“7 Psychopaths” #1 begins the BOOM! English language edition of the 2007 French album that’s part of a series of seven books by seven different creative teams featuring teams of seven people fighting in some sort of battle or undertaking some mission. “7 Psychopaths” is a natural choice for release here first (if the plan is to serialize all seven albums) given the artist of the story, Sean Phillips, and the plot: seven psychopaths being sent to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1941. This issue, presenting the first quarter of the album, introduces the idea and five of the seven eponymous psychopaths and it’s an entertaining introduction.
Obviously, the idea of assassinating Hitler is nothing new, which the story rightly acknowledges. Colonel Thompson raises the idea after receiving a letter from a mental patient who proposes the mission and is promptly mocked for it. British Intelligence has tried 30 times already and every attempt failed because killing Hitler is simply impossible. Despite this, Thompson still visits the patient who sent him the letter, Joshua Goldschmidt, and learns what sets this plan apart from others: those plans were undertaken by logical men who knew it was impossible, but sending in a team of insane assassins who wouldn’t act logically or recognize the impossibility of the task could prove so unpredictable that they may just succeed.
Fabien Vehlmann creates an intriguing dynamic between the insane Goldschmidt and Thompson as they go about recruiting members of the team, Goldschmidt being the first. Goldschmidt prefers civilian psychos, while Thompson goes to military ones, each frustrating the other. The most amusing of the recruits is a German defector who thinks that Hitler is telepathically sending messages to his brain and only signs up to stop it from happening. However, this issue only provides the idea for the series and part of the recruiting, which leaves things hanging somewhat.
The reason why many English-speaking comics readers are interested in “7 Psychopaths” is the art by Sean Phillips. Over the past decade, Phillips has risen to prominence in the critical community for his work on “Wildcats,” “Sleeper,” and “Criminal,” so new art, especially of the non-superhero variety, is a big deal for many (myself included). Phillips, of course, doesn’t disappoint and BOOM!, thankfully, presents the art in its correct aspect ratio. While regular comic book size, there is extra gutter space above and below the art so that the wider size preferred by Franco-Belgium albums is maintained, leaving Phillips’s art intact and unedited.
The biggest difference from his recent work is that Phillips isn’t colored here by Val Staples, instead by Hubert with brighter, more uniform colors. They gives Phillips’ art a more open look, a bit bolder, and less nuanced. His line work is spectacular, particularly his facial expressions and body language. If you look at his pages, the art gives the essential clues for how characters interact with the dialogue simply providing the details. It’s one of Phillips’ strengths as an artist and he brings it to “7 Psychopaths” extremely well.
Fans of European comics, war comics, or Sean Phillips’ art should give “7 Psychopaths” a read as it presents a novel idea to the heavily worn concept of assassinating Hitler. The idea and character work demonstrates a lot of promise for the remainder of the story and I’m sure I’m not the only one very interested to see how this mission plays out.