Friday, 13 February 2015

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

"Shall I tell you the hour and date of your death?" - Klarion

With each miniseries Morrison has been having fun experimenting with different genres.  Klarion the Witchboy sees Morrison trying his hand at very weird fantasy, matched with artwork by Frazer Irving that is (once again) absolutely perfect for the subject at hand.  Klarion is reboot of a character of the same way, once again another Jack "King" Kirby creation for DC. Kirby's Klarion came from a place that was called Witch-World where everyone practiced dark magic.  He was extremely talented, but frustrated by the adults of his world, so he opened a portal to the normal universe and with his cat familiar Teekl, arrived on Earth wanting to know all there was about witchcraft and maybe wreak a little havoc on the way.  Morrison stays true to these very broadstrokes, but relocates Klarion to a lost Puritan colony (called Roanoke, which is a real, and infamous case of a town that just vanished) that fell through the earth and was renamed Limbo Town. Klarion is still rebellious and still has a ginger cat called Teekl, but aspects of the Limbo Town's magic and backstory is tied in with the Sheeda storyline rather than following Kirby's narrative.
A "Grundy".
The story begins in Limbo Town, a recently deceased inhabitant is being resurrected, so he can be put to work until he "crumbles".  Klarion, watching this, tuts about what a terrible world it is and his sister hears him and tells him he won't escape the same fate.

Beulah: "I suppose you think you can follow father beyond High Market and never come back.  Think again Klarion".

The undead workers are called "Grundys" and are branded by the towns religious leader, Submissionary Judah. Although the Grundy pleads to be left to sleep in peace he is broken by "Great Croatan who abides and knows all things."  Teekl then grabs something, which turns out to be a tiny Sheeda.  Klarion asks to touch it, but Judah asks if he would be a submissionary and bear the heavy knowledge?

Klarion: "Possibly.  It's the sort of work I'm sure I'd find it very rewarding."
Teekl, Klarion's familiar.
Judah is unimpressed by his sass and warns him off.  Klarion then talks with the new Grundy's son, Ezekiel (who is also Klarion's step-father).  Ezekiel says they aren't dying fast enough to keep the workforce supplied with fresh zombies. Klarion says their world seems insane.  But it seems long ago in the past they were condemned to life in Limbo Town because of a taint that still threatens Great Croatoan.  Klarion wonders how they can both come from a place called "Blue Rafters" and yet be in a place Judah tells them is completely surrounded by stone.  The Book Of Shadows makes no sense he says.
Klarion and Ezekiel chat about things
Ezekiel then distracts Klarion from his ruminations by showing him a precious thing he has.  It was given to him by one of the "trolley men" he met while out looking for Klarion's run away father.

Ezekiel: "This cake of light was not made to last long in our solid world.  But I defied the submissionaries and ate it and I kept it's miraculous imperishable covering so I might remember its sweetness."

And he shows Klarion a Kit-Kat wrapper.  Klarion is fascinated by it, and possibly is the final push he needed to run away himself.  He must move fast though, because of the Sheeda the religious elders plan on closing "the Wicket Gate" and cease trading with the trolley men.  At a town meeting Judah claims to channel their God Croatoan who unsurprisingly agrees the gate must be closed.
Submissionary Judah.
Back home, despite the best efforts of his sister to stop him, Klarion and Teekl sneak out ready to leave Limbo Town for good.  He bumps into Ezekiel who tells him that Judah fears the Witchmen parliament who are not living in fear of Croatoan and implies they won't allow the gate to be closed.  He says he is more scared of his own people than the Sheeda and then leaves to go harvest stones with his Grundified dad and the other Witchmen.

Klarion sends Teekl to cause some mischief with Judah, and using his eyes sees Judah and his two men summon a being called Horigal to deal with the Witchman parliament members.  Klarion races through the Wicket Gate to warn them, but all are killed, and Klarion comes face to face with Horigal, who appears to be a gestalt entity made up of the three summoners and their reptile familiars.

Horigal: "Ye broke the law!  Ye ran away! Ye shall be judged!  Ye sought a world beyond Limbo Town but there can be no such world!  The truth would blind ye!"
Using his wits, Klarion sets a Grundy on Horigal and tries to make a getaway.  Horigal rekills the Grundy and chases after Klarion.  Suddenly a shot rings out, knocking Horigal back for a moment.  An older man appears telling Klarion to hurry as Horigals don't stay down for long.  They are on some subway tracks and Klarion is confused by the approaching noise and lights.  He finally jumps to safety and Horigal is mashed up beneath the train's wheels.  The man introduces himself as Ebeneezer Badde (which I have to wonder if it's a terrible pun based on the infamous Shamen song "Ebeneezer Goode").  Badde asks Klarion his name and where he resided in Limbo Town, after Klarion introduces himself, Badd says:

Badde: "Do you return to you self-imposed punishment down there in the mills of Croatoan?  Or would you go on?  To higher things?  The choice is yours."
Ebeneezer Badde.
Horigal's remains twitch and moan and Badde says it's time to leave before it recovers.  Klarion worries that he can't find Teekl, but Badde says his familiar will find him.  They get on a giant alligator and cruise down a sewerway.  Klarion is gleeful about being away from Limbo Town, in a place that's "hollow and filled with a thousand, wondrous holes that might lead anywhere!"  Feral children congregate on the bank and watch them and throw stones at them.

