Thursday, 26 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: The Miser's Coat (#1)

"The magic mirror spoke of Seven Soldiers who would one day ride against me.. I see no Seven" - Gloriana

So here we are.  The finale of the maxiseries.  We left each miniseries with the Sheeda invasion of New York having just begun.  Can Grant Morrison pull off a satisfactory conclusion to each character's arc, plus depicting more backstory and historical context and a mega battle and its aftermath?  Well, no not quite, it's here that Morrison's reach finally exceeds his grasp.  Oh it comes very close to completely working, thanks to a phenomenal art job by JH Williams III, but in the end there is too much going on in too short an issue, and in places it lapses into incoherence.  Plus unforgivably I had to look up some up on wikipedia because it is not at all obvious what had happened.  Some characters like Shining Knight and the Manhattan Guardian get a very good wrap up.  Others, most obviously, Frankenstein get screwed over and barely appear.  I would have liked it better if all the historical background had been spread across the miniseries and the final issue completely devoted to the fight against the Sheeda.  That said, we would have been robbed of JH William's riff on Kirby's art style plus his lavish Frank Frazetta style Athurian fantasy sequences. He also blends the seven characters we have seen portrayed by very different artists together in a way that keeps them looking unique while also being of the same overall style.  Basically JH William's owns this final issue and that it still manages to satisfy as much as it does can be laid in a large part at his door.

The issue begins with one of the Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp telling the story of the Seven Soldiers destined to save the Earth but never meet.  It seems like he is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader, but it later transpires that he is dealing with the rogue "Eighth of the Seven" Zor, as detailed in Zatanna's mini, who put the whole Sheeda plan in motion.
Now that's how you make an entrance.
We then cut to Gloriana as her troops invade New York.  Frankenstein is still in the Castle Revolving's control room, and suddenly Sir Justin/Justina the female Shining Knight rises from the Cauldron of Rebirth and boy does she ever look pissed.  Then we start a lengthy flashback, with JH William's doing a marvellous take on Jack Kirby's style as we see Metron and some other New Gods arriving on pre-historic Earth.

Narrator: "40,000 BC.  The Sky Tribes bring structure to a savage world.  The refashioned it in their own image...The primitive inhabitants of a primordial Earth.  And gave them fire, inspiration and magic"
We then rattle through history, the most important element being the introduction of the red haired Aurakles, the Earth's first superhero, who appeared in Mister Miracle's mini.  He holds the Seven Treasures, the Sword (Caliburn), The Cauldron, The Hammer, The Merlin Sprite, the winged horse Pegazeus and an enchanted spear that can "carry death across time and strike a target a millenia away".
Metron and the New Gods, Kirby style.
The ancient men invent a time machine and visit the future.  The machine is discovered by Melmoth and the Sheeda invent their own, leading to the first Harrowing of the Earth. We jump to the era of Sir Justin and how Arthur found Caliburn and the children of Pegazeus.  Then later recovered the Cauldron from the Sheeda, although if you read my look at Shining Knight's mini you'll know how things panned out for the Earth of this time. We then jump back into the present and the actual battle for New York led by Mahattan Guardian.  The battle is rendered via newspaper pages giving it a unique feel and adding in more information in a way that's fun to read.  Apparently even the crossword is relevant, but I can't say for sure, I suck at them.  Anyway, I can't do them justice, so enjoy them yourself.

And a little further on in the issue, but I'm doing it here as it fits in better, is the wrap up to Manhattan Guardian's storyline.
So cool.  Then we cut to Alix, the Bulleteer, driving through the chaos of battle to get Sally to the hospital.  Sally wakes up and sneers that it's Alix who'll need the hospital, all the while, Justina fights Gloriana.  Then Zatanna and Misty arrive on Vaguard, before Zatanna can raise magic hell, Misty knocks her out saying she just realised the reason she wanted to learn magic was to fight her step-mother.  The Sheeda recognise her as King Melmoth's daughter and she takes off. 

Luckily Ali-Ka-Zoom arrives on the scene and wakes Zatanna up, handing her the little guy in a jar, revealed to be the Merlin Sprite, one of the Seven Treasures. Klarion meanwhile is out on the streets, revelling in the chaos - ominously he wonders "which side shall I..." before being distracted by Misty.  We get yet another text heavy page, which to sum up sees Klarion steal Misty's magic die, using it along with his own to complete the "Fatherbox" another Treasure.  He then flies off on a giant Sheeda insect mount, leaving Misty distraught, and telling the recently arrived Zatanna that no one can stop Gloriana now.
At the same moment, Father Time, the leader of S.H.A.D.E as introduced in Frankenstein's mini, gets a transmission from Frankie which he sent when he was in the future and makes a horrible discovery.

Father Time: "He says the Sheeda are the pinnacle of natural selection...the last living species clinging to a dying Earth!  Consuming their own history to survive,,, They're not fairies, not aliens.  They're us.  One billion years from today.  The Sheeda are what man will finally become!"

Frankenstein is still in Castle Revolving's control room.  Suddenly Klarion appears and as Frankenstein is a "grundy-man" he takes control of him and orders him to take the Castle back to the Sheeda-side.  Zatanna meanwhile uses the Merlin Sprite to power a spell that does something to power up or protect the Seven, it's not totally clear frankly. (Wikipedia says "In the final battle against the Sheeda, Zatanna casts a spell to move time and space, retroactively positioning the Seven Soldiers to overthrow the Sheeda." but that's not at all obvious from the issue itself, ah well)  Shining Knight and Gloriana are still locked in combat, Gloriana gets the upper hand and knocks Justinia off the high spot the are fighting on. 
Zatanna uses Overpowered Magic.  It's Super Effective!
Then we see Mister Miracle visit Boss Dark Side, and now he has "God Sight" he can hear and speak to Darkseid lurking inside his human host.  He offers himself as a trade for Aurakle's freedom.

