Monday, June 25, 2007

Bulleteer #2

Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Yanick Paquette; Inker: Serge LaPointe; Colourist: Alex Sinclair; Letterer: Phil Balsman

Who Killed Seven Soldiers?

pp 01-07 “I know it’s a lot of information, but that’s the way I work. Everything at once.” If the first issue of Bulleteer lacked any connection to the broader story, this issue and the next will more than make up for it. Meet Helen Helligan, last seen in Shining Knight #3. We’re at an FBI debriefing on the massacre at Miracle Mesa. Yes, we’re going back to the beginning. A slide show gives us new perspectives on five of six members of this story’s first Seven Soldiers team. First, Tom Dalt. Before and after events in Slaughter Swamp. Apparently he is a suspect in his brother’s murder. Next is Gimmix. She’s described as estranged from her mother, Golden Age heroine Merry, Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks, but she is following in the same career path. Or was. Her gimmicks were found over a large area of the Arizona desert. Then, Shelly Gaynor. Helligan says that her paper has reported her missing and that that connects to another investigation. We know about the report of her missing from Manhattan Guardian. Presumably the other investigation is specifically to find her. That would explain the presence of some of the others at the briefing. These are two teams exchanging notes. On to Harris Ledbetter, a.k.a. Dyno-Mite Dan, whose “working fakes” are a connection to Zatanna #2

But why are we going through all this now? Because our heroine was supposed to be there. Alix was supposed to be a member of this earlier team, but backed out at the last minute. So there’s your Seven Soldiers link. And a pretty powerful one. If you go back to the epilogue of #0 the Time Tailors thought the first team would save the day and were surprised when it didn’t. The question “Seven more conscripts?” is asked, but not actually answered. There are only six more conscripts. There are important things ahead for Alix, but why wasn’t she there? Apparently it’s all about her new role and how uncomfortable she is in it. First she wanted to meet others like herself, and then she just couldn’t stand the idea. Helligan tells her that it was the best decision she could have made. (Helligan herself isn’t doing too well. She is on medications, trying to recover from the bite Glorianna gave her. You can’t expect life to go too easily when your name is, phonetically, Hell And Hell Again.)

But the briefing isn’t over. The leader of the first team, Greg Saunders, had just received bad news from his doctor and was looking to go out in a blaze of glory. And the cameras of the team’s bikes recorded everything. We’re told not to “get distracted by what’s happening to the guy’s intestines.” Those are Dalt’s. How he was killed, then brought back when the Queen didn’t have her cauldron will just have to remain a mystery. Helligan recognizes the “big, starry thing” and that takes us on to a visit with the Hand, the nemesis of the original, golden age, Seven Soldiers.

pp 08-17 On their way they talk about the Bulleteer’s origins, but I’ll get back to that later. Roman Solomano (“one hand”) is now an old guy in prison, but once he was the Napoleon of Crime. On seeing Alix he says, “I could polish you right up.” And so it begins. A life of metal related come on lines. Solomano is proud, but uncooperative. He isn’t going to talk. So Helligan reaches into her bag and brings out his original Iron Hand, “borrowed” from Manhattan’s Museum of Superhumanity. She gives it to Alix, who breaks off a finger for every time he refuses to answer. After two digits are broken, he spills it all.

He did not, as was previously thought, make the “Nebula Man.” Instead he used a device – we can clearly see a bugle in his hand – to call him from somewhere else. He was looking for a Himalayan citadel and for teams of seven to kill. This links us to Zatanna, the JLA Classified story (remember that?) and will link us to a later Frankenstein issue. Morrison is doing a great job here of acknowledging his changes to continuity and incorporating those changes into his story. Its interesting that Neh-Buh-Loh is always called by his Golden Age name in this story. More recently Solomano learned that Saunders was creating a new Seven Soldiers and sent his nephew in as Boy Blue. His bugle was the same one that called up Neh-Buh-Loh in the first place. He betrayed the team and was killed in the process. His uncle shows no remorse about this. The kid was just another minion. But it does explain why the hunter of sevens went after an apparent team of six. He was answering the bugle’s call.