Klarion: "What a world of mad wonders is this!"

Badde: "It's just a world'll soon get bored."

Badde agrees to show Klarion "Croatoan" and as they walk there they stumble across the dead bodies of the subway pirates from Manhattan Guardian's mini. Klarion asks if Badde ever bumped into his father on his travels, Badde says he has no. Then he finally shows Klarion "Croatoan".  It's the same stone in a radioactive pool No-Beard and All-Beard were fighting over.  Badde shows Klarion a die.

Badde: "This is the house of Croatoan.  This is where the Witchmen come to be initiated in their one great and terrible truth.  There is no Croatoan.  Croatoan is an absent God.  Maybe there was a God here once, but he's long, long gone.  He escaped and left us on here alone.  Only his dreadful chains remain."
Klarion finds out his religion is a lie and is amused.
Klarion finds these revelations to be hilarious.  They return to the sewerway and soon arrive at "the lights of Vanity Fair" where the upper and lower worlds meet.  We then find out what Teekl has been up to.  First she kills "the Rat King" then she communes with the feral children and telepathically tells Klarion that they want revenge on a man they called "The Hunter-Of-Children"  who is of course Ebeneezer Badde, selling kids to a man called Mister Melmoth a person who has specifically wanted a Limbo Town kid.

At the last minute Badde's guilt gets the better of him and he draws his gun, telling Klarion to run.  But the feral kids attack en masse and overwhelm and kill him and it seems the men he was being sold to as well.  Klarion takes Badde's die from his body. 

Note Manhattan Guardian's helmet here.
Later one of the kids is taking Klarion to the nearest station.  She asks if he would stay with them, now the Rat King and Badde are dead, things will be easier for them.  But Klarion wants to see the surface and climbs the stairs into a New York daytime.

Klarion: "Adventure Teekl!  What can we do next?  Which way do we go?

Mister Melmoth: "Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Mister Melmoth".

Now we already know from the Shining Knight mini that Melmoth is Queen Gloriana's husband (although if you are reading the stories in the suggested order, this revelation comes after Melmoth's introduction).  Still the story doesn't beat around the bush, we are told he is a villain from the off.  The next issue begins with Melmoth speaking to a mysterious group of men.  We are filled in on the backstory of Limbo Town and how it is in fact the lost Puritan colony of Roanoke.  The colonists experienced "intimate contact" with something not entirely human, and when the first changelings were born the colonists turned to a darker religion.

Man: "Like monstrous maggots burrowing away from he clean light, they hid their sins deep underground and there, somehow, they thrived, a lost trive of half-human witches."
Mister Melmoth.
Melmoth says the hostel he runds for underpriviledged youngsters has been joined by one of Limbo Towns inhabitants - Klarion of course.  Who is in awe and wonder at everything he sees.

Melmoth: "Everything is new to him.  Everything is holy."

He says they will be using him to burrow down to Limbo Town and will be "Travelling in style".  The action cuts to a terrified Klarion in a taxi being driven at high speed by one of the other delinquents from the hostel.  They end up at the Museum of Superheroes.  The pimp suited leader is called Billy Beezer, who says his gang was taught by Goldenboy and only takes the best.  Although the better team is called "Team Red" a mysterious group they join when they turn sixteen.
Stealing the giant drill.
Klarion uses Teekl to scout in the museum, and then they all go inside and cause a commotion.  Billy lifts a security guards keys in the confusion and they steal a huge drilling machine which they all drive back to where Melmoth is waiting.  Klarion grumbles that Billy threatened Teekl, Melmoth says that at midnight Billy will turn sixteen and graduate to Team Red.  There is a minor dust-up between Billy and Klarion, Billy feeling Klarion is going to replace him as team leader.  But he stops fighting Klarion when Klarion seems to be abou to curse him.  Later that night it strikes midnight and Goldenboy appears to Billy.  he is exhausted and wearing breathing equipment.

Billy: "I don't think I'm sure about Team Red."

Goldenboy: "...It's lies Billy, and pink skies and gold.  It's a hard labour gang.  Oh help me I've seen the gold mines.  The gold in the red place...You're my apprentice Billy Beezer.  Happy Birthday."
The truth about Team Red.
Melmoth appears and mocks Billy as Goldenboy drags him through something called an "Erdel Gate" to Mars to be set to work making money for Melmoth, and we shall see more of this in the final miniseries Frankenstein.  Teekl watches all this with Klarion seeing what's going on through her eyes, he says to the other kids:

Klarion: "Your beloved Melmoth is a liar, a devil and a betrayer as I suspected.  he wants you all for slaves."
Meanwhile Melmoth has assembled a group of armed men to travel with him in the drill to go plunder Limbo Town.  The other kids want Klarion as their leader, but he walks away from them, saying "look not to me for salvation".

