For my final book for this week of reviews, I have something from TKO Studios. I’d never heard of them before, but I found a trio of them on Amazon, some by creators whose names I know, and opted to give them a shot. The first was written by the company’s co-publisher Tze Chun and is a Western called The 7 Deadly Sins.
It’s 1867 in the state of Texas, and the Comanche chief Black Cloud is attacking homesteaders left and right. Most adults he scalps, often taking the ears as well to let everyone know it was him, but he keeps some women and many children for himself and his tribe. There’s a reason for that, and it’s known to Father Antonio at the nearby Threadgill Mission. He was brought in years earlier and saved by Father Threadgill, a seemingly kind, Christian man who takes in a lot of orphans for his mission. He also has a lot of Texas Rangers on the payroll to protect the place in these uncertain times.
But it turns out Threadgill is not as saintly as he appears. I’d say more, but that is what passes for a surprise plot twist given how Threadgill is portrayed in the first part as opposed to every part after that.
Regardless, while Threadgill goes off on another mission to rescue more orphans, Antonio goes into town looking for help. He finds it in the form of a wagon headed out with six convicts on board. They include a legendary African American Union veteran named Jericho Marsh, Irish Claire the bank robber, pregnant former slave Malene, gigantic convicted cannibal Hogg, “Best Shot in the West” showman Dapper Dudley, and a Chinese immigrant named Chang wanted for running away from the railroad or something. Antonio believes the six of them, plus himself, represents one of each of the Seven Deadly Sins, and as such, they alone can perhaps give Black Cloud what he wants and end all the killing. Antonio has it, along with the money needed to pay the other six. He just needs them to escort him to Black Cloud safely.
OK, Chun apparently did some writing for TV, most notably Gotham, but this is his first comic book. It somewhat shows. The seven deadly sins thing is somewhat forced. Antonio says he is sloth because he didn’t do what he was supposed to do at some point, and Malene and Jericho are distinctly identified as “envy” and “wrath” explicitly. Jericho’s label makes sense given how the character is written, but Malene’s is a bigger stretch than Antonio’s. Hogg is obviously gluttony, though he’s also the least developed of the bunch as a character, and Dapper Dudley in a single panel is revealed to have the sin of lust. But what about Claire and Chang? Claire is presumably greed, making Chang pride by process of elimination, but since the book outright told us for three of them, and two of them don’t make a lot of sense, I don’t know how certain I can be there.
As it is, Chun really only takes time to develop certain members of the group. Jericho gets the most, followed by Antonio. Malene gets a sizable amount, followed by Chang, though again, he’s more of a guy who has a lot of cool skills. Dudley is there to be hated, while Claire gets one or two good scenes and Hogg just wants something to eat all the time. It makes it harder to care about some of these characters, especially as Chun has various other antagonists and allies thrown in for good measure. Six issues may have been too short to tell this story.
Even then, the artwork by Artyom Trakhanov doesn’t help much. I honestly wasn’t sure what was happening in some action scenes.
Now, from what I have learned, TKO Studios releases books directly to retailers and comic buyers, keeping Diamond Distributors out of the loop, and they release their titles in mini-series by waves. The company even got an Eisner nomination for a 2020 book. So, I won’t be judging the whole of the publisher’s output by this one book, but man, this one sure was disappointing.
6 out of 10 color-tinted flashbacks.