Friday, 20 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: The Bulleteer (#1-4)

"I don't want to fight you.  You need help.  I can help you" - Alix

This mini has a very intriguing premise.  In our world we don't have superheroes, people still however idolise them, want to look like them and dress like them, with people pretending to be superheroes at geek conventions and dressing like them in porn films.  They are fetishised even though they aren't real, and Grant Morrison has decided to look at how this culture would translate in a universe that did have real superpowered individuals on it, with his own experiences of various comic comventions informing just how little would actually change if the superheroes were real.  Because he decides to look at some of the less savoury aspects of this fetishisation and fascination by men, he asked the artist's Yanick Paquette and Michael Bair to draw all the female heroes in fashion model poses.  There are no contortions of the human body though, the artwork is shows them as beautiful women in revealing costumes but without reducing them to mere sex objects thanks to Morrison's humane script.  The only issue I have with this sexualisation is that Morrison does such a good job making the heroine a good-hearted, somewhat meek and gentle human being that objectifying this way for purely meta reasons feel a little off somehow.  With that caveat out of the way, lets move on.

The story begins with the person who will become The Bulleteer - Alix Harrower - standing in front of a mirror in just her bra and knickers so we can see she's metallic all over apart from her striking red hair (the hair colour is actually something that will come back into play in the series finale).  She says to her self "Now what?".  There is a flashback to her and her husband Lance, both metallic being seen in an emergency ward.  She is OK but her husband can't breathe and he dies.
Alix's scumbag husband.
We then flashback further to when she was a normal woman, waking up and going downstairs to find her husband in his lab.  He guiltily shuts off his PC because he was looking at a porn site, she doesn't notice this.  He says he is up late dealing with emails and making his "smartskin growth pattern" work.  Alix goes and looks at a metallic covered mouse in a cage she dubs "Metal Mickey", who is super tough and strong.  Her husband says he needs to test it on human skin "simple as that."

Next day he says has she ever thought about being a superhero.  He wants them to be like the 1940's husband and wife team "The Human Bullet" which he's updated to "The Bulleteer".  She says she "can't imagine anything more horrible".  He also wants to preserve their bodies so they will stay young:

Lance: "All I'm saying is youth doesn't last forever.  Unless you're a superhero."

We briefly return to Alix in the present remembering a conversation she had at the hospital about the crazy lengths people will go to try and give themselves superpowers.  Then we are back to when she looked normal.  She arrives home from work and hears a pained yell from the basement.  She runs down and finds Lance covered in metal.  He starts gasping for air and touches her, the metallic substance flowing onto her and covering her.
Alix get metalised.
Back in the present, Alix contemplates the helmet from The Bulleteer costume Lance had gotten made for her. Then back to his funeral, then her conversing with her doctor.  She says she can't make rent anymore as she can't do her job now.

Alix: "I work with autistic children and they... they thought I'd been replaced by a robot."

She then admits that she did some checking of Lance's PC and found he was having a sexually charged online relationship with a superheroine pornstar.  In distress at this revelation she just blindly ran, hoping to hit something that might kill her.  Instead she happens upon a crashed train and helps out, rescuing several people.  This makes her think there might be something in this superhero lark, and the issue ends with Alix in the full Bulleteer costume.
The Bulleteer revealed.
We then find Alix at a meeting being led by FBI special agent, Sarah Helligan, who previously appeared in the Shining Knight miniseries.  She was bitten by a Sheeda during that storyline and her condition in this issue deteriorates fast.  She is showing them slides of what happened to the six heroes who went out to Miracle Mesa to hunt a giant spider in Seven Soldiers #0.  Alix asks what this has to do with her, and Sarah says she was on Greg's answering machine.

Alix: "Oh my God.  I was all set to go to Arizona that day.  I even bought a ticket, then I lost my nerve."

