"Grant Morrison and the Amazing Technicolor Word Processor" Week continues. I was going to talk about a different comic today, but I decided I needed to reread it before discussing it. That one will appear tomorrow. Tonight, I give you some relatively quick thoughts on his fantastic and quite recent superhero epic. (For more entries, check the archive.)
(updated 7/14 with snazzy images and some added text)
194. Seven Soldiers
This is Grant Morrison's most recent completed work (I'm not counting 52), and it was a really cool comics experiment that didn't necessarily achieve perfection, but was still very, very good. In terms of structure, nothing like this had ever been seen before in comics. Thirty issues, comprised two bookends and seven four-issue mini-series. Each mini-series stood on its own and managed to tell a more-or-less complete tale in each issue. If one read them all, however, one was treated to a vast epic story with many interwoven plot threads. Depending on the order in which one reads the issues-- whether you read them as they came out or one mini at a time (I've done both), it's an intriguing and wonderful experience. This kind of modular storytelling hadn't been done before. I wouldn't say it completely succeeded, but it was a worthwhile effort.
Trust me when I say that this mega-series has it all. Death, rebirth, worlds within worlds, time-travel, meta-narratives, coming-of-age arcs, great power and great responsibility, numbers, myths, self-actualization and individuation, and what it means to be a hero. All of Morrison's favorite themes are utilized, as well as a few others. It's a deep, heavy work, that also functions on the surface as a mad adventure yarn.
And now, my thoughts on each section of the series.
The bookends: The opening #0 issue was one of the best single issues I'd seen in years, and the art by J.H. Williams was breathtaking, especially his command of various styles. The art was nothing, however, compared to #1, where he draws in a dozen or so different artistic styles, mimicking each individual artist from each mini-series, as well as a few others, like Kirby, for instance, plus one or two of his own. These bookends are super-dense, great pieces that set everything up, explain pretty much everything that needed to be explained, and conclude it all in masterful fashion. As art objects, they're extraordinary.
Shining Knight: The series that introduced Simone Bianchi to American comics, this book was a grand Arthurian adventure that set up the new Shining Knight excellently. Why haven't we seen more of her? Have the kid join Teen Titans or something.
Guardian: My second-favorite of the mini's, I've discussed this before. It's a great story in the mighty Marvel manner, which is interesting, because it's published by DC. The Cameron Stewart art is amazing, but you knew that already. Subway pirates have never looked better, and the dignity of a man-turned-hero has never been encapsulated more succinctly.
Klarion: A story about traditions and origins and finding onself. It restored Klarion to his weird pilgrim-y roots and had gorgeous, gorgeous Frazier Irving artwork. Surreal and scary, this one reads like a goth Kirby book.
Zatanna: This is the story that actually made me like and care about Zatanna. For that alone, I have to love it, but it's also a touching story with some fun mad ideas and beautiful artwork by Ryan Sook. Admit it-- you touched your hand to Z's in the final issue. I know I did. Twice.
Mister Miracle: The only misfire in the whole thing. It's due to the repeated art change-ups and the tangential relation to the main plot. This was the one I was most excited for initially, and it turned out to be my least favorite. Still, it's about escaping from despair and transforming yourself into something new, which is a key theme of the whole Seven Soldiers story. I just with Pascual Ferry got to draw the whole thing.
Bulleteer: A really fun look at superhero culture, it also pokes fun at the over-sexualization of super-heroines, which is funny, 'cause it's drawn by Yanick Paquette. This is probably the most underrated mini of the bunch, filled with funny and touching moments and, you know, cowboy werewolves and stuff.
Frankenstein!: Easily my favorite. Monsters, scary sci-fi, Mars, the Bride-- Frank was a total badass and a brilliant character concept. Doug Mahnke's art has never been better. I really, really want an ongoing out of this. The only lame bit is that Frankenstein only showed up in one panel of Seven Soldiers #1. Then again, he did do a helluva lot to defeat the evil Sheeda in his final issue. I would pretty much pay DC to see a Frankenstein ongoing. And I would sell them my first born to write one.
I'm all about potential here on 365 Reasons, usually enthusiastically blathering on about how so many concepts have such unrealized potential, and that they deserve for someone to come along with a bit of spackle and make them awesome again. Well, finally, I can say that yes, there's a comic that realizes this potential, and that comic is Seven Soldiers. It wasn't just the lead characters-- Morrison also brought back a host of other cool heroes, villains, and supporters, and made them worthwhile to read about. Whether it was through a revamp or a dusting off or even if they were brand new, every character in this was well-realized. Each title hero could carry their own ongoing.
Did Seven Soldiers work? In my opinion, yes. Was it a good story? It was, on the whole. Is it a reason to love comics? Hell yeah. I never expected to buy the whole thing, but it captivated me from the very beginning, and I made sure to see it through. It was totally worth the expenditure. No one writes superheroes better than Grant Morrison.
For much, much more on Seven Soldiers, check out the Annotations provided by the posters of Barbelith. I believe there's a contribution or two from me on there, and many from CSBG reader Mario Di Giacomo. It's a huge, in-depth look at this mini-event.
For a huger, even more in-depth look at the mega-series, however, read Greg Burgas' 31 Days of Seven Soldiers series from December of last year. He says everything that needs to be said. All of his posts are archived in his final entry here. Enjoy.