Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: Shining Knight (#1-4)

"This world is under my protection!" - Sir Justin

One thing that is most notable about the overriding Sheeda plot, is that some of the miniseries don't have as much to do with it as others do.  Mister Miracle for example barely brushes it, while Shining Knight is totally devoted to it.  The original Shining Knight was an early member of the original 1941 line-up of the team.  He was the newest member of King Arthur's Round Table and had a flying horse called Victory, a gift from Merlin.  He was frozen in suspended animation and when thawed out in the 20th Century decided to fight crime using his skills as a knight.  After the Seven Soldiers final battle against Nebula Man, he was thrown backwards in time to Ghengis Kahn reign, before being rescued by the Justice League.  This incarnation of Shining Knight known as Sir Justin, lasted  right up until just before Seven Soldiers of Victory, most notably appearing during the 2004 events of the DCU crossover Identity Crisis.  Grant Morrison takes the bare bones of Shining Knight's history and character outline and gives us something quite complex and interesting, laying the foundations of the Sheeda threat through time and rebooting the character in a fascinating way. Before I leap into the story proper, I must praise Simone Bianchi's artwork on this miniseries.  A successful Italian artist, Seven Soldiers was his first US work and it is gorgeous.  He illustrates Grant Morrison's complex script with a beautiful, painterly clarity and makes it a true feast for the eyes.

The story begins 10,000 years ago.  King Arthur's "Knight's Of The Broken Table" are battling an all out assault on Avalon by the Sheeda, led by Neh-Buh-Loh the adult form of the universe of Qwewq that we first met in JLA Ultramarine Corps. There's a wonderful, almost steam punk quality to the designs of the Athurian knight's armour while the Sheeda look particularly monstrous  like humanoid/insectoid hybrids.  This mega-battle is actually the only time we really see the Sheeda attacking all out as an army bar the final issue of the entire series, when it comes to the present they become much more surruptitous in their preparations to invade.  We meet Sir Justin, the titular Shining Knight, the youngest of King Arthurs court and currently lost in the Sheeda's "Castle Revolving" with his flying horse Vanguard.
Vanguard and Sir Justin
They battle various Sheeda attackers before finding the "Inexhaustable Cauldron" on a platform surrounded by a river of green slime. It "brings the dead back to life and heals all wounds".  Inside it, Justin finds a woman called Olwen inside it.  He takes her out, but is then confronted by Gloria Tenabrae, Queen of the Sheeda, who is armed with another treasure, the sword Caliburn which can only be drawn by the pure of heart, so she can't use it.  Justin though manages to grab it and unsheathe it and wound Gloriana in a brief scuffle.  Justin then picks up the cauldron and pitches it into the slime river.

Gloriana: "That liquid flows through time itself!  The cauldron will be lost!"

Justin tries to escape with Olwen, but she stabs him, Vanguard says she is a changeling and the only way they'll be able to escape the castle is to follow the Cauldron.  So they jump into the slime river and are spat out in 2005.  Vanguard and Justin plummet to the ground and Vanguard lands heavily on his neck.  Because Justin is swinging a sword around the police surround him and arrest him as he can't understand them nor they him.  They drive him away in a police car leaving Vanguard supposedly dead in the road.
Gloriana (centre panel)
Justin, being a badass manages to break his cuffs and disarms one of the cops.  The other one shoots him and knocks him down, but Justin's armour saves him.  He disarms the other cop, retreives Caliburn and runs away.  Contemplating one of Vanguards feathers, he asks himself "how long did I spend in Castle Revolving?."  He is then confronted by a freaky blue monster called Guilt.

Guilt:  "I am Guilt: A Sheeda Mood 7 mind destroyer. Your sword cannot wound me.  No other can see me.  I kill with words."

Guilt tells Justin what became of Avalon after he left.  It was turned into "bones and slime" and everyone Justin loved "died in despair".  He then reveals that Justin spent ten thousand years in Castle Revolving and "the Sheeda won!"

