A bloody brilliant standalone and a wonderful dark fantasy homage to Kurosawa.
There’s no real need to set the premise of The Maleficent Seven since it’s in the title. Most people will be at least familiar with the seven samurai trope (unless they have been living under a rock the last seventy years). What makes Johnston’s take on one of storytelling’s most compelling tropes so good and work so well is that his seven heroes are the vilest, most twisted and downright evilest crew of bastards you can imagine. Like some fantasy Suicide Squad.
Characterisation is integral to a good story and I’m delighted to say that Johnston nailed it here. Each character felt multi-faceted and unique, including their villainous tendencies, inner conflicts, perceptions of things (and people), and even the way they literally speak. Black Herran is a worthy successor to the wise strategist Kambei and gun-slinging Chris Adams (I can just imagine them giving her that famous Robert Redford nod). A natural fear-inducing leader with an eye for the long game, her goal of stopping the fanatical fire-wielding Lucent Empire may seem suicidal but the old demonologist has a few tricks (and demons) up her sleeve.