Here’s what it is though…sometimes we overlook things.
It’s only natural, that with a steady bombardment of new sights and new sounds, competing for weekly attention, even some of the industry’s certainties can fall by the wayside. There are names in this business, with the ability to inspire a noticeable degree of confidence in their work, and a few months ago, I had to be reminded of one of those names. Don’t know if it can be blamed on a slightly decreased workload from the creator in question, or if age is starting to catch up with me, but I’ve returned to my senses, not a moment to spare. Disrespectful as it may sound, embarrassing as it may be, somehow in the last several months, I managed to forget just how good Grant Morrison is. Hell, good probably isn’t even a strong enough word, cause with recent projects like JLA Classified, WE3, and the one that’s the primary focus of this piece, Morrison clearly deserves a more complex description. I’ve been shying away from doing quite so many reviews of late, but I think the hottest event in comics deserves a special mention. Because that’s what Seven Soldiers clearly is you know…the hottest thing running in mainstream comics.
Everybody is convinced that bigger is in fact better, and with it impossible to walk into the shop without tripping over some massive company crossover, the unenlightened may wonder, what makes Morrison’s proposed thirty chapter opus different? Doesn’t it epitomize exactly what is wrong with crossovers, an incredible investment heaped upon unsuspecting fans, strictly for the sake of building the quick buzz, and the faster buck? Isn’t it designed to just encourage you to buy books you’d otherwise have absolutely no interest in? And more importantly, can even Grant Morrison redefine how the modern “crossover” is orchestrated? I’ll take you through all this slowly…
Your typical summer event or crossover, however well executed, usually relies on two key factors, the characters and the story. I know, I know, an alien concept, right? But much of the appeal comes from the manic fanboy thrill of seeing your favorite characters side-by-side, facing down some immense threat, the entire world at stake. While Seven Soldiers, even near its halfway point, does embrace some of the basic tenets of the crossover, everything else is turned on its head, making the actual storytelling the main creative draw. Sure, the threat itself is compelling on its own, but the real fun lies in watching everything collide, a puzzle piecing itself together, with seemingly unrelated characters and concepts. The sheer ambition of it has Morrision’s fingerprints all over it, because seriously, who else is smart enough, and good enough to make a fully functioning modular crossover work? And shouldn’t we reward his efforts by supporting this project every chance we get?
With the event gaining suitable momentum, and my personal admiration for Morrison properly rekindled, this week is all about showing the project some well-deserved love. From least favorite Soldier to most…
Saying Klarion is my least favorite Soldier, is about the same as saying that One Day It’ll All Make Sense, is my least favorite Common album. It would be nice if all of my least favorite books were actually this good. The background for the title character is what disconnects me somewhat, while the character himself is what makes it worth following. There’s a great sense of discovery here, Klarion finding amazement in the smallest of human experiences, and it’s really hard not to like a character that watches TV for the first time, and laughs so hard about it, that he gets violently sick. By far the youngest Soldier, Klarion is more interested in eating chocolate cake than saving the world, making his connection to the overall story a bit unknown, only that it involves the home he ran away from. But there’s just something ultimately charming about a young blue-faced witch-boy that can see through the eyes of his cat. Especially when you’ve got an artist like Frazer Irving, bringing everything to life, handling both pencils and colors.
Didn’t really expect to like Shining Knight, because of its bits of Arthurian lore, which is always good for making my eyes glaze over. Knight manages to slide past my natural allergy to anything medieval, and after a lukewarm response to the first issue, the second hooked me with Sir Justin trying to outrun a physical manifestation of his guilt. That’s the kind of really clever idea that always comes from Morrison, and he’s known for throwing stuff like that into a story, quickly tossing it away when he’s through, like he’s confident he’ll come up with something even better the next time. Sure he will, but it’s always interesting to see how quickly a skilled writer will discard a very good idea, that could easily turn into something much larger. It’s also fun to see how a very familiar notion (an evil Queen, for example) turns into an incredibly more frightening element, which is definitely the case here, as the Queen (last seen in issue one) returns in issue three, following a tension filled scene that marked another of the series’ highlights. Shining Knight also crosses directly into events from Zatanna, and the “seam” which allows them to, lets you know that Morrison has everything completely planned out, and that when this whole event is done, it’s gonna be one for the books.
Zatanna is just fun. From the very first page of the very first issue, with Zatanna declaring herself “a spellaholic,” it’s fun. Think she’s probably the most notable of DC characters involved in the event, especially in light of recent developments in the mainline DCU, and Grant puts an individual stamp on her, without completely contradicting her role in Identity Crisis. But he does use the opportunity to make her far more interesting, with an interesting history, interesting friends, and most importantly, an apprentice named Misty that allows the series to channel a real buddy movie type vibe. There’s so much going on with just this relationship, that it’d be easy to simply read about their “Thelma and Louise” meets “Bewitched” style misadventures, but like the ghost of Ali Ka-Zoom says, “Sometimes it’s like there’s mystery string holding everything together.”
