Review by Frank Plowright
The biblical idea of the seven deadly sins has prompted countless sermons, parables and parental lectures over the centuries, all warning against, in strict alphabetical order anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride and sloth. Today they’re more likely to be a pub quiz tie-breaker, and just to be contrary, each of the creative teams allocated a sin in this anthology were extended to eight pages.
Published in 1989, editors Carol and Tony Bennett combined the royalty of British mainstream comics with their underground equivalents, writers from outside comics and creators whose careers would subsequently develop elsewhere, along with other then relative newcomers. It leads to an eclectic mixture of approaches and results, although Knockabout’s comedy is paramount. Some writers employ a meta-level, Roz Kaveney and Tym Manley dealing with pride and envy respectively incorporating the themes into their first person narratives or intrusions. Neil Gaiman and Bryan Talbot manage this most successfully, their piece more about form than content as sloth infects them. Talbot’s pages begin in his usually tight style, but become sketchier and sketchier. It’s a good joke.
Equally considered is Alan Moore’s take on lust, using captions attuned to sexual desire to comment on the Cold War political tensions of the 1980s, but it also exemplifies a condition afflicting other strips, that of the neat idea carried too far. The point is made over a couple of pages, yet has to fill eight, and all Mike Matthews’ wonderful cartooning can’t disguise that. The sample art is from Matthews and Graham Higgins, both Knockabout regulars during the 1980s, neither ever making the mark their talent promised.
‘Anger’ (Davy Francis and Jeremy Banx), ‘Gluttony’ (Dave Gibbons and Lew Stringer) and ‘Greed’ (Mark Rodgers and Steve Gibson) all have one of the creative team more effective than the other, and so lag behind the other content. However, most of the cartooning is great, and that’s even before mentioning the magnificent Hunt Emerson, the script about envy requiring more panels to a page than his standard style, each of them busy, gag packed and suitable for individual framing. Despite his excellence, like over-indulgence in the sins themselves, the collection promises much, but doesn’t always deliver, while the better ideas still raise it above average.