Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Seven Soldiers Of Victory - IV

pp 34-40 Part IV: Aftermath

pp 34-37 These pages link the story to its beginnings in Slaughter Swamp. In Seven Soldiers #0 Dalt was brought to the home of Cyrus Gold by, we assume, one of the Unknown Men who was quoting from the Scottish ballad Thomas the Rhymer. Here one of those men is preparing Zachary Zor. He’s shaved off Zor’s beard, noting how much he looks like Gold without it, and he has sewn together a miser’s coat. Gold was miser. He describes the coat as “Threadbare and ragged… The work of too many hands to ever fit properly… Not much of a disguise, you’d think. But watch it fool the locals.” The consensus is that Morrison is talking about comics and I agree. We all talk about continuity and shared universes that are important to us, but too many people have been writing too many stories for too long and it doesn’t really fit together. The unnamed Unknown man calls Zor Eighth of Seven and says, “We played out your nasty game in this little world… and you lost.” The mob arrives to lynch Zor/Cyrus and we hear him scream “Nooooooo!!” as the Time Tailor shoves off in his skiff; now wearing a top hat. He quotes for the ballad again, noting the roads to Heaven and Hell and reminds us that there is a third road:

"Don't you see yon bonnie, bonnie road,
Lying across the ferny brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night must go."
This scene is intercut with the wrap up of a new beginning for Justina. She is on a hill over looking over her new school – a “School For Heroes” – and is talking to Ka Zoom. She is despondent over Galahad’s fate. This is really the first time she’s had for introspection, the night in L.A. notwithstanding. For her all this has taken place over a matter of days, not ten thousand years. Ka Zoom tells her that this may be the best place for her. She needs to learn about the 21st century and she could be a superhero on weekends. But he also tells her that records speak of a Golden Age before the Flood, ruled by a Queen Ystina the Good, who ended the Reign of Death – presumably the one that followed the last Harrowing. So does she stay in the 21st century or go back? We don’t know.

p 38 Next we get Klarion. He is sitting on the Sheeda throne, with two Elvin Sheeda babes at his feet. Above him is Croatoan, the All Knowing Fatherbox. Misty told him it was a weapon, and technically it is a part of the arsenal given to Aurakles to save his world, but I think it is more likely to be something akin to a Motherbox. It would be interesting to learn what Klarion was thinking as he sat there laughing like a maniac. He was raised to worship Croatoan, the witch god. Now what?

pp 39-40 The next page is broken into nine panels of four, one, and four. The first four introduce us to the “Dogfather”. In Bulleteer #3 a fanboy related how Millions, the canine member of the Newsboy Legion, secretly ran the banking system. Here we learn he also runs the mob. With the deaths of both Vincenzo and Silcencio the dog takes it all. The same fanboy speculated that Million’s longevity resulted from the Cauldron, which may be true, but I think it underscores the fact that the futures predicted for the Legion were, at best, probabilities and not facts.

The next frame features Jake, Carla, and her mother visiting Larry’s grave. It was Larry’s death that almost destroyed their relationship, but they have reconciled now and can grieve his loss together.

Finally, we see Dark Side visiting Shilo’s grave. It’s in the same cemetery as Larry’s. He says, “Treasure your brief victories, your futile strivings for meaning. The Dark Aeon has come. Evil won the war. All in one in the dark side. And death rules the day.” When I read his line about brief victories the first thing I was reminded of was what Mr. Incredible said on the subject:

No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for... for ten minutes!
More seriously, though, he’s wrong. Good did triumph over evil. Again. The only reason Dark Side thinks otherwise is that he got kill Shilo. Forget about how the killing was supposed to be the first step in eliminating the New Gods altogether. He’s a bit like I, Spyder that way, constantly revising his past in order to convince himself he’s moving forward. I imagine villains would take the hint and quit if they took an honest stock of their track records. He places a flower on the grave. Shadow and colouring make it look black and suggests that it’s from Slaughter Swamp, but when we first see it – the only time in good light – it’s obviously a red rose. Dark Side walks away and misses two Kirby-esque arms reaching out from the grave. We were told one of the seven would die, and one did, but not for long. He miraculously gets a happy ending. Which shouldn’t surprise us. He is Mister Miracle, after all.