But why was the Hand after the Seven Soldiers? He was after Saunders. When Solomano led the One Hand Gang, his team was defeated by the Vigilante, Saunders, who took special care to warn a henchman named Lupelino, “Now I catch any more of your filthy kin round here come moonrise, I’ll flay your hides and hang’em out to dry.” Because Solomano and his team were Latinos, he took this to be a racial slur. Saunders, in spite of his heroic reputation, was a villain and by attacking him the Hand was the true hero. Helligan was unimpressed. Far from it. She’s in stitches. She explains that Saunders was a werewolf, and that the drugs he’d been using to keep it in check weren’t working. That was a large part of what his last adventure at Miracle Mesa was about. Tie up a loose end and then kill himself before he lost control of his humanity. His comments to Lupelino were made, not because Lupelino was Hispanic, but because Saunders recognized a fellow werewolf.

What follows is a bit unclear. Helligan demands to know the origins of Nebula Man because she wants to know about the woman who bit her. But how does she connect them? Neh-Buh-Loh was attacking Vincenzo’s estate while his queen was after Justin. Solomano seems to know what she is talking about, in spite of the fact that Glorianna wasn’t a part of his story. Solomano tells her about a dream he had. The Vigilante came to him and shot him in his soul. As he tells her this, and only as he tells her this, he starts to bleed. Why only now? He collapses and a doctor is called. The interview is over, and they are off to stop Heligan’s sister’s wedding.

pp 18-21 You’ll remember from Shining Knight #3 that Helligan has been racing against the clock to get to this wedding – and to stop it. Nobody in the family likes the guy. Helligan says he’s a batterer, but it’s going to take something more to convince her sister to give him up. When Helligan heard Solomano’s story the penny dropped. The groom’s name is also Lupelino. A coincidence? Given that this is a comic, unlikely, but the agent realized then what is wrong with this guy. Related or not, he’s a werewolf. They race from the prison to the wedding.

Helligan is not doing to well. She calls her brother and apologizes to him for a childhood prank. She’s weak and stuck in traffic. She reveals that the Sheeda are from the future – an important revelation! – and then asks Alix to “get her to the church on time.” Another fan of My Fair Lady, I guess. Alix picks her up and leaps over the other vehicles. Bursting through the doors she reveals the groom’s secret and collapses. Is she dead? Possibly. Her call to her brother seemed something of a deathbed confession, but it’s never made clear. She may have simply passed out.

p 22 Alix relates all this to her new roommate. Money being what it is, she needs to rent out space. The tenant is a young girl named Sara. Hearing the story, she assures Alix that she’ll make a great superhero. All she needs, perhaps, is her own nemesis. And Sara should know. Readers will recognize her as Sally Sonic, previously seen in Zatanna #1, and as Lance Harrower’s online mistress. And while she has a smile and an encouraging word for our star, I suspect that her true feelings are revealed in that umbrella she’s crushing behind her back.

An interesting issue centered around two things. The two women and the new revelations about Miracle Mesa. The relationship between the two women was summed up very well by a blogger named Ragnell. In the car ride to the prison I was struck by how Helligan was talking to Alix as though what she had become was in some ways her idea – and I have certainly seen writers discuss her that way. She beautiful, buxom, etc, and so she has to be defined by those terms. But I think Helligan recognized that Alix isn’t strong enough to stand up to others’ perceptions of her and be what she wants to be. Her husband wanted her to be the realization of his sexual fetishes and even though he is dead, that’s exactly what she’s become. Helligan realises that unless Alix is stronger, she will continue down that road in spite of herself.

The revelations in this issue were interesting. They put a new spin on what we’ve already seen and allowed Morrison to play the fanboy with continuity (though I don’t think many cared whether Solomano really created the “Nebula Man” or not). Interesting, but not ‘wow.’ I think the issue was summed up well with the splash page of Alix leaping over the cars (her only superheroics in the issue). It was flat. There was nothing dynamic about it. The issue makes for a good piece of the puzzle, though.

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