Teekl: "Brother Klarion.  Evil will come to Limbo Town."

Klarion tries to brush this off, saying it's not his problem anymore.  But his conscience forces him to return to warn them of Melmoths coming attack and he reluctantly descends back through the subway.
Cat's are masters of guilt tripping.
The final issue begins with Klarion tied to a stake, about to be burned alive by the the inhabitants of Limbo Town, his desperate warnings falling on deaf ears.  He is ironically saved when Melmoth's giant drill comes crashing through the town's ceiling.

Melmoth: "Hello everyone.  Daddy's home... I had spider-sex with all of your ancestors, you know.  All those hot puritan girls  They thought I was the devil and they crawled underground to have our babies."
Klarion in a spot of trouble.
A woman tries to hex him and she is torn apart by automatic gunfire.  Melmoth says the "royal blood of the Sheeda court" mingled with their human strain.  He wants their homes turned into breeding pens and the adult men killed.  Klarion who was set free as Melmoth arrived, reaches the church and rings nine bells which summon the Grundy's back to town.  They start fighting the soldiers.

Meanwhile Judah is dying from the injuries he sustained while being part of Horigal.  He decides to make Klarion a Submissionary.  He hands him his rod and points to a door which has a closely guarded secret behind it.  It's a map.  As Klarion contemplates it, the others chant "come Horigal, come!"  Outside the soldiers have defeated the Grundies and Melmoth comes to the church.Judah refuses to believe he is part Sheeda, but Melmoth somehow "switches" him off mid sentence.  Suddenly Klarion is revealed as a Horigal, a blending of himself and Teekl.  He shreds the soldiers with Melmoth, who runs outside.  Kalrion gives chase and Melmoth gets set on fire:

Melmoth: "Oh this is tiresome.  Tiresome.  This isn't blood that flows in old Mister M's veins anymore, oh no.  The waters of the Cauldron of Rebirth run through me  So try all you want, I'll never die."
Teekl/Klarion attacks.
Still blazing, he warns the Limbo Townfolk that after the Harrowing of humanity, he will return for them.  Then he disappears.  Klarion and Teekl can't seperate but one of the Witch-Women is able to do it for them.  The remaining soldiers are tied to stakes ready to be burned.  Klarion's mother asks if he will take Judah's place.  Klarion replies:

Klarion: "I would like to be many things before I die mother.  Today... today I will be a soldier."
Teekl and Klarion head back to the surface.
And thus the mini ends with him returning to the surface in the giant drill, to be part of the resistance to the Sheeda invasion.  This is a great little miniseries.  Helped along massively by the gorgeous gothic artwork, Morrison establishes a believeable, stagnant, occult yet God fearing culture in the space of four issues.  Klarion is a fun character, something of a smartarse but fiercely intelligent and of course has a fantastic pet cat (Morrison is a real cat lover and has written his own cats into comics before, notably his run on Animal Man, I wonder if the marvellous Teekl is based on another of his?). Melmoth is introduced as another credible threat and the Team Red stuff is quite chilling and will pay off in the Frankenstein miniseries later on.  One of Klarion's interesting traits is his selfishness, and this will have ramifications down the line in the final issue. The die is also important to remember, especially as Misty from Zatanna's mini also has one. Anyway, this dabbling in weird fantasy by Morrison is impeccably pulled off and makes this one of the maxi-series real highlights.


  1. Ooh, Frazer Irving! I wrote a page about him for the wiki.

    Nice lettering for Teekl's dialogue. D'you know who did the lettering?

    That's the thing with solid worlds and ghost worlds. People always think that the world that they inhabit is the solid one. To coin a phrase, it's all in Plato. And in The Great Divorce, which I will lend you one fine day.

    It's supposed to be the earth that abides, not Croatoan. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever." (Until the apocalypse, anyway.) But in Klarion's world it's more like, "One generation passeth away, and then the same generation cometh back again to do manual labour."

    Of course it's a terrible pun. Apart from anything else, Morrison is a big fan of ecstasy.

    Mills seem always to be associated with the infernal, or at the very least the purgatorial. You've got Blake's "dark Satanic mills," and Milton's Samson, "Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves." (I wanted to go to Gaza when we go to the Holy Land so Dad could take a photo of me there with my eyes shut, but apparently we aren't going there. And it's ridiculously superficial to visit a war zone for the sake of a visual/literary joke anyway.)

    Erdel was the scientist who opened a portal to Mars through which J'onn J'onzz came to Earth.

  2. Pat Brosseau did the lettering for Klarion.

    I shall check out that wiki page for him, he was someone who's work I was not familiar with and yet did such a good job on this miniseries I want to see more of his stuff now.

    I did know that about Erdel, but for some reason it got deleted from one of my drafts of the review and I forgot to add it back in. Thankfully you have picked up my slack as usual, thanks!

  3. grant morrison has an amazing imagination! and the artist is great too, i love the cat teekl :)

  4. Teekl is awesome isn't she? The art on this miniseries was my second favourite of the lot. My favourite is still to come with Frankenstein's art.