Seven Soldiers of Awesome

As we soldier on ourselves through this Grant Morrison spectacular, I found myself searching for yet another book to talk about. The thing about Morrison is that there’s no shortage of said work. Every time I think I’ve got him cornered, I find another little collection of his material I didn’t know about or read. It seems to be the curse of the comic creator to only get stuff noticed if it’s Batman or X-Men, but so much of the other (and often excellent) work is only experienced by the true die hard fans.

I have no idea if that was the case with Seven Soldiers of Victory. All I know is that I’d heard of it, and based on the title, I didn’t bother to find out anything about it. It’s possible that I suspected it was about DC Universe minutia, and I didn’t want to get involved. In fact, that’s very likely. But looking for a book to do here, and finding no copies of Marvel Boy available in time, we ended up with volume one of Seven Soldiers of Victory.

The nice thing about starting to read something you know nothing about is that you have no preconceived notions going in. Have you ever found yourself watching a movie, and you realized that you didn’t know what it was about in the least, like when I saw Michael Clayton, and only after the credits started to roll did it occur to me that all I knew about the film was that it starred George Clooney. Seven Soldiers was a bit like that.

So what is it you ask?

I’m not sure I know. It is, in essence, a superhero team book, consisting of characters who are DC B and C listers, and the most prominent character of the bunch is Zatanna. Originally, the series was printed as a group of mini series on each character. Grant Morrison wrote all of them, and different artists tackled each title. Here, in the collection, they’re placed in the order by which they’re meant to be read, as opposed to the mini series in succession. There is a note at the beginning of the book which explains as much, but I didn’t know what it meant until I got going, as I am quite dim, and easily distracted.

I suppose I could give you a rundown of the characters, but I’m through the first book, and I’m not sure I know them all. So if you’ve read the whole thing, please forgive me. There’s the aforementioned Zatanna, magical, fishnet and top hat wearing magician and former Justice Leaguer. There’s Klarion the Witch Boy, who nearly defies explanation. There’s Shining Knight, who seems to be a transplant from Avalon (King Arthur, Round Table, etc. etc.). We’ve got Guardian, a disgraced cop who’s been hired by a tabloid newspaper to be their corporate superhero. And while we haven’t seen him in this volume, eventually Frankenstein should be joining the fray.

There is, it appears, some sort of evil coming to earth, and it has something to do with giant spiders.

Now that makes it sound very low brow, but reading it, you feel like a great deal more thought and care went into this than your average comic book. All these stories are being woven together separately, and I don’t know how they’re going to fit, but it is clear that the journey is both intriguing and exciting. I went out and bought the second volume before I finished reading this one, so you know it was going pretty well. Since I’ve decided to just write this about the first volume, you’ll have to wait to hear my thoughts on the rest of the story, and I didn’t want it to taint what I thought about the first book.

The art on these stories is pretty damned good. Each character gets his own artist. The prologue is handled by J.H. Williams III, and while I don’t always know exactly what’s happening, they’re some damn nice pages. Simone Bianchi, I guy I haven’t been very impressed with, handles duties on the Shining Knight, and I can say that it’s easily my favorite work of his. When he does Batman or Wolverine, it’s just weird, and a bit out of place, but when he does the magical Arthurian legend, things just click together, and it’s quite appropriate indeed. Cameron Stewart handles the Guardian, which is the most straight forward of the stories, and also the most fun, and he does it quite well. It’s simple, clean, and just fun. Frazer Irving, who has a fairly unique style, did the art on the Klarion pages, which is acceptable, as he was the guest artist on the Robin storyline where I first met Klarion. Finally, we get Ryan Sook, who abandoned me on X-Factor, doing the Zatanna story, and turns in what are probably my favorite pages in the book. Like Stewart, Sook’s lines are clean, but there’s also something extra there, something magic, which is appropriate, as he’s drawing the Zatanna story.

What I really liked about this book is that it’s clearly something big, that’s been planned out from the start. There are some writers who make it up as they go along, and some stories you can see the careful planning and building to something. Both stories can be fun, but I am always impressed by well crafted stories that were clearly thought out. Since this originally ran throughout several mini series, they all had to work in concert, and seemingly unrelated things should come together and form a story greater in the whole than the individual parts. Personally, I imagine I would have screwed this up as it was coming out monthly, because I would have said, “Screw this! I’m not reading Klarion the Witch Boy!” Of course, in that case, I would have missed a step in the greater story.

