Thursday, 15 September 2011

Comic Review - Seven Soldiers

Another Grant Morrison? It's as if he is my favourite comic book writer or something. Honest.

Before reading any further, it is probably important to note that I am, indeed, a massive fan of the Scottish scribe, and thus not exactly objective. I do believe that the stories I talk about, however, have enough that is genuinely good about them that render this not just fanboy blinded squealing.

Seven Soldiers is a simple and complex idea: together, seven heroes must defeat an evil that threatens the world. The twist? The seven heroes never meet, and are drawn together by shared circumstances and threat rather than a physical team.

So, as you may have picked up by now, I rather liked this mini-series. Honestly, when I started reading them I felt that their quality was something of a double edged sword - I'd have loved to have seen more Klarion or Frankenstein or Zatanna or Shining Knight under the pen of Morrison; hell, I'd have read full series with any of these characters at the fore. That these are characters brimming with potential and mostly beautifully drawn and coloured. The knowledge that these creative teams would only be tackling the series for four issues was a little bit frustrating. It was being teased with great ideas and stories, but only getting to see the introduction.

This is, beyond stories about any characters, an experiment utilising the structure of the medium. The way these different stories interact without physically meeting up is the key to this, and Morrison threads together a story that is easy enough to piece together when you read all of the different story strands. Yet taken on their own, it seems that each miniseries would form a more or less coherent story, just lacking resolution. To fully understand elements of Bulleteer you would have to read the prelude, and to get any resolution for any of the story strands you have to read the final chapter wherein all the pathways converge.

As a finale this chapter, Seven Soldiers #1, is probably the part most open to criticism, although not necessarily the worst part. Seems contrary, I know, but bare with me. The problem that the series runs into is that not everyone is given an equal place in the finale, and certain characters suffer from being shunted off to the side. Others seem to be more there for "right place, right time" and the resolutions to all of their arcs is done in a very short time, which perhaps may not seem satisfying. For all that it has more negative points, it's also got more positive points than any other part of the story. The art shifts and changes and is incredibly experimental, and the story feels massive. Things click very nicely into place, and the final has a real urgency to it. That this structural experiment could come together so well is very impressive, and I feel that much of the character resolutions do actually work. Such is the scale, imagination and ambition of this project that I found it hard not to get caught up in the moment where it all came together.

Grant Morrison writes stand alone stories that form a larger narrative when taken together. They are complex and not always, or even often, easy to read, yet he also tells such a fundamentally good story - exciting and action packed and full of the weird and wonderful. Seven Soldiers is, if not quite unique, something that certainly treads new and innovative ground, worth a read for that alone. Luckily that there's also a cracking story in there too.

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