Darkseid: "I promised the Sheeda a world to ravage in return for Aurakles, beloved of the New Gods."

Darkseid agrees to Mister Miracle's terms, now that Mister Miracle has become the Avatar of Freedom he holds more value.  He shoots Mister Miracle through the head.  Outside, Vanguard catches a falling Sir Justin.  Then I Spyder, having changed sides again, shoots Gloriana through the head with an arrow.  She falls into the road below and with Aurakle's now free the Spear that was throw thousands of years ago can find it's mark in the form of Alix's out of control car (she being a direct descendent of his, the hair you see), and it hits Gloriana and explodes, finally killing her for good.  And with that the Sheeda attack on New York is over.
A battered and badly hurt Gloriana, finally taken out by the most reluctant of the Seven.
Some time after the battle we see Justinia, now on a girls school uniform, talking with Ali-Ka-Zoom.  She is still sad about losing everyone she cared about, but Ali hands her Caliburn and says he found records of a past Golden Age, led by Ystina the Good, "who knows what big adventures you've got waiting".  We get a single page showing Klarion with the Fatherbox celebrating becoming King Of The Sheeda, and last of all Mister Miracle's funeral.  The final image is him bursting out of his grave and with that, this epic maxi-series comes to an end.
"Wise Fwom Your Gwave!"
So, the finale, while bursting at the seams with content, probably could have used more focus on the final battle in New York and it's aftermath than yet more history, although the artist in me still hearts the Kirby pastiche. Frankenstein doesn't play any kind of role in the final battle, although to be fair, he was the main reason they didn't have to deal with a fleet of Sheeda warships rather than just Castle Revolving.  I only know that Klarion became the Sheeda King from Morrison's notes in the back of the collection, it's not at all obvious from the final pages that things have gone down that way. Misty is rather ill-served which is a shame, she had potential to be an interesting character in her own right and I don't think she's ever appeared again in a DC comic post-Seven Soldiers.  However I applaud the creative uses of text heavy pages to impart big chunks of information in a way that's fun to read.  And so, while not perfect by any means, it's still a worthy capstone to a magnificent epic series, which I put up with the best of Grant Morrison.  It's been collected in two generous and good value trade paperbacks and I heartily recommend it.  Great writing, mostly great art, it's a peach.

So, What Happened Next...?

Before I sign off on this series finally, lets have a quick look at the post Seven Soldier's careers of these rebooted, reimagined characters.

SHINING KNIGHT: She appeared briefly in Infinite Crisis, the year long weekly series 52 and the Teen Titans.  But when the 2011 New 52 reboot launched, she became a regular member of the "Demon Knights" in the titular series which takes place in the Middle Ages.  Her background was altered a bit and although biologically female, he was gradually and sensitively revealed as trans-man, however the series was cancelled after thirty issues or so and I'm not sure if he is active in the current DCU.

MANHATTAN GUARDIAN: Sadly DC prefer the original concept of the Guardian, so Jake has been reduced to bit parts in major crossovers, although a team-up between him and the original Guardian may be on the cards in the future.

ZATANNA:  She remains a hugely significant character in the DCU, with appearances constantly in the last ten years.  Most recently she is a member of the New 52 series Justice League Dark, a collection of magic orientated DCU characters.

KLARION THE WITCHBOY: Like Manhattan Guardian mainly reduced to bit parts in major crossovers, but it seems he is to be given his own series, it remains to be seen how much his Seven Soldiers history and powers will feature in it.

MISTER MIRACLE:  The Shilo Norman Mister Miracle recovers from his nasty bout of death (thanks to his merging with Motherbox).  He plays a key role in the battle against Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation in Morrison's Final Crisis. He also plays a major part in Blackest Night/Brightest Day. But as far as I can see he has not so far appeared in the New 52 DCU.

THE BULLETEER:  Despite quitting the superhero business, she was back in action with a lot of guest appearances in many different series.  But again, does not appear to have been used post the New 52.

FRANKENSTEIN: Although his fate was left up in the air in the finale issue, he also makes guest appearences in various crossovers.  During Flashpoint, he got his own alternate universe mini-series.  Then was given his own title once the New 52 launched.  Sadly this only lasted for sixteen issues, with Frankie going on to become another member of the Justice League Dark after its cancellation.


  1. wow, alot of text to read! seriously good art though, and interesting to find out what happened with the characters after. Justice league Dark sounds interesting if it has zatanna and frankenstein in it. maybe ill check it out now.

  2. I've heard mixed opinions about JLD, but as it also features John Constantine, I'm interested in checking it out too. I've stuck the first couple of trades on my "To Buy" list anyway.

  3. To be honest, a comic-book version of the telephone directory would probably come "very close to completely working" if illustrated by J. H. Williams III.

    I could do that crossword.

  4. He is a fine artist and no mistake. Do that crossword Lucy, I have to know what it says!

  5. Could you knock me up a copy, as you have the original?

  6. You mean print you out a copy and send it you?

  7. Or maybe copy it with a pen and paper? We'd have to do it together, as you have the comix knowledge.

  8. That sounds easier on my printer! Lets do it tommorrow if that's convinient as my brain hasn;t woken up yet, I'll IM you through Gallifreybase and we'll tag team it through there. Then I'll post the results here :)

  9. Cool, we shall put our brains together and solve it on the morrow.