Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #4 and Wrap Up

So, it's on to the second to last issue of the Seven Soldiers project, the totally insane Frankenstein #4. I've always felt that the real fun of action sequences isn't in the scene itself, it's in the buildup, the moments where you know something's going to go down, but you're not quite sure what yet. This is issue is that buildup for Seven Soldiers #1, finally bringing us to direct conflict with the Sheeda.

The opening page of the issue has more of the fantastic pulpy narration that Morrison's employed throughout the series. The character is just so badass in this issue, starting with his battle with Neh-Buh-Loh. After appearing in most of the minis, Frank finally puts him down. I haven't read the JLA: Classified issue that serves as a prelude for Seven Soldiers but it appears that a death virus was injected into Neh-Buh-Loh, and this weakness is what causes him to spare Misty, a choice that may bring about the Sheeda's destruction. I love Neh-Buh-Loh's conflict here, it brings a lot of stuff we've seen together. Plus, Frankenstein downloading info from the internet is great.

Jumping locations, we pick up with Frankenstein targetting the Sheeda in Miracle Mile. I like the fact that they return here for the final confrontation, it gives nice symmetry to the minis, and leads me to believe that the characters from SS0 will play a role in the resolution in SS1.

The jump to One Billion Years Later is such a crazy moment. There's so much insane pop over the top stuff in this issue, a particular highlight is the caption: "All in a day's work...for Frankenstein!" You can practically hear an over the top narrator going crazy on that line.

What this issue confirms is that the Sheeda come from the future, and have been jumping back in time to raze human societies at various points in human history, trying to use the destruction of our culture as a way to re-energize their own. In the apple speech, Gloriana brings things back to the parent/child metaphor. She claims that what the Sheeda are just doing what humans have always done, they had to in order to survive for so long.

The apple scene is another fairy tale tie in, Gloriana is the wicked stepmother archetype, quite literally for Frankenstein, who is actually Melmoth's son. She offers Frankenstein power, but he's someone who's so utterly committed to his work that nothing could sway him. Each of the characters has a moment where they can choose to abandon their quest, or to keep doing good, and this is it for Frankenstein. The exploding ships on the next page provide a definitive answer, Frankenstein is not going to be swayed by Gloriana.

The end of the issue has such ridiculous momentum, everything's going crazy, building up to the final confrontation between Frankenstein and the Queen. I was hoping this issue wouldn't end, but alas, it did and we go into Seven Soldiers #1 with Gloriana about to go into the undying waters. Will she make it or will Frankenstein stop her?

There's a ton of stuff still to resolve in Seven Soldiers #1. The issue's been bumped up to 48 pages, but I'm assuming that a lot of plot threads will remain unresolved. Everyone except for Frankenstein is in New York, so I'm guessing that Gloriana will escape to New York, Frank will follow her and meet up with everyone else there. I know Grant has said that the seven soldiers would never meet, but I'm not sure if that applied only to the minis, or to issue 1 as well. I'm assuming that Bulleteer needs to meet up with someone to turn back to the hero's path. Though, it's possible she'll run into the Whip. The two are similar character types and having Shelly return would give the project a nice symmetry.

The overall story is actually pretty close to its end, so the major issue will be giving each character an appropriate sendoff. I think it's a great testament to Grant's writing that I would love to read an ongoing series for nearly all the characters, in particular I would love Grant to do more with Zatanna and Misty.

This project had a lot of Grant's classic themes, extradimensional beings, meta commentary on the nature of fiction and characters moving into dimensions of higher consciousness, it also brought in some major new themes with the exploration of sexuality and growing up. There's good growth and bad growth, the characters who find their own way are able to grow up well, but the characters who have adulthood or sexuality forced upon them all wind up messed up. This is what happens to the Newsboy Army, to Sally Sonic and even to Alix, who is ultimately unable to adjust to the life that Lance forced on her.

I loved this project so much because of the way it uses a variety of generic approaches to comment on the same themes. Most of the minis wouldn't quite hang together as a standalone read, but by reading them as part of the overall project, you get a better understanding of the thematic development. I think DC acknowledged that the project is not seven miniseries, it's one overall story in the way they traded it, intercutting the issues in publication order. It really is one big story.

And, just to wrap things up for now, here's my ranking of the minis and some final thoughts on each.

1. Zatanna - This was one of the best things Grant ever wrote, the first issue was full of inventive visual imagery and did a great job of introducing our heroine's dilemma, and by the time we reach the brilliant issue four, I had a complete picture of Zatanna and Misty's relationship. The last issue was the best issue in the entire project because it was mindblowing on a conceptual level and deeply affecting emotionally. Zatanna's reunion with her father is the strongest emotional moment in the entire project.

2. Manhattan Guardian - The first three issues were pretty good, but this high ranking is primarily due to the final issue, which creates an entire world and a vivid cast of characters then destroys it, all in 22 pages. Jake's arc is well done, and that last issue does provide some nice closure for him, despite barely featuring him.

3. Bulleteer - This one returns to the territory Morrison explored in one of his best projects, Flex Mentallo, but spins those concepts through the themes of Seven Soldiers. Issue 3 is the best, but the whole mini excels at depicting this world of b-list superheroes struggling to make it big.

4. Shining Knight - The art in this mini was an aesthetic wonder, and it has some of the most interesting stuff on the Sheeda themselves. Gloriana's emergence in issue 3 is fantastic, though I also love Justin claiming the role of hero in issue 2.

5. Frankenstein - This was another great mini, going so far over the top with its pulpy captions you can't help but enjoy it. The whole mini gives us fantastic action sequences and I love Frankenstein's parental conflict with Melmoth. That fit wonderfully into the thematics of the project as a whole.

6. Klarion the Witch Boy - Issue 2 was great, but this one never clicked for me. The art was great, but the main character was rather annoying. If one of the soldiers has to go, I would vote for Klarion.

7. Mister Miracle - This one might get bumped up on a reread, but on the first read, it felt too disconnected from the project as a whole and was tough to follow, making it difficult to emotionally relate to the character. Still, the last issue redeemed a lot of the issues and I think it could improve greatly on a reread.

And now, it's time to wait for Seven Soldiers #1 and the conclusion of this thing.

The Complete Seven Soldiers Post Index

Seven Soldiers #0

Shining Knight #1-2, Manhattan Guardian #1, Zatanna #1, Klarion #1

Manhattan Guardian #2-3, Zatanna #2, Shining Knight #3, Klarion #2-3

Shining Knight #4, Zatanna #3

Manhattan Guardian #4

Klarion #4, Mister Miracle #1, Bulleteer #1

Zatanna #4

Frankenstein #1, Mister Miracle #2, Bulleteer #2

Frankenstein #2, Mister Miracle #3 and Bulleteer #3

Frankenstein #3, Mister Miracle #4 and Bulleteer #4

Frankenstein #4 and Wrap Up

Seven Soldiers: The Flaws that Make Perfection

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle

Seven Soldiers #1

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