Guilt: "Perhaps everything would have been different, if not for Justin.  The knight who ran away."
The action then cuts to a mobster called Don Vincenzo "The undying".  He has Vanguard who it seems survived his fall and was scooped up by the Don's men.  Vincenzo decides to call him Horsefeathers and tells Vanguard he's a man who has "done very bad things".  We then return to Justin still being followed by Guilt.

Guilt: "Camelot died screaming Justin.  And soon.  Very soon, the same thing will happen here.  So kill yourself for all is lost and it's your fault."

Justin slumps on a bench next to an old man.  A couple of youths appear and start harrassing them.  Justin tells them to leave the man alone and gets a punch in the face and doused in beer for his troubles.  Back with the Don he feeds Vanguard some really tasty hay and is surprised when Vanguard starts talking even though he can't understand him. Suddenly Vicenzo is shot from off panel by a poison arrow.  As he collapses he commands that the attackers musn't be allowed to take "the Cauldron", the inference being that he owns the Inexhaustable Cauldron now and has been using it to recover from serious wounds hence his "undying" monicker.  the Sheeda then all out attack, led by Neh-Buh-Loh.

Meanwhile, Justin faces down the attacking youths with his sword and frightens them off and as they run a golden light envelopes Justin and Guilt disintegrates.  Justin then speaks with the old man (who is later revealed as Ali-Ka-Zoom in Zatanna's mini), discovering in the process that his speech is understandable to him and his armour has gained a T-shirt and trousers over it:

Old Man: "Justin, an age of darkness needs a Shining Knight.  But you won't have to fight alone."
Caliburn banishes Guilt.
Justin then goes to a police station and hands himself in.  We meet two women, Agent Sarah Helligan, FBI Meta-Human Specialist and Doctor Gloria Friday, an expert on antiquities.  Gloria examines Caliburn, though she does not unsheathe it.  She identifies it as being of the first Athurian Epoch.

Gloria: "These primal heiroglyphics, these intricate carvings in an unknown hand speak of some original.  A proto-Arthur.  A man-myth whose Kingdom girdled the Earth in forgotten times."

She goes onto say that civilisations are cyclical, when Sarah asks why say the Inca's didn't keep expanding and eventually make spaceships, Gloria speaks of a "time of harvest let's say", which is not at all ominous. When Sarah comments that the sword looks new, Gloria says it is indestructible.  One of seven timeless objects given to man for protection against evil.  Sarah pulls it froms its sheathe even after admitting she didn't think she was pure of heart enough.

Sarah: "I once mixed fish oil in my brother's favourite strawberry milkshake.  Deliberately".
Sarah Helligan unsheathes Caliburn
Both she and Gloria go to question Justin, Sarah says though Justin is extra strong and damage resistant he is basically human and probably more Gloria's area of expertise.  She says the sooner they confirm he's from the past and not an "unregistered meta-human", the sooner she can make it to her sister's wedding in New York the next day.

Sarah: "The past, Miz Friday, is someone else's jurisdiction, in a different office."

Gloria is able to communicate with Justin in his language, who says he handed himself in to "gather champions against the unstoppable plague that is coming."  After talking with Justin for some time, Sarah recaps what we already know about him.  But when a distressed Justin asks Gloria why he is not being believed, Gloria starts to tell him "words cannot be trusted in this age."