The connections come fast and furious in Zatanna’s third issue, hitting Shining Knight head on, as Justin’s flying horse shows up, and we get a surprising, yet somehow obvious revelation about Misty, that connects her to everything. Could be wrong, but there’s also a character from Morrison’s recent JLA Classified arc that shows up near the end too, along with a line about guilt being made flesh, which has to be another Shining Knight reference. You see what the hell I’m talkin’ about? Who else does stuff like this?
Unsurprisingly, Zatanna proves Morrison and magic make a very good combination.
The Guardian will likely remain my favorite Soldier…least until Mister Miracle starts up, and I don’t care what my boy Nate says, it’s not just because Jake Jordan is a black dude. That’s part of it, yes, but come on, Jordan does have the coolest high concept of the initial minis, doesn’t he? A disgraced ex-policeman becomes the living masthead for a newspaper that employs an army of young, freelance Newsboys, and ends up in the middle of a war between Subway Pirates, and beating back out of control robots, among other things. Even without Jake Jordan, who I immediately took a liking to anyway, a newspaper that doesn’t just report the news, but that actually makes the news, is one of those things you know is probably gonna be cool. The pirate with the treasure map tattooed on his back is just a strange, and welcome bonus.
Here’s a true story from the San Diego con, involving the third issue of The Guardian. On Preview Night, I bought this decent sized stack of comics, seeing that it was Wednesday, and that’s what’s supposed to happen on New Comics Day. Now, before gettin’ to Guardian, I read this other book first, which shall remain quite nameless. The actual book itself isn’t even THAT important, only what it represented, a well-hyped monstrosity of a comic, written by one of the most acclaimed writers in comics. Much as I hate to voice negativity on the ‘net, as it’s become something of a cliché at this point, the comic wasn’t hittin’ me like I’d hoped. Matter of fact, one could launch a reasonable argument that the story just wasn’t very good. That’s me being polite and respectful, but at the time, I was mad disappointed, so when I got to Guardian 3 and read it, I was really surprised by what I found out. That The Guardian 3 just bullied this other poor comic on nearly every level.
And this isn’t a situation where one was simply better than the other, just that Guardian was trying so much harder to be better. From front to back, “The Siege at Century Hollow” was stacked with visuals, lines, and developments that made it another example of why you HAVE to back Seven Soldiers. Whether it’s the second page, with Jake Jordan diving from a copter, his boss screaming over a communicator, “ROBOTS WITH RIFLES! VULNERABLE HUMAN FLESH!” Or the captioning on the fourth, reading “IMAGINE SCIENCE ON HEAT, BAYING LIKE A HOUND BENEATH A RED-HOT MOON!” Or maybe even the old tourist, surrounded by rampaging robots who “…PREDICTED THE NEXT WAR WOULD BE WITH PISSED OFF HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES.”
Perhaps you’re even a fan of the good ol’ human drama, as Jake learns his new job isn’t doing much for his relationship with Carla. He was forced to allow her father to die, and even though he did so to save her life, she still hasn’t forgiven him. I know, I know, you’re a sucker for an army of Newsboys parachuting onto the scene, armed with bats and flamethrowers, to take down the insane automatons of Century Hollow. Wait, wait, I figured it out…you just about lost it when you hit that double spread title page (delivered at pgs. 18-19 for dramatic effect) with a shadowed Guardian flanked by Newsboys, Century Hollow in flames, and hostages rescued. Damn man, if not that, what about The Doomsday Headline, and the promised Secret History of The Original Newsboy Army?
Maybe it was the direct comparison, but I was jumping up and down about this comic, reading a section and then putting it down, trying not to take the heat in all at once. Admittedly, this isn’t even the best Morrison comic I’ve ever read, but my man was trying to give us something a little different for our three bucks. Throwing the ideas at us faster than we could even catch ’em, because you gotta leave a bit for the second and third reads, right? This first unnamed comic almost took a plunge from the hotel window, and in hindsight, it shoulda got tossed, in the name of Seven Soldiers. Bullied it, man, wasn’t even a contest.
That’s the vibe of this whole event, and the reason I’ve been going on like this, because we all talk about the way comics are, bitching about crossover this, variant cover that, and I don’t hear enough people talking about these books. One of the best writers in the history of the medium is telling a massive story in an incredibly fresh and inventive way, and cats is goin’ on about what company is more “corporate” than the other, and artists tracing photos. Don’t allow this to be that thing everyone comes to appreciate a year or two down the line, after we get done arguing about House of M and Infinite Crisis. Even in its incomplete state, you can feel there’s something special about Seven Soldiers, and I know I’m not the only one who sees it. But everything else seems to be more “interesting,” than Grant Morrison doing what he does best, giving you that new and previously unseen, and making it look easy. And what could be THAT much more relevant in comics?
By the way, for anyone out there that isn’t aware? That All-Star Superman is going to be the best comic released this year…and possibly, the best series released in the last couple. I’m just sayin’ it, so you can’t claim nobody told you.
Now, go read Seven Soldiers, and bear the frightening shock of the new…