Sunday, 1 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory - Weird Adventures (#0)

 "We've done what we can... the world is on it's own now" - The Seven Unknown Men.

I'm going to be spending all of February looking at the Grant Morrison series Seven Soldiers of Victory, first published between April 2005 to December 2006.  It was collected across two bumper volumes, but has an interesting structure.  It's made up of seven four-part miniseries named after the star - Shining Knight, Manhattan Guardian, Klarion The Witch Boy, Zatanna, Mister Miracle, The Bulleteer and Frankenstein - and bookended by Seven Soldiers issue zero which lays the ground work and Seven Soldiers issue one which tells of the epic final battle.  The series are based around the invasion of the Sheeda which was set up in JLA Ultramarine Corps that I looked in January, with several characters appearing in different mini's but not the actual stars.  This is because Grant Morrison wanted to explore the idea of a great and powerful superteam who never actually meet to pull off saving the world.  Interestingly the two collected volumes are put together not as one mini after another, but in a suggested reading order, alternating every issue each between each one.  But I'm going to tackle each mini seperately and in full because I'm interested in seeing how that will work out when it comes to making sense of some of the more obtuse parts of the storyline.  And I freely admit, some of the stuff in the bookends especially I struggle with and hopefully putting my fingers to keyboard and working through methodically will help me make sense of things better. 

The original Seven Soldiers were DC's second super-team (after the formation of the JSA) debuting in 1941 and bringing together heroes from the disparate companies under the DC banner.  The team fell into obscurity after the Silver Age and the name, the symbolism of the number seven I assume, appealed to Grant Morrison and his stated desire in the intro to the first Seven Soldiers trade to "recreate and update some of the brilliant but often most overlooked minor characters from the DC universe".  All of the Seven are existing DC heroes although as far as I can see Zatanna is the only one not to have been reimagined, rebooted or considered a replacement for an earlier version here.  The intention being to then have those versions of the characters and their histories made avaliable for other writers and artists to do with as they pleased which has indeed been the case in the years since.

Before we meet the first of the Seven, we get a prelude in the form of another superteam that sets up the nature of the threat they'll be facing.  Lavishly illustrated by J.H Williams III, who in my opinion is one of the finest artists currently working in comics today as well as the past decade or so, this story tells the tale of five ramshackle heroes united by one old man whose intent is to end his superhero career with a bang.
Wouldn't be a Morrison comic without a freaky, trippy bit.
The issue begins with a man called Thomas Dalt also known as Spider being punted through a place called "Slaughter Swamp", and "in-between place, where solid things turn soft and change." Spider is stung by a tiny humanoid that if you read JLA Classified you would know to be a Sheeda (it is also mentioned in the script here too). As the visuals get trippier, Spider is told he's been bought here by "The Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp".

Mysterious Voice: "Tenth rate, second generation costumed **** up, Tom Dalt finally gets his role in the end of the world drama."

They tell him they'll have to "tailor" him for the job and a bewildered Tom is left powerless to resist.  The action then cuts to a female hero called The Whip fighting criminals before moving on to a scene of her and a cowboy, who addresses her as Miss Gaynor, riding on horseback through a desert landscape.  She describes herself as the daughter of the Golden Age Whip and the cowboy is introduced as Greg Sanders, The Vigilante.  He's been around for a very long time and he shows her an article about himself from a paper in 1875.
The Whip and Vigilante
He wants to hunt a giant spider in a place called "Miracle Mesa" that they say "revolves through worlds".  He hunted it before a hundred years ago and sees it as unfinished business.  The Whip asks about the rest of the team.

Vigilante: "My plan was to recreate my old team the Seven Soldiers but... my seventh soldier got cold feet at the last minute."

Remember that, it's important later.  He introduces her to the rest of the team.  A stuck up female hero called Gimmix, a ghost suited man called Boy Blue, a super-hero fanboy called Dynamite Dan who bought two hero rings online and finally the expert, I Spider.  They make plans over dinner, and Gimmix mentions knowing a "JLA girl" from her therapy group (we'll be meeting her soon enough). I Spider fills them in on their target.  He says they need to bait the beast and make it walk into a trap.  Vigilante then shows them the hoverbikes they'll be using to get there and soon they depart.