And that was the long awaited Seven Soldiers #1. It was a very busy issue. When it first came out the word I used to describe it was ‘cacophony’. One loud bang after the other, without a narrative structure holding it all together. But that’s not exactly right. What really didn’t come together were the Seven themselves, and we knew that was going to happen. What we did get was the conclusion of each characters story and the defeat of Gloriana.

For Justina, this story was really a continuation of the past Harrowing. Justina threw the Cauldron through time and into Slaughter Swamp. There it had all kinds of effects, but for this story’s sake, it immortalized Melmoth, literally, Vincenzo, after all fashion, and maybe Millions the dog. She killed Gloriana’s hero and kept her busy when she finally made New York (inflicting some pretty serious injuries in the process). Justina was able to die – or rather, show she was prepared to die – and to prove she wasn’t the knight who ran away. She had her honour. Along the way, she also had to kill the man she loved, and learn that perfect never lasts. Hard lessons for a kid.

For the Manhattan Guardian, this issue was all about taking a stand. Throughout his mini he had been torn between his past mistakes, his desire to be the man he needed to be, and his love for Carla. In the end he chose to stand up and fight. That really didn’t give him much to do in this issue. He had made all his decisions. Character issue resolved. His mini introduced us to the world beneath New York and to the Newsboy Legion, giving us a lot in the way of historical perspective, but now it was all about saving the city from the Sheeda. Fortunately, a city full of Sheeda was enough to show Carla the error of her ways and allow them a happy ending.

For Zatanna, she finally shook off the missteps of the Identity Crisis-Infinite Crisis years and made her own choice to stand up and be a superhero. Like Jake, most of her story was already over before this one began, but Misty’s attempt to put her under gave her one last moment to face her doubts and to decide whether she was really who all her JLA seminars and support groups told her she was. It was her spell that created the team, at least in retrospect. (I know. But it’s all about breaking the third wall and making us a part of it all.) In her story we learned more about the Newsboys, who were all over this adventure, and about the Huntsman, the princess, and the Cauldron. Another fairy tale connection for the Sheeda.

Klarion saved Limbo Town from Melmoth and then came to the surface and parked the Sapper in just the right place to turn Alix’s car into a flying projectile. Then he took off with the Revolving Castle, leaving Gloriana stranded. Did he betray the others? Since they were never an actual team, I think the word ‘betray’ is too strong. Being of Sheeda origin himself, going to “Sheeda-side” could be seen as the more obvious choice. Interestingly, Infinite Crisis ends with a two page spread featuring all the heroes who’d be taking care of things while Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman took their year off. Klarion, and five other members of the Seven Soldiers, including Frankenstein, are present and accounted for. Whatever happened at Summer’s End, he was back soon enough.

Mister Miracle’s story was pretty much over when this issue started. One of them was going to die and the clues were all pointing in his direction. He exchanged his life for Aurakles’ and took a bullet in the head. Aurakles was his only connection to the broader saga, but it was Darkseid’s desire to destroy him and the New Gods that brought the Sheeda here in the first place.

The Bulleteer played a crucial role. Sort of. She was the spear that had never been thrown and in the end she had as much input of a spear, as her car went out of control and delivered the killing blow to Gloriana. Her mini gave us a lot of insights into the story and the world of the C list hero, but ultimately it was about accepting that destiny really meant destiny. Her arc ended with her decision not to be a hero, but that didn’t matter. She isn’t free to go.

Frankenstein did more to stop the Sheeda than anyone, but in this issue he got only one page. True his story was essentially up, but still. He destroyed Melmoth, the Sheeda armada, and, I am sure, much of the city its wreckage rained down on. He deserved better.

Another player who got a lot of time in this issue was Zor, the eigth of the Seven Unknown Men. He had tried to change things, the narrative structure of the universe, by introducing the Sheeda. The Seven Soldiers were the antidote and in the end the universe was healed. Does this mean the Sheeda are gone, once and for all? Or are they some sort of malarial disease you can never quite recover from? Or, given their time travelling nature, do they exist and not exist at the same time? Only Morrison knows for sure. As it is, Zor became Cyrus Gold who became Solomon Grundy. So his story is about to start all over again.

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