30 April 2014

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XX: Seven Soldiers of Victory, Volume One

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2010 (contents: 2004-05)
Borrowed from the library
Read April 2014
Seven Soldiers of Victory, Volume One

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: J. H. Williams III, Simone Bianchi, Cameron Stewart, Ryan Sook & Mick Gray, Frazer Irving
Colorists: Frazer Irving, Dave Stewart, Nathan Eyring, Moose Baumann
Letterers: Todd Klein, Rob Leigh, Pat Brosseau, Jared K. Fletcher, Nick J. Napolitano

Seven Soldiers of Victory doesn't have a whole lot to do with Infinite Crisis, but it does tie into the events of Final Crisis (allegedly), and it takes place during the week prior to Infinite Crisis, so I am reading it here and now. There are some small references (Zatanna's role in Identity Crisis is alluded to, and we're told most superheroes are unavailable), but this is largely a standalone story composed of seven standalone stories, the intersecting stories of the Seven Soldiers as they face the return of the Sheeda. I'll tackle the first few stories in my review of this volume, though some of them actually don't wrap up until Volume Two.

"Weird Adventures" kicks the whole thing off, with (yet another) long-lost Ludlow of Starman/Shade fame being recruited by strange extradimensional entities, while a group of has-been and wanna-be superheroes tries to save the world. There's some plucky courage here, and it's an interesting look at folks who want to be superheroes for all the wrong reasons. And no one does layouts quite like J. H. Williams III.

Seven Soldiers introduces the new Shining Knight, a young man named Ystin who just barely escaped the last time the Sheeda attacked Earth, in the pre-historic past. Except that (spoiler!), Ystin is actually Ystina. I really wanted to like the story more than I did: it had its moments, but largely Ystina is dragged along by events, and I'm not sure what the gender twist actually adds to the story.

Definitely my favorite of all the Seven Soldier is the Manhattan Guardian, an updating of the old Jack Kirby concept (I love the comment that the military sold off the old Project Cadmus stuff, including the Guardian trademark), done in amazingly accurate, but modernized Kirby pastiche style. This story is packed full of fun, crazy concepts: the Subway Pirates of New York (including Captains Falsebeard, No-Beard, and All-Beard), the golem on the third floor, "you arrived right in the middle of a terror-strike on a democratic newspaper," the Newsboy Army (complete with bikes to loan)... and that's just the first chapter! I mean, Kirby himself could have crammed even more in there, but this is excellent stuff for an imitator, and every Guardian story is just a delight.

The Zatanna story is probably the most awkward fit chronologically, despite the fact that this is the only Seven Soldiers story to really reference external events; it's hard to see how the magical conundrums happening here fit with the Spectre's war on magic in Day of Vengeance (though I suppose the fact that the Phantom Stranger was turned into a mouse in Day of Vengenace explains his brief disappearance here). I've never really read a Zatanna story before, but I like her here: used to fulfilling her every desire with magic, now cut off from it and worried she's overdependent. I loved her "sidekick," too, and a lot of the magical antagonists were suitably creepy.

Finally, the tale of Klarion the Witch Boy is probably my least favorite, despite the gorgeous Frazer Irving artwork. Klarion is just a little too self-absorbed to get me interested; I never had a very good feeling as to why I was supposed to care about his story (as opposed to all the others).

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