Sarah comments that "someone up there loves you" then shows the footage taken from the hoverbike camera's of the six being horribly torn apart by Neh-Buh-Loh and the Sheeda.  Then Sarah asks if Alix has a costume as she needs her to pull something off.  In the car, Sarah tells Alix about being bitten the previous night.  Then they arrive at a prison to see an inmate called Ramon Solomano aka Iron Fist aka The Napoleon of Crime.  Sarah fills in some background on him:

Sarah: "Forty years ago, Greg Saunders and the original Seven Soldiers of Victory fought your Nebula Man in the Himalayas.  One of them died, the others were lost in time for thirty years.  But that wasn't enough for you was it?  The Nebula Man has returned last week and killed a new team of Soldiers on camera."
Sarah and Alix interrogate Ramon.
Ramon says he's flattered if he think she can cause all that carnage from inside his jail cell.  He hopes Greg Saunders suffered at Nebula Man's hands.  He then clams up.  Sarah says he can do better than that.  The previous night some kids had broken into the museum of Superhumanity and stolen a World War Two subterriene machine (see Klarion's mini for more on this).  In the confusion, no one saw her "borrow" another exhibit, Ramon's old prosthetic Iron Hand. 

To force Ramon to talk she has Alix break a couple of digits off it and a distressed Ramon finally admits he called Nebula Man up in the past, when Neh-Buh-Loh was searching the Himalaya's for a lost tribe of winged horses and Seven Soldiers to kill.  When his nephew showed him Greg's advert, he got him to summon Neh-buh-Loh/Nebula Man again to kill them.  He says Greg deserved to die and that he was a racist.  He tells them that when Greg arrested him and his gang for the first time, Greg told his man "Lupelino" that if he found anymore of his filthy kin around he'd "flay your hide and hang it out to dry."

Sarah, with some amusement shows Ramon evidence that Greg was actually a werewolf and recognised his own kind when he found them.  Then she demands to know more about what bit her.

Ramon: "She is it's mistress, and they come from the place that is the end of all hope.  Thank God I'll be gone before they show their faces to the world."
He then says Greg came to him the previous night and shot him in the heart.  He starts bleeding from his chest and collapses.  Outside the prison a now very debilitated Sarah asks Alix to drive her to the registrar on Express Street.  As they sit in traffic, she calls up her brother and says "I'm sorry about the milkshake."  The traffic is not moving so she asks Alix to get her there somehow.  Alix carries her there, and inside, Sarah's sister is getting married to a man called... Lupelino.  When the registrar asks if there is any just cause or impediment, Sarah yells:

Sarah: "Don't do it sis! The guy's a werewolf!"

Sarah then finally dies in Alix's arms.  Later Alix thinks to herself:

Alix:  "It was just so sad and awkward until the police and the monster hunters turned up."
Fare thee well Sarah Helligan.
Then we see her packing to go away on an "insane bodyguard job" she accepted.  She now has a young English woman lodging with her, who tells her she makes a great superhero and perhaps what she needs now is a nemesis, "A deadly arch villain of your very own."

We next see Alix at a superhero convention bodyguarding a mermaid - oops, sorry, person of marine origin - called Stellamaris.  After telling assembled reporters about prejudice in Hollywood against her kind, she starts choking and gasping that the water is poisoned so Alix breaks the tank and rescues her.  As we see images of Alix at home and at the convention, a narration identifies her as a "target" and wonders "where's the door in her, that death can use."  The mystery voice is I Spyder, now an agent of the Sheeda, who starts fashioning a new arrow.
The resurrected I Spyder
Back at the convention Alix is attracting a lot of male attention.  A young man called Lucien who has mind powers rescues her and says there is someone she just has to meet.  It's an old woman called Susan, wife of the original 40's Human Bullet.

Susan: "So tell me, who is responsible for your outfit, honey?"

Alix: "My husband had it specially made, before he passed away."

Susan: "Hff.  He turned you out like a hooker, then died?  Was it shame?"

Ouch!  Lucien then leads Alix through the convention.  His own panel is "In the pink corner - superqueer bashing, kid sidekicks and life on the fringes of the law."