Sarah then asks what a "Sheeda-Queen" is and Gloria reveals herself to be Glorianna Tenebrae.  Sarah bellows "meta-human engagement" and the police all leap for their weapons as more Sheeda arrive on the scene.  Gloriana gets shot by Justin, but Glorianna shrugs it off, and her minions reclaim Caliburn, now resheathed.  Gloriana bites Sarah on the wrist then she and her horde depart with a captured Justin.  Gloriana talks with a man on the phone who turns out to be I Spider from Seven Soldiers #0.  Now working for her, he is the one who shot Don Vincenzo with a poison arrow.  He is monitoring his lifesigns from afar and when Vincenzo comes back to life, that confirms he has the Cauldron and the Sheeda go to reclaim that as well.
Gloriana behaving like a total bitch.
Inside the Sheeda castle, Justin has been set against a corrupted Sir Galahad to fight him for the amusement of the Sheeda court. Meanwhile the Sheeda are all out attacking Don Vincenzo's place as he ressurrects via the cauldron.  Galahad grips Justin by the throat and asks if he wants to become a eunuch.  But wait... what's this?

Gloriana: "Our little white knight is not what he seems.  Blood.  I smell the blood of a womb."
Evil!Galahad reveals Justin's secret.
And Galahad rips off the top part of Justin's armour to reveal breasts tied down with bandages.  He's a lady!  Gloriana then gets a message, apparently from her husband who she is surprised to find isn't dead.

Gloriana: "Dark Melmoth lives? We must retire to our chambers.  This changes everything."

She leaves saying Justin should be broken to slavery in "the customary manner".  Ick. As she leaves Justin grabs the two swords Galahad left impaled in the ground.... The battle at Don Vincenzo's gets more intense as he and his inner circle arm themselves and leave the safety of the mansion to take on the Sheeda, led by Neh-Buh-Loh and includes a sequence of Vincenzo riding Vanguard while dual wielding machine guns.  Though they fight valiantly, they are overcome and Vincenzo killed again, this time with no chance of resurrection as the Sheeda will take the cauldron.  Back with Justin, she tearfully slices Galahad's head in half and then declares:

Justin: "Red am I in battle.  Red the ravens that follow at my heels.  Gloriana I am your death."

The miniseries then ends with a flashback to when Galahad was still human, knighting Justin so that "he" can join the battle against the Sheeda and ends with Justin and Vanguard flying to the Castle Revolving where the story began.
Good Sir Galahad knights Justin.
Shining Knight is a lovely slice of sci-fi fantasy with a universe sketched out across four issues that could easily sustain an on-going, seriously the glimpses we get of the Proto-Athurian past are richly detailed, and they're just the garnish on a very tasty cake.  Making Justin a female disguised as a man was an excellent plot twist and one that seems to have stuck in his/her's post Seven Soldiers history. The Sheeda are built up as a credible threat, and we'll see more of Vanguard, Don Vincenzo and Sarah Helligan in later Seven Soldier's minis as well as meeting "Dark Melmoth" himself. The art is beautiful, and fits the fantasy aesthetic Morrison was going for to a tee.  Obviously this isn't quite the end of Shining Knight's story here, she'll return in the final Seven Soldiers Of Victory #1 to help put down the Sheeda once and for all.  And I'll be briefly touching on her life in the DCU after Seven Soldiers as well as I shall with all of the Seven.


  1. Gloriana Tenebrae looks pretty cool. Tenebrae means shadows.

  2. Yeah she's simultaneously sexy and repulsive. I think her rough design was done by JH William III, the collected edition has his sketches of quite a few of the characters in it, but this artist was the perfect fit for first giving us our proper look at her and the Sheeda. I knew Tenebrae must mean something but I like it when you tell me :)

  3. So do I, as I like showing off :-)

  4. I know thou art Queen Of The Words, and Grant Morrison sure loves his symbolism, so I am sure they'll be plenty more this month xD

  5. i think this month will be quite confusing for me, but the art so far has been fantastic!

  6. Not all the mini's in this maxi-series are as complex. The next one on The Manhattan Guardian is a much more traditional hero tale and The Bulleteer is very approachable as well. Klarion is the weirdest, Mister Miracle the most frustrating and Frankenstein is awesome. There should be something for everyone. Zatanna is the one I am least looking forward to writing up, it's an attempt to do the kind of thing Alan Moore took 30+ issues to do with Promethea and fit it into four issues.... >_<