, except that history has this annoying way of getting in the way of the best laid plans, and nothing ever turns as it is supposed to.
The avid reader can peel many layers from the narrative in this book, the metaphors herein and the complex characters. It is one of those rare books that after the first read we can go back and give it another whirl and still find more layers if we so choose to.
The art is well crafted, and the blurred and stocky shadows that Sean Phillips uses go astoundingly well with the period that is reflecting upon. Short of using Sepias, the choice of artist and art style is a pretty perfect match for this story, and we shouldn’t neglect giving kudos to the colorist Hubert, who as any colorist worth his/her salt would do, his work enhances and greatly complements the savvy impressionism of Phillips.
Now, I had some other readers complain that the book seemed anti-climatic to them. Others complained that it took them half the book to get to the front, where the action starts.
When I hear these complaints about this book, I raise my eyebrows and think back to the opening paragraph of this critique, where I mentioned the subtle and not so subtle differences of American comics and European comics.
This book is about a journey made for strange reasons during a difficult time in history. It is true that at every step of the journey we encounter unintended twists and unexpected turns. But this story was doomed (in a good way) from the start. From the man who takes on this mission, to the man who suggests it, to the people who are enlisted.
What did you expect? You wanted everything to work out in the end? I think the pantheon of our good USA Superheroes have that covered for you.
If you want something meatier, something complex, with volume and many meanings, then this book is for you.
So, on my Critic’s rating, 7 Psychopaths gets