As they travel, Dynamite Dan fills them in on some of the importance of the number seven:

Dan: "The number seven is very important.  There were Seven Champions of Christendom.  Seven Spirits at the Throne of God.  Seven Virtues, Seven Sins, Seven Sleepers, Seven Wise's kind of unlucky that there are only six of us though."

They find the cattle truck I Spider used to bait the creature with and find a huge shed skin.  They spot it in the distance and catch up with it, beginning a surprisingly effective team attack on it.  As they lay into it, The Whip ruminates:

The Whip: "How do you know when you've become a super-hero and not just some crazy fetish person with a death wish?"
Spider fighting
Working together, they bring it down and kill it.  Before they can celebrate proper they suddenly realise it was leading them into it's lair and into a trap.

I Spider: "We weren't hunting it.  They were hunting us all along.  Oh God."
And we then get this fantastic two page spread of the six of them being murderised by the Sheeda who state that the "harrowing has begun."
And they all die... (or do they?)
The issue ends with the Seven Unknown Men initialising Plan B for saving the world - "Seven more conscripts".  And they leave their "time sewing machine" behind as they depart before the Sheeda arrive.

Sheeda: "No one... no one can stop the Harrowing."

So with this sacrifice, the story of the real Seven versus the Sheeda threat begins. Coming to the issue cold, I admit left me a little confused at first, but later events help make sense of the more mysterious aspects.  It's also laying down little references to the miniseries's to come which become obvious on a reread.  And the gorgeous art is a big plus too.  It's a packed script that could overwhelm a less adept artist, but JH Williams rises to the challenge and really turns out some good stuff, he'll be back for the concluding part which is even more dense and multi-layered, but I get ahead of myself.  You may find yourself wondering why none of the big name heroes get involved in the action as this month goes on.  Well officially the events take place a week or so prior to those of Infinite Crisis, and the build-up to that catastrophe has pretty much acted as a distraction to most of the rest of the DCU's major heroes.  The events also take place in New York, which is somewhat overshadowed by Metropolis and Gotham in DC's America. The Seven only appear in the same comic with the other bookend Seven Soldiers of Victory #1 which I shall cover at the end of the month once the miniseries have been dealt with. So I hope you enjoy this rather packed month of an epic, but surprisingly underrated series, with our first stop being Shining Knight in a few days time.


  1. What powers did the original seven have? And what was Gimmix in therapy for?

    Dunno why they wanted to kill a spider. What had it ever done to them? Arachnophobia is a real prejudice :-(

    You can tell you're a superhero if you're better at defeating evil than evil is at defeating you.

    J. H. Williams III is mint.

  2. Their assembled superpowers weren't all that impressive, in fact strictly speaking three of them weren't even super, hence the horrible deaths. We'll be revisting Gimmix's therapy group in a later miniseries...

    Vigilante was concerned the spider was preying on a town, actually it'll turn out that the Queen of the Sheeda thanks to a prophecy was targetting any group that numbered seven, which this group would have done if not for the last minute pulling out of another hero we'll be meeting later on.

    If you think this issues art is great, he also does the other bookend which is mainly Grant Morrison making life as difficult as possible for him, but he rises to the challenge admirably. His co-artist on Promethea Mick Gray also does one of the miniseries as well, in fact all the miniseries artists bring their A-game.

  3. I'm tempted to buy my own Promethea... would Alan Moore and J. H. Williams get royalties?

  4. It's what's known as a "creator owned" comic, and JH Williams (and Mick Gray) are credited as co-creators so as long as you buy them new (as I did) then definitely they would get royalties. Due to shenanigans (they bought the company who was publishing it), DC also get a slice, which I imagine infuriates Moore no end, but I imagine he still makes more per sale on Promethea than he does on say, Watchmen.

  5. Well I got mine via Amazon, just make sure you click on "Availiable New" when you order. Also there's places like Forbidden Planet in Manchester and you might get lucky in one of the larger Waterstones as well.