Another impressive skill of Morrison is his seemingly endless ability to generate mind blowing ideas and concepts. Some are just fun, and almost obvious in their brilliance, such as the subway pirates in the Guardian storyline, which is as fun as it sounds. Then, he goes way to the other side of imagination, and re-imagines mythology, such as the Avalon/Arthurian world in the Shining Knight story. Then, he takes another left turn, with Klarion’s world of a puritanical witch society, where they raise their dead parents, and turn them into Grundys (yes, as in Solomon) to help them farm rocks. All the while, the personal stories of Guardian and Zatanna are as real and relatable as anything you’ve read. He’s all over the map on these concurrent stories, and when I think about the variety of styles he’s working in here, it’s extremely impressive.

On the one hand, it’s almost a shame that people aren’t more willing to explore and invest in stories featuring characters they’re not necessarily familiar with. I include myself in this diagnosis, because I didn’t even glance in this book’s direction when it came out. Why not? It’s Grant “f’ing” Morrison, and he’s hit more often than he hasn’t. It’s clear that he was putting his all into this story, which Morrison always seems to do. On the other hand, even through just the first volume, it’s clear that he’s got something special here, and I feel a little like I’ve found a hidden treasure, and Frankenstein hasn’t even shown up yet. Then, as a special bonus, I’ve heard that this story will play into Morrison’s plans for the upcoming Final Crisis, so clearly, everybody wins!

If you’ve been curious about this book, or never even heard of it, I’d certainly say it’s worth a shot, and is some of the more inspired Grant Morrison I’ve read lately. I’m very excited to finish up the story.

Comments

  1. Ok, going to Amazon

  2. I read this in single issues and I’ve got to say it just left me completely befuddled.  I think I may have to pick up the trade or at least see if the library has it.

    If you are really into overanalyzing comics down to the tiniest detail, then Brett from Comic Book Queers brought this to my attention: http://www.barbelith.com/faq/index.php/Seven_Soldiers_Kaballah_mapping  which basically looks at  how Morrison made each character represent a different level in the Spiral Dynamics theory of psychological evolution.

    Most of it just makes my brain hurt.

  3. I think I only read certain titles from this.  I got Zatanna, Mr. Miracle and Bulleteer.  Actually, I think I was waiting to read Zatanna all together and never did.  Miracle was kind of crazy and Bulleteer was alright.  I have to go back to those I guess.

  4. I was mystified by this as well, particularly the final chapter, the Seven Soldiers of Victory #1.  I did like pieces of it, particularly Zatanna, Klarion, and Frankenstein.  Bianchi’s work on Shining Knight is excellent.  Great character designs.  I don’t think it reads particularly well it trade.  It’s strange how it’s collected as a series of four trades rather than separated into its individual series.  In this case I think the whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.  I commend the experiment though and I hope more creators try stuff like this in the future.

  5. I’ll make sure to do a follow up report when I finish the whole thing.

  6. I really enjoyed this series, I collected all the trades and read them in that format, it is a shame that some of these characters are not used more often, I like the Bulleteer.  Although, for me personally the Guardian was the weakest link.

  7. @NJBarritone – I completely agree – reading this in single issues as they came out just left me lost, and some of the delays later in the run didn’t help. If I remember correctly, the individual series can out in order they were supposed to be read (issue of Zatanna, then issue of Guardian, etc.), but those later delays… ugghhh. It was interesting enough that I’d go back and read it in the proper order, just have to find the time. Maybe Final Crisis will inspire me to do so.

  8. I read all the minis when they came out and they were awesome.  I loved ’em.

  9.  there should have been a diclaimer metioning how it was to be read. i stopped reading after the first four titles came out and picked up the the end issue with j.h.williams just because it looked so awesome how he nailed other artist styles. thanks josh for reviewing this i’ll give it another  shot.

  10. I missed these when they first came out so i started with the trades. Looking back, i could see that it would be difficult to read as single mini series. I finished the trades just as the last (#1) issue came out, so perfect timing. The only thing that puzzled/bothered me was the Mister Miracle stories as I was confused as to what was going on with the ‘real/original’ new gods. Knowing what i know now with Death of the New Gods and Final Crisis, Grant was laying the seeds for the 5th world way back then (I guess?) Ryan Sook’s Zatanna work is beautiful and made me go back and buy the original series!

    I recommend trying to read all 4 trades as close together as possible, because a little time lapse between them could throw you off. And of course if it wasn’t already known, Guardian was prominent in Kirby’s 4th world/Jimmy Olsen stuff…so Grant has been channeling Kirby for quite some time….

  11. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Stop selling me books!  Stop!

    Stop it!  

  12. I’ll bet this reads better as a collection. I bought the first couple of issues and thought I had dysphasia.

    True or false?: If I didn’t mention Grant Morrison was involved and told you, "There’s a great story coming out. It’s in seven different miniseries. Chapter one is in the first miniseries, chapter two is in the second miniseries, chapt–" you’d say "Stop right there; you’re describing everything that is wrong with modern event comics."

