By Jarred A. Luján — The 7 Deadly Sins is another one of TKO Studios’ debut books. Featuring the artwork of Artyom Trakhanov and colors of Giulia Brusco, it’s the comic book debut of television writer Tze Chun, who is also a co-founder and publisher with TKO. The story here is a western-style tale, taking place in 1857, in the greatest state in human history, Texas (Editor's note: Jarred is a Texan, obviously). The story follows a priest who recruits six death row criminals for a mission deep into Comanche territory.
Westerns are hard stories to pull off anymore. There was a time in American culture where westerns were everywhere. They helped to shape American film, particularly moives like Shane, Dirty Harry, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Unfortunately, there’s only so many of these kinds of stories you can tell without things getting a little…repetitive. Most modern westerns now try to blend elements of the genre with others, like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (sci-fi/fantasy/western) or the movie Logan (superhero/western).
Chun and Trakhanov don’t really do that here, which I felt concerned about at first. I love westerns, but did we really need another story about outlaws and cowboys, or someone being the best gun in the west? The answer to that is probably not, but Chun skates around it altogether with one of the wildest group of characters in any western.
A runaway slave, a Chinese surgeon, a slave turned Union soldier, a cannibal, and a white man living as a Comanche all exist in this story. That’s such a diverse and strange roster, but Chun manages to pull it off well. The characters help to really breathe something fresh and new into a genre that is almost traditionally repetitive at this point. The 7 Deadly Sins unapologetic inclusion of slave characters was one of my favorite parts of the book. Westerns have something of a notoriety of shying away from that element of the era, but Chun unflinchingly puts it in the spotlight here, including the central protagonist.
Unfortunately, this character roster is also something of a weakness as well. There are a couple characters in the book that I had a hard time rooting for. As the story goes on and we see some of the things these people have done—and how little interest some have in redeeming themselves—it feels difficult to continue wanting them to succeed. Obviously, not every death row criminal can have a sob story where they didn’t mean to harm someone or they were wrongfully convicted, but because of The 7 Deadly Sins unique characters beings its strongest suit, losing concern for one or two of them does its damage. Regardless, Chun manages to focus the story on the characters you stay keen to, which makes it worth sticking with despite those brief, difficult moments.
Looking at these pages is really something else, though. This book is gorgeous. Trakhanov lays down some brilliant line art here. The actions scenes feel kinetic, they feel violent. TKO’s giant-sized pages are one of my favorite parts of their releases, because you really get to see the brilliant artwork in a larger, more exciting format. Not to mention Giulia Brusco, who really shines on this as well. Her color work is so good in every scene. Some of my favorite parts of the book are Jericho’s flashbacks, where most of the panel is done in blue, but he’s colored in red. The change is subtle, simple even, but it adds to the depth of emotion going through the character at that time. I live for color work like that.
Briefly, I think letterer Jared K. Fletcher is wonderful in here as well, and I promise it isn’t just because we share a first name. The letterers in this book stand out because they flow so well together with the art. The simple moments are kept simple, but when the book gets violent or tense, we see the colors of the letters themselves stand out, or they seemingly look scrawled on the page. The letters here really add something special to the pages, and it’s some of my favorite lettering altogether.
One of the bigger surprises I found from the book, though, is that this is literally Tze Chun’s first venture into comics. He’s obviously got a background in film, having worked on a wide range of projects, including Gotham, but I’m hoping we’ll see more comics from Chun soon. With a wild story like this, I’m sure he’s got some even more surprising stuff locked away in his head. As a matter of fact, I felt like there was some potential for more story with one of our 7 Deadly Sinners, so I’ll hope that we see more in the future.
Ultimately, The 7 Deadly Sins is fun as hell. While it struggles with its own gritty and unique character group, the book’s focus on the right members of its cast makes it easy to read and another solid offering by TKO Studios.
The 7 Deadly Sins
Writer: Tze Chun
Artist: Artyom Trakhanov
Colorist: Giulia Brusco
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Publisher: TKO Studios
Price: Digital $13.99, Paperback $17.99, Individual Issues in Collector’s Box $24.99
Get It: Via TKO Studios
Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.