First published in a collected edition format back in July of 2007, the first ‘7 Brothers’ series was written by John Woo with the script penned by Garth Ennis and artwork by Jeevan Kang.  The graphic novel collected together issues 1 – 5 of the original comics.

The graphic novel was published under Virgin Comic’s ‘Directors Cut’ series – which was designed to showcase the work of film directors within the comic format.

DLS Synopsis:
Six hundred years ago, before history’s great explorers took all the glory for their supposed discoveries, vast Chinese treasure fleets sailed the world’s seas setting foot on the numerous continents for the first time.  With the Chinese fleet sailed a sorcerer named Son of Hell.  A man of immense power, whose job it was to protect the ships from the elements.  But the sorcerer had another agenda.  As the fleet made their way from continent to continent, the sorcerer placed control stones at every intersection of the world’s Dragon Lines – points of concentration for the elemental energy of Earth.

Accompanying the Son of Hell on these voyages was his young apprentice, Fong.  He was there to learn the feet of the greatest magician in all the world.  Ever curious, he learned to watch the Son of Hell from the shadows, to see without being seen himself.  And soon he learned his Master’s true design with the Dragon Lines.

Knowing the Son of Hell’s plan to rule the world, Fong did the only thing he could do.  Three miles beneath the Earth, in the sorcerer’s most secret lair, Fong fought the master magician.  Fought and lost.  But trapped the Son of Hell deep under the Great Wall of China.

Six centuries later, in his constant desire for more wealth and power, business tycoon Jack Donald has broken into the underground chamber.  A mission of greed that would be his undoing.  But it would also let loose the Chinese sorcerer onto the unsuspecting world once again.

But Fong’s warning of the Son of Hell’s desire for domination has passed down from generation to generation in his surviving bloodline.  Now, in the heart of Los Angeles, seven strangers from across the world have been brought together.  Each of these men have unique powers that set them apart from their fellow human beings.  But they have one thing that binds them together – their blood.  Fong’s lifeblood.

And now they must come together to face the Son of Hell and in doing so, save the world from complete domination…

DLS Review:

When legendary Hong Kong film director John Woo and US comic book writer Garth Ennis join forces to create a modern day reimagining of the ancient Chinese legend ‘Ten Brothers’, you know you’re in for one crazyass treat.  Woo is best known for his maniacal, high-octane and ultra-violent action films.  Likewise, Ennis is no stranger to violence, creating the uber-violent ‘Crossed’ graphic novels, as well as writing the gut-punching ‘Preacher’ and ‘Hitman’ series’.

Putting the two forces together you’d probably expect a chaotic and violent bloodbath to ensue.  However, that’s not the reality.  In fact, this first ‘7 Brothers’ series is a somewhat reserved retelling of the story in comparison to Ennis and Woo’s other work.  It’s very much focused on ‘telling the tale’, and reimaging the various intricacies behind the myth.

That’s not to say there aren’t action sequences and tense forays between the two sides.  The fast and furious fight sequences that we see within Woo’s films are replicated here in frame-by-frame  graphic glory.  Eyeballs are gouged out of eye-sockets with the swift flick of a pair of chopsticks.  Fingers are sliced off and left pumping blood into the air.  Heads are blown to pieces with fragments of skull showering down around them.  And characters have the shit kicked out of them all over the place.

But for the most part, Ennis and Woo focus on simply telling their story.  In fact, probably around a third of the entire graphic novel is dedicated to setting down the underlying story from six hundred odd years ago.  Along with this a large proportion of the story is given over to the seven ‘brothers’ coming to terms with their abilities and their supposed destiny.

Because of this the graphic novel has a particularly ‘story-telling’ heavy feel to it, with a lot of dialogue between the characters regurgitating the back history that underpins the entire plot.  There’s far less action and adrenaline-pumping tension than you’d expect.  Admittedly the last chapter (i.e. the last issue in this collected edition) goes a long way to make up for this.  In fact, it begins to deliver more of a Godzilla style monster movie vibe than a Chinese legend remade.  Hats off to Woo, the grandiose nature of having such a colossal finale really works in the tale’s favour.  It brings everything to that one final point where the story explodes into something spectacularly over-the-top.

Ennis’ writing and use of dialogue throughout the length of the story is absolutely spot on.  The seven different protagonists - well eight including the young Chinese woman who brought them all together - all have their own unique personalities and traits which shine through the story.  Indeed, it’s a tough one to pull off well – having so many characters all introduced at the exact same time – and managing to give them their own voices from the outset.  But Ennis has one-hundred-percent achieved this.

All in all it’s a good story.  It’s certainly entertaining and captivates you until the end.  There’s mystery and intrigue slipped in at the beginning, with the truth of the matter only gradually unveiled within the first couple of chapters.  It’s enough to draw you in quickly and effectively, with the storytelling from then on successfully holding your attention.

However, you can’t help but feel like there’s not enough grit and grime and furious action woven into the whole thing.  These seven brothers each have their own unique powers, but you barely see them in action.  It’s a shame, because the modernised concept is a damn good one.

Nevertheless, this is still a highly entertaining and enjoyable reimagining of an ancient Chinese legend that kicks some serious ass right where it needs to.

The volume runs for a total of 144 pages including the following extras:

•    Forward by comic book writer Frank Miller (1 Page)
•    Character profiles section (2 Pages)
•    Artist’s commentary on a selection of the scenes (2 Pages)
•    The evolution of the artwork (2 Pages)
•    Variant covers gallery (2 Pages)
•    The re-creation of a myth write-up (2 Pages)
•    Deleted scene in black & white (4 Pages)

© DLS Reviews

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