  13. I read this in issues and loved it – if you really want to get into it, there’s a great site of annotations for the series out there (Google seven soldiers annotations, it’s the first hit). I would love to go back and read it in order, in trades – and this begs for a collected hardcover(s). 

  14. @Jimski  – that’s why I didn’t buy it the first time around, and it WAS Grant Morrison.  Just cuz something should suck, doesn’t mean it will.

  15. I’ve read the 4 trades and overall is was an excellent series. The only miniseries I didn’t really like was Mister Miracle but that’s probably not cause of the story but because I’m a Scott Free snob.

     

    With Final Crisis looming, I will definitely reading the series again. 

  16. I bought these a few months back in single issues (a local store was running 50% off back issues) , I read the Guardian mini and lost interest. I’ve always wanted to go back, but I’ve been unsure as to what order to read them in. Some say in order they came out, some say in trade, others say each mini in any order. Any thoughs?

     And as I side note, I went to see No Country For Old Men when it first came out, and I knew NOTHING about it, other than it was a Cohen brothers movie, and one of the guys had weird hair. I ended up loving it, and part of it was that I was just enjoying watching this story unfold that I didn’t have any idea about.

  17. @Jimski Seven Soldiers of Victory was not an event. The SSoV books were self contained in their own fictional universe. It was not a crossover of any kind. Nor was it a big event pushed by the company.

    All that being said, Seven Soldiers of Victory is one of Morrison’s finest, deepest and most complex work. One can see how all the seemingly disparate ideas Morrison had been playing with up till then- Invisables, Seaguy, Flex Mentallo, Doom Patrol; converged into what was an ambitious and flawlessly executed investigation into fiction as we live and create it. 

    Using the medium of comics itself to examine that was utterly genius. Zatanna reaching through the comic book page to complete a magic sigil with the reader that suggests the fiction of comics is a modern day myth blows my mind to pieces. 

    Frankenstein on Mars? Some of the most amazing shit ever to be put down on the page.

    It is incorrect to think of the Morrison’s DC stories as linear in the sense of continuity. Morrison’s stories continue to progress certain ideas and concepts. So it is not so much that the events of Mister Miracle are important, but rather the ideas presented. 

  18. @Labes, I think you and I remember the marketing of these books differently.

  19. @ jimski I read SSoV in issues. There was some promotion. But I would hardly say it was a DCU event comic. Certainly not anymore than I consider Countdown or the Initiative events. They just happened.

    This might be more true w/r/t SSoV as that project didn’t have any ties to anything in the DCU at the time. In other words, Superman didn’t show up in Klarion The Witch Boy and Justice League did not crossover to Manhattan Guardian. It was all it’s own world.

    Felt more like a Vertigo work now that I think of it.

    Though I suppose if one wants to think of any non-ongoing book as an event- then SSoV would fit such a title. 

  20. SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY definitely wasn’t marketed as a "DC event" so much as a major Grant Morrison undertaking.

  21. There was a time when I had mixed feelings about Morrison. I read this series, now he’s my favorite writer. This is what made me ‘get’ him. 

    Labor said this:

    "It is incorrect to think of the Morrison’s DC stories as linear in the sense of continuity. Morrison’s stories continue to progress certain ideas and concepts. So it is not so much that the events of Mister Miracle are important, but rather the ideas presented."

    Absolutely! His definition of the anti-life equation is what really blew my mind. He made it absolutely real. Then, at the end of that page, when ***SLIGHT SPOILER*** Mr. Miracle beats it, I just about put my fist through the ceiling. ***END SPOILER***

      The wars in his comics are the wars of ideas that happen in every person’s head. "I’m horrible and I’m useless" (Darkseid is right) vs. "I’m awesome and I can do awesome things." (Superhero can beat him). And you feel those real feelings while reading Morrison comics.  

    And the narration of Frankensein on Mars has maybe his best flowery language.

  22. read this in single issues, loved it, then it took effing forever for seven soldiers no. 1 to come out. when it finally did, i had to go back and re-read the whole shebang, and man am i glad i did. it does read better in the order each issue came out, but disregarding the lateness of the final issue, i am amazed that so much of this series hit shelves when it was supposed to. morrison still amazes me, and ill always (as ive said in about 5 other morrison related posts during morrison week,) wait out his stories until the very end, no matter how confused i am on the way there. it’s always worth it.

  23. oh, and who was the little girl in the zatanna miniseries, and how much does she remind you of layla miller?