Sunday, January 08, 2006

Half of seven is four

WARNING: Arr! There be spoilers ahead, matey!

I know a lot of people are waiting until Grant Morrison's epic Seven Soldiers is completed before passing comment, but I just got the opportunity to read the first four mini-series in one go, so I thought I'd venture a few thoughts.

First off one has to acknowledge that it's an ambitiously mad epic experience. Kudos to Grant for even attempting it. I can't think of anyone this side of Alan Moore who would even try to do something like this. It also makes me think of Kirby's Fourth World. That's the only other time I can think of where a single writer produced several monthly comics with distinctive individual flavours to tell stories that were part of a larger experience.

Which is not to say individual titles or stories are not without faults. There are times in almost all the titles where the Metaphysical bullshit detector veers dangerously into the red, but what really struck me was that most of the titles feel a bit cramped. In Manhattan Guardian the first three issues are about the Guardian's relationship with his girlfriend and family, then they are suddenly dropped and we're in major flashback city with very little set up. In Klarion our hero spends several issues escaping to the world above and then you blink and he's already established as part of a gang. I haven't read up on the background to the production but I have this sneaking suspicion that maybe the original plan was to do seven miniseries of seven issues each, and as part of some compromise with editorial it was reduced to four.

Things I liked: Each of the different series was actually different. While strands of meta-plot wandered from one to the other the stories themselves were quite individual.

Things I didn't like so much: The apparent compression of storylines, the metaphysical BS, and what the hell was the point of revealing that the Shining Knight was female five pages before the end of the story? The only relevance it seems to have is to add some intensity to the confrontation with Lancelot because we are informed that she's always had a thing for him. Surely that would have been even more poignant if Justin had been male? Knowing that she is female doesn't make you think "oh, that bit from earlier in the story suddenly makes a lot more sense" so it has all the surprise value of pulling a sock out of a hat - you weren't expecting it but you don't really care. I can only hope that it becomes relevant later on.


Ragnell said...

Actually, I liked the Shining Knight reveal, because after the reveal you realize that up until now everything you'd seen had worked as well with a female character as it would have with a male character. It was also reminescent of several Knight-in-disguise, and even soldier-in-disguise stories I'd read before, which I think is what Morrison was going for.

But there was so much Arthurian and Celtic lore packed in there that I probably would have liked it if she were revealed as a pink elephant at the end. (I've always hated Kirby's Arthurian model that they adopted at DC, and I'm glad that Morrison came up with a better Camelot)

But instead, it's a girl, and we have a wonderful new teenaged girl character with Arthurian ties added to the DCU. And she's a brunette instead of a blonde, so out of costume we'll actually be able to tell which one she is.

Marionette said...

And she's a brunette instead of a blonde, so out of costume we'll actually be able to tell which one she is.

So true! I hadn't really considered the ramifications beyond the Seven Soldiers storyline, but you're right, it does give us the potential for an interesting new heroine.

Wanna take bets how long it takes them to get her into a belly shirt?

Ragnell said...

Ack! Not a proper Knight! She'd know to keep her whole body covered in form-fitting chainmail during battle! They can't turn her into a bare-belly acrobat when she's a trained swordswoman!

(Although did you notice that the chainmail was strategically torn at the end of that story?)

Captain Infinity said...

I thought Shining Knight looked a bit feminine on the cover. I even flipped through the comic to check, but never saw the reveal. (Wasn't interested enough to buy it however.)

Ragnell said...

Cap -- It was in Issue 4

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Morrison loves his structural games. I'd bet fifty dollars (or, okay, thirty quid) that Justin's status as a woman disguised as a man will play into the end of the story somehow.

I can't imagine he did that simply for the shock, since, as you rightly noted, it added exactly zero to the miniseries itself. Morrison's far too interested in tying everything together to include such an element for the hell of it.

The SSV have a lot of border-hopping. Klarion's half-human, half-Sheeda. Frankenstein's Monster is half-alive, half-dead. Mr. Miracle is a bridge between gods and men. Shining Knight could be seen as graying the line between genders.

I dunno.

(How Zatanna, the Bulleteer, and the Guardian fit into this schema I don't know. A little creative fudging could do it. Or I'm making it all up.)

Anonymous said...

"Creative Fudging" is what reading Morrison's work is all about!

Guardian could be half every day guy, Half superhero.

Zatanna is half mainstream, half Vertigo.

Bulleteer is half Feminine Empowerment, half cheesecake.