Saturday, October 21, 2006

This Book Made My Brain Hurt!

Can it be called a "team comic" if it's really seven interconnected mini-series, each featuring a different character?

Can a team be a team if they never meet? If they don't know about each other?

Are there really pirates in the subways of New York in the DC Universe? Half demon puritans living underground, using zombies as slave labor? Why haven't I ever heard about them before, in any other comic? Where exactly does Darkseid fit into all of this?

Why do I keep reading Grant Morrison, when I know this is the effect he has on me?

You see, I had heard a lot about Morrison's maxi-series Seven Soldiers of Victory while it was coming out in monthlies. I like Grant Morrison, in kind of a casual way; I like what he did on New X-Men, and in Arkham Asylum with Dave McKean. And hey, anybody who has written for Dr. Who Magazine is O.K. in my book. So while I wasn't interested enough to pick up Seven Soldiers in comic book format, I was interested to see it when it came out in Trade Paperback. Then, this summer, Seven Soldiers of Victory won the Eisner Award (kind of like the comics Oscar) and I was even more intrigued...

Then, I started reading it. And... wow. And... ouch, my head!

You see, in this four volume meta-series, seven people with super powers, but not Super Heroes, are recruited to stop an apocalyptic event, the Harrowing. An interdimensional menace, known as the Sheeda, periodically raze the Earth, destroying it's champions and turning civilizations to ruins, but leaving enough behind that the survivors can rebuild, and the Sheeda can again invade. It is prophesised that a team of seven will stop the Sheeda; and knowing this, they target super-hero teams with seven members.

So the Seven soldiers aren't actually a team. In fact, they never even meet. These heroes come from different places, different backgrounds... different times. Zatana, Shining Knight, the Manhattan Guardian, the Bulletter, Klarion the Witchboy, Frankenstein, and Mister Miracle work separately, and together at the same time to stop the Sheeda. Even if they don't realize they're doing it.

This is a very.... chewy graphic novel. It's not for the faint of heart. It moves backwards and forwards in time, jumps from character to character. It references, and then destroys, years of DC backstory. In some ways, its a great choice for readers who are new to comics, because, if you don't know anything, it's harder to be confused.

Morrison has a reputation for sacrificing character for the sake of his story. When he was writing New X-Men, you heard a lot of fanboy howling that "Wolverine (or Cyclops, or Storm, or anybody else) would never do that!" He gets around that problem here by using characters that nobody but the most hardcore comics reader has ever heard of. Also, Morrison sometimes gets accused of being too clever for his own good, and writing things that are simply weird for the sake of being weird. That accusation might carry a little more weight with this title, as it is deeply strange in some places.

After I started writing this entry, I went back and re-read it, and it sounds like I didn't like Seven Soldiers -- but I did. Yes, it made my brain hurt. Yes, I was deeply confused at times. Yes, I shouted "What the He** are you doing to Zatana, Grant!?" more than once; but, I was completely enthralled by the story and characters . I was shouting at the book for goodness sake!

Therefore, I make a qualified recommendation for Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrision. If you read it, have some caffeine and aspirin nearby -- you might need it.

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