Tuesday, May 15, 2007

As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives and every wife had seven sacks and every sack had seven cats and every cat had seven kits

In my quest to look at Morrison's post-Flex Mentallo superhero work, I read the entire Seven Soldiers story yesterday (with the three-part JLA Classified prologue the night before).

But, before I no doubt write the shortest blog post on the entire thing in the history of the web, I'll direct you to a few places that discuss the entire series in far more intelligent ways:

Jog's reviews
Greg Burgas' 31 Days of Seven Soldiers
Barbelith's Seven Solders Wiki

Now then, my overall impression of the entire saga was a somewhat lacklustre, apathetic one. At least with regards to what each character does to fight the Sheeda. It's rather interesting, but most of them seem to do little minor things. Mister Miracle, for example, does nothing to fight the Sheeda. Sure, he frees Aurackles, but how does that fight the Sheeda? Jog speculates that he's not even one of the Seven Soldiers really, which makes sense. The Manhattan Guardian does some fighting of Sheeda warriors at the end, but his only other contribution (that I can see) is being on the train that runs over the Horrigal and lets Klarion escape.

Now, I actually like that some of the characters don't seem to do much--or, the things they do to help are only minor elements of their stories. The Bulleteer is the key to killing Glorianna, but beyond that, she does nothing (except not show up in Seven Soldiers #0). Except everything she does leads her to driving that car in Seven Soldiers #1.

In a way, the whole series is about coincidence and how seemingly meaningless moments build to create meaningful actions.

Another theme that I picked out (and was slightly touched on, sort of, by Burgas, mostly in his child/adult theme) was one that I saw in Flex Mentallo (and can see in almost everything else Morrison does): the tension between past and future. Now, I'm leaving the present out of it, because the present is, ultimately, transient and meaningless. Here, the conflict is between the past (now) and the future (the Sheeda)--both are the present depending on the perspective.

Justin(a) struggles between the past and future as (s)he acclimates to our time.
The Guardian struggles between his past of killing an innocent teen and his future as a hero.
Zatana struggles between her past as a fuck-up and her future as a confident hero.
Klarion struggles between the past his people are trapped in and the future of our world.
Mister Miracle struggles between the New Gods' past and future.
Bulleteer struggles between her past and future lives.
Frankenstein doesn't actually struggle, he just acts the same no matter what time it is despite being from a past time.

And, of course, all of these series have a tension between old characters and new, same with the name Seven Soldiers. There's even a tension between the first group we see in issue 0 and the seven we follow in their series.

Stylistically, Morrison walks the fine line between the past creators/styles of these books and making them modern. The best example of this is in Mister Miracle where Morrison updates Kirby's New Gods. Or in some of the narration found in The Manhattan Guaradian (very bombastic) or Frankenstein (pulpy). Each of the series has its own unique take on the superhero genre itself, creating a tension between what he's doing with it and what's come before.

Now, the finale of the saga, issue one. It falls victim to the typical Morrison ending in that it isn't actually that satisfying. I've discussed this briefly before, arguing that Morrison doesn't give conclusive endings because of the superhero comic's nature. The nature of the medium/genre is serial, meaning the story never ends. You'll notice this sort of ending in most of his work: Animal Man, JLA, New X-Men, etc. The ending never feels like an ENDING, because it's not. These characters keep going and will have new adventures. The same thing happens here. We see a few of the characters have endings, of sorts, to their adventure (Klarion becomes leader of the Sheeda, Justina is put in a superhero school, Mister Miracle comes back from the dead, and--uh--that's it), but always with an eye toward the future.

That's where the tension between past and future usually shows up in a way that readers don't like, because it's not a satisyfing way to end stories. Morrison recognises that once he's finished the comic, it's continuity past and is always mindful of the future stories that WILL be told. Hell, that was the whole point of the "Planet X" storyarc basically.

And that's what I took from the series. Oh, and might I once again state how mindblowing J.H. Williams III's art on issue one is? Seriously, he does, what, eleven different styles? Sometimes three or four styles on a single page. And you'll note no Eisner nomination. The fuck? Show me art that is more impressive and well done in the past year. You can't.

Next up in my journey through Morrison's post-Flex Mentallo work (which I've dubbed "The Next Age" for easy reference) is Seaguy. I'm not doing these in any real order, just whatever I feel like. After that, some thoughts on Fantastic Four 1234. By then, I should be finished his JLA run (just began "Rock of Ages").