Saturday, June 03, 2006

Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #4, Zatanna #3

Seven Soldiers rocks on with two issues from my favorite series so far. I wasn't sure how each individual sesries would end, Grant claimed that each series would have a standalone beginning and ending, and in this case, that's not quite true. I suppose Justin's character arc is fulfilled, but I definitely needed a little more when things ended. I guess that's what Seven Soldiers #1 is for.

The issue itself errs a bit too much towards action and the real highlight is Simone Bianchi's beautiful drawings. Bianchi is a master artist, and each panel is gorgeous. His design of the queen is fantastic, and I love the double page spread of Vincenzo emerging from the cauldron.

The end of the issue forges a lot of connections between the other series. Apparently, the Queen is married to Melmoth from Klarion, which raises the question of whether Melmmoth is working for the Sheeda or against them. The issuse also introduces the idea of a girl knight, who we now know is Misty.

The two page spread of the Don firing two Tommy Guns while riding a flying horse is just as good as it sound, and Justin's defeat of Galahad is another great fight scene. Things end with Justin gunning for the queen's head. I'm not a huge fan of ending with the flashback, I feel like the emotion of the story was in the now, and I would have rather went out with Justin holding the head. On the whole, this series has two fantastic issues, the middle ones, and a couple of solid issues that were hurt by the fact that they focused a bit too much on fighting. However, it's a critical piece of the overall Seven Soldiers project, giving us the most information on the Sheeda and what their plans are for the modern world.

Zatanna #3 is the best issue of the Seven Soldiers project so far. Last time, I mentioned that Zatanna reminded me a lot of Gilmore Girls, and this issue takes that even further, with more self deprecation and pop culture references from our gorgeous, but deeply insecure heroine. As Zatanna says, she and Misty have been having "Thelma and Louise meet Bewitched" misadventures, such as the episode at the beginning.

I really like the confrontation with the Tempter because it ties into a lot of classic Morrison themes and also works as a showcase for Zatanna's wit. She defeats this guy through witty banter, tying into the idea that words themselves are magic spells. On the larger level, Zatanna and Misty are working, like nearly every Morrison hero, to eradicate outdated ideas and move humanity forward. The Tempter is essenitally the traditional idea of Satan, and in our world, the idea of the devil actually tempting you to do stuff seems ridiculous, hence the destruction of his corporeal form here. I'm intriuged by the idea of "logical immunity," Morrison doesn't discuss the concept in depth, but from what I can tell, it's the idea that in the past, people used to be more accepting of the supernatural, however, our knowledge of how the world works, logic, has overwhelmed superstition and made it impossible for a guy like The Tempter to exist.

Next, they run into Ali Ka-Zoom, who burns his cabinet, a ceremony that is clearly part of moving beyond this plain. Morrison deals a lot with the idea of people having a specific role to fulfill, John a Dreams in The Invisibles moved through time to perform specific tasks in the service of a goal, individuals are small parts of a larger machine moving humanity towards a specific endpoint. When he burns the cabinet, Ali says "Sometimes it's like there's mystery string holding everything together," unseen forces manipulating people to specific points in space and time. This is Ali's final task, and once he's done, he can return to the bus and move off to the other realm.

The moment where they stumble upon the massacre from Shining Knight is fantastic, the most powerful connection between the series so far. It's odd to see these characters I was so used to seeing in Bianchi's style rendered in Sook's, but it works because it allows us to view the events from Zatanna's perspective. The moment where Misty sees the spider and cries reminds me of a bit from The Invisibles where King Mob is overwhelmed by pure emotion and starts crying. It's one of the things that Morrison does well, it doesn't feel melodramatic, it legitimately feels like the character has come into contact with some higher intelligence and is so moved, they have no choice but to cry.

In light of this issue, it seems that most of Zatanna's guilt stems from the revelations about brainwashing in Identity Crisis. I read that series a few weeks ago, so it was cool to see a tie in.

However, the big moment at the end is the revelation that Misty the stepdaughter of the Sheeda Queen sent through time to the present. This revelation is brilliant because it ties the series together and gives us a picture of how large this conflict is. This is a totally unique storytelling experiment because it truly is one story, we're just seeing different pieces of it through the different characters' experience. This is a direct followup to Shining Knight, without actually featuring any of those characters. It's really exciting to see the pieces connect across the stories, it's like reading a superhero Magnolia.

The best stories usually feature fully realized worlds, where it feels like you're getting a peak into their lives, and after the work ends, they will continue. That's the brilliance of the original Star Wars trilogy for me, it never feels like someone sat down and decided how things would happen, it's like someone stumbled on another world and took a piece of it, but it continues offscreen. The structure here makes this even more notable because we get to see plot elements existing free of the confines of their specific story. So, Don Vincenzo dies in Shining Knight and we don't really need any more, but this issue gives us a bit of a coda for him, as well as providing emotional closure for Ali Ka-Zoom. It's exploring this world through seven unique sets of eyes.

Reading this issue had me so excited about the story Grant had created. The revelation of who Misty was puts everything that happened before in a different light, and connects the seemingly random adventures with the overall story of the Sheeda. But, we still get to enjoy the banter and character work that made the series great. It's not that Zatanna takes on the mythic style of Shining Knight with this revelation, it's more about looking at the same elements filtered through multiple lenses. It's a story that proves what is said is really determined by who's saying it.

EDIT: I just got the third volume and reading through the 'previously,' I found out that the Queen's comment in Shining Knight about "blood of the womb" and the "girl knight" are not a reference to Misty, it's actually meant to reveal that Justin is a girl in disguise. Reading through the issue, that makes a lot more sense, it was just something I didn't catch.

Related Posts
Seven Soldiers #0 (5/17/2006)
Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian #4 (6/5/2006)
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4 (6/15/2006)

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