They pass a female panel called "Sweethearts and Supervixens" and one panellist is complaining that the very name of the panel shows the restrictive nature of female superhero roles.  Later Lucien has left Alix and is drinking with some other heroes.  Lucien is pissed Aquaman won Best Comeback - "All he did was shave!".  One of the others says he'll win "gayest newcomer" for sure.
Wouldn't be a panel without some random off-topic question.
Alix has cornered a female superhero in the ladies toilets, who she recognises from the online porn sites.  She is injecting herself with shrinking serum and Alix asks is she knows a hero called Sally Sonic, the girl her husband was having an online affair with.  The Shrinking Woman (called Thumbelina) asks if Sally screwed her husband.  "She is so predictable."

Thumbelina: "Sally likes turning guys against their human wives and girlfriends, that was her thing."

She then flies off and Lucien appears, somewhat the worse for drink.  He asks Alix if she wants to team-up with him.  Then lets slip that he isn't even gay. he just pretends "it helps me stand out in a crowd."

Alix: "What is it with everyone here.  Why are you all so obssessed with being special?"
Wouldn't be a convention without some drunken self-pity.
Lucien is bitter about not being a member of the Justice League.  He collapses drunk and a big muscular gay superhero appears and asks him if he would like to team up, eliciting a groan from Lucien.  I Spyder fires his arrow just as Alix says maybe all three of them can team up to find Sally Sonic.  As Lucien gets up, he pushes Alix back a little and the arrow misses and hits the big guy. And it just bounces off him.

I Spyder:  "I Can't miss.  I never miss.  Unless I mean to".

Greg Sanders: "I know they got you working for the other side. But I seem to recall recruiting you to my team boy... and we ain't through."
Once Alix is back home, she recounts her experiences to her lodger. Saying she feels she has lead a very sheltered life.  Her lodger, who is called Sara Smart reaches into her shirt and produces a whistle.

Sara Smart: "Sounds like bad things happen to people when they put costumes on.  It must be horrible to be like that girl Thumbelina. It could make you mad".
Alix: "I didn't mention her name did I? Sara Smart? It's you, isn't it? Sally Sonic.

And Sara/Sally transforms and attacks Alix fiercely.  The final issue alternates between flashbacks to sally's past and the battle in the present.
Sally Sonic, what a bitch.
Sally's Past -  She is at the home of an old woman after saving a pet of hers from some bullies.The old lady gives her "The Whistle Of The Wind Kings" as a reward.  We then see Sally flying with World War Two era planes and foiling bank robberies and being told by a doctor that she isn't aging anymore.   Then kneeling by her parents grave promising to only use her powers for good, before finally being evicted from her house and sent to boarding school because she is to young to live on her own even though she is now in her early twenties.

The Present: Alix lies crushed under a refridgerator (a playful nod to the Women In Refridgerators trope maybe?), while Sally mocks her for allowing her into her house.

Sally: "They love it when you do the change.  Men... when you change from a plain ordinary girl into a superheroine.  Lance loved it.  He told me so in a hundred emails.  Your beloved husband told me everything about your bland, boring life together."
Alix fights back.
She sneers that women like Alix drive men into her arms.  Alix gets up and smashes the fridge over Sally, yelling at her for encouraging Lance's "stupid fantasies". Sally says the world is rotten to the core and no place for good girls like Alix, and breaks her arm.  Alix tries to reason with her, but Sally just tells her how to punch more effectively.  Alix still doesn't want to fight, saying that Sally "needs help".

Sally's Past: After being locked in the headmistresses punishment wardrobe for days, she breaks out and goes to London.  she immediately bumps into a friend soldier called Dennis.  He has "X Powers" and says he was inspired to become a superhero after meeting American ones during the war.  He seduces her and they end up making love.
Don't worry she only looks like jailbait!
Present: Sally asks if this fight is what she wanted.  A big showdown with the woman who stole her husband.  Alix just wants to know why.

