Apparently, when film director John Woo is not off making the latest action blockbuster, he is involving himself in other projects such as 7 Brothers. Virgin Comics has recently unleashed a slew of comics deeply influenced by many different Asian cultures as well as by famous (and typically non-Western) film talent. Of course, one must have a taste for Woo, whose name is synonymous with action, since his comics certainly follow in that vein.
The premise of 7 Brothers brings Chinese history and culture to present day Los Angeles. When China sends ships out to explore the world in 1421, a powerful wizard known as the Son of Hell goes along with them, seeking out magical pinpoints in the world through which to channel even more power. His apprentice Fong, though, seeks to undo his master’s plan, and so leaves a child imbued with special powers at each place. When Fong confronts his master, the battle destroys both of them - or so the world thinks.
Flash forward to present day L.A. and Rachel Kai, a descendant of Fong who has pulled together seven men from the different corners of the globe, all of whom have strange and mysterious powers. Kai beseeches them to help her fight against the reincarnated Son of Hell or face the possible end of the world. Not all are convinced, but when they are viciously attacked, they realize there is little choice in the matter.
Ennis’s violent, cruel, harsh and devilishly good storytelling is obvious throughout. Woo may be at the helm, but Ennis is definitely in the details. Graphic and gritty remain his stomping grounds, and 7 Brothers only reiterates that. The protagonists all have their edges, and the antagonists’ mania oozes from the pages. Kang is also on top of his game with the art. Between the action and the uses of darkness, he shows an aptitude for drawing such tales as this one. His ability to reveal looks of evil or deviousness is only rivaled by expressions of desperation in his characters. The graphic violence at times feels strong enough to make some readers squeamish.
The graphic novel also has a decent share of extras, some related to the story and others just fun details for readers. The profiles provide further insight on the seven “brothers”, while an afterword explains the origins of the story within Chinese history as well as the unique blending of Woo and Ennis as storytellers. The art gallery includes sketches by Kang as well as particular panels to which he adds brief comments.
While steeped in Chinese lore, the story also has its own heart that readers will delight in. Between its graphic depictions and language, this series is definitely aimed more at adults than kids and, indeed, adults will thoroughly enjoy the skills of Ennis and Kang. If future volumes can maintain the octane levels of this volume, readers will be in for the long haul. While there is no indication of a film to be made of this series, Woo definitely has one with potential for the screen.