Sally: "I wanted what you had.  The handsome scientist, the lab, the lovely home.  Except I'd have dressed for him every night 'The Bulleteer and Sally'.  We were made for each other.  Buut now he's dead."

And she throws Alix through the wall and down onto a car below.

Sally's Past: Dennis is showing saucy photos of Sally to an assembled group of seedy individuals, selling her as the ultimate, never aging, jail-baity porn star.  Back home he guilt trips her into agreeing to do more photo's by saying it would solve their financial problems.  Finally he persuades her to drink "Doctor Hyde's Evil Serum" by telling her it's a power potion.  Later he tells her that her father, who was a judge, sentenced him and his brother to five years in jail for burglary and assault which he thought was very unfair.  His brother caught pnuemonia in prison and died, and Dennis has waited all this time to get revenge by corrupting the Judges daughter, even though the Judge himself is dead.  All Sally says to this is "time to go on... patrol again Dennis?"
Those are bullets hitting her....
Present: Sally flies down to Alix,s till lying atop the car and says the world changes you whether you like it or not.  Alix headbutts her and rips the engine out of the car, and hits Sally very. very hard with it.

Alix: "I don't care who you are!  I don't care what your ****'n sob story is!  Don't take it out on me!!"
Beware the nice ones.
With Sally knocked out she calls an ambulance for them both, but they are busy uptown with the small matter of the Sheeda invading New York so she'll have to drive them.  Greg Saunders suddenly appears behind her saying he represents "the spirit of the gun".

Greg: "You're the Seventh Soldier.  You're the key to victory over the other side."
He says the future of every living thing depends on her coming with him.  Alix says she has heard mentally ill people talk like the way he and Sally are.

Alix: The fact I can no longer tell the difference between paranoid schizophrenia and the day-to-day realities of life as a costumed crime fighter counts me out of any special destiny you care to come up with.  I quit."

Greg tries to tell her she can't.  But she won't listen.  She picks up Metal Mickey and says she has to get Sally to a hospital.

Alix: "You and destiny are on your own.  It's over. World, save yourself".
Alix and Metal Mickey, saying NO to Destiny.
And that brings The Bulleteer mini to a close.  I have to admit, qualms about Alix's depiction in costume aside, the art does remain playfully cheesecakey and well drawn rather than a morass of Escher Girl style madness it could so easily have turned into. Alix is one of the more passive characters in the series, stuff happens to her rather than she initiating them.  But that reflects her position as a niave newcomer in a world that seems completely insane when you take a step back and look at it critically.  The convention issue is very entertaining and filled with little nods from Morrison's own experiences at them (though not obviously as a beautiful woman, though he's heard plenty of stories from them too).  The sleazy aspect of superhero fetishism is explored here in a way that I have not seen before.  With Lance coming across as the type of man who'd stalk and photo cosplay girls in our reality then beat off over the pictures later. Sarah Helligan gets a fine send off, giving us important backstory info about Neh-Buh-Loh/Nebula Man, a storyline that did indeed happen to the original Seven Soldiers.  Now with Alix refusing to take up her destined role, how will this affect the finale's battle?  Not long to wait now...


  1. 'Stella Maris' means 'Star of the Sea'. It's one of the titles of the Virgin Mary. I have no idea why, because as far as we know she never set foot in a boat.

    Nice artwork, and a nice mouse, but I must admit the story left me cold. Still, at least I didn't have to try to pronounce 'Qwewq' in my head.

  2. It's definitely a story that I know I haven't done justice too, mainly I like it because Alix has all these terrible things happen to her and still stays the nicest person you'll ever meet. Even at the end, she's more concerned about getting the horrible Sally to a hospital than fulfilling some weirdo's prophecies about her. But she does play a key if accidental role in the final issue....

  3. alix is too nice, but her costume is so dorky its kind of sweet like she is :)

  4. She does look very "Bulletty" if I can just make a word up out of nowhere.