Review: Seven Soldiers of Victory Volume 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm finally now reading Grant Morrison's four Seven Soliders of Victory trades, in the controversial order that the trades present. I have to say, the hype surrounding this project is really doing it a disservice, because I started reading volume one immediately expecting to be blown away--to read a comic book above and beyond the scope and quality of anything I've ever read before. And it is, to an extent; it's also seemingly somewhat repetitive, formulaic, and self-involved--though one might argue that these are among it's good qualities, too.

The granddaughter of the original Whip joins the original Vigilante in the desert, where they and four other heroes fight a giant spider that Vigilante defeated once before. They're overwhelmed and possibly killed by aliens known as the Sheeda, and the mysterious seven beings that recruited them put "plan B" into action. In ancient Camelot, the Shining Knight fights the Sheeda and is transported to the present. Ex-police officer Jake Jordan becomes the heroic Manhattan Guardian and fights subway pirates, one of whom finds a dice-shaped power stone. A city of underground people--including Klarion the Witch Boy--prepare for an attack by the Sheeda, as Klarion escapes to the subways above. Zatanna fights a shape-shifter with the help of her new mysterious apprentice, who also carries a magic dice.

As concieved, the Seven Soldiers mini-series were meant to be read either separately or together; one difficulty seems to be that, since Morrison couldn't be sure how many or few of the series a reader would read, he's taken care to make sure that every reader gets the same information no matter which series they pick up. To that end, one can't turn around without getting popped in the head by the threat of a Sheeda invasion, and once you know it's coming, it makes a lot of the suspense in the stories somewhat moot. (And if the big conspiracy is just an alien invasion, that feels somewhat mundane for a story of this size.)

There's plenty more inter-connectivity--Zatanna's in a support group with one of Vigilante's original six, for instance, and I'm pretty sure the subway pirate's train in Manhattan Guardian hit the monster attacking Klarion at the end of his first issue, not to mention the constantly reocurring dice cube--but at least so far in the series, it's sound and fury equalling nothing; none of the connectivity seems to have a great impact on the plot of the story overall. That said, it's still early, and few of these series have yet to get off the ground.

The first two issues of the Seven Soldiers series so far seem to comprise complete adventures for the heroes; the first issue ends with a cliffhanger, and the second wraps things nearly completely (the first issue cover is a dynamic rendering of the Soldier, while the second is a close-up face shot, a la the DC month-long cover event a few years back). Of the four, my favorite so far was Manhattan Guardian, perhaps because the story was so accessible in a generic-superhero-origin way; the story also features mad Morrison-esque ideas without being overboard or tough to read. Klarion, Zatanna, and Shining Knight I found overboard and tough to read--there's a lot of wild magic-oriented language and strange double-speak. Now, I'm a fan of intellectualism in my comics, but a lot of this felt showy, as if it was less to drive the plot and more to convey a certain faux mood for the comics.

There's no faulting the art, which was both beautiful and series-appropriate in each instance, though sometimes I did have trouble figuring out what was going on until I read a panel or two more--on page 57, at the bottom, is the fairy hit with something, or is she pointing (and is she standing up or laying down)? On 83, did it take anyone a minute to figure out that Jake put on the armor? And so on.

All of this seems extra-ordinarily picky, but again, I think my high expectations for the series have a lot to do with it. I also recognize, of course, that I'm only at the beginning, and it's hard to look at this trade as if it's the meat of the story, knowing that it's not. In all, Seven Soldiers of Victory Volume 1 does deliver a bunch of complete stories with interesting characters and good art, with no false notes to be found--at the end of the day, is there much more you can ask from a trade paperback?

[Contains full covers, introduction by Grant Morrison.]

Tune in tomorrow for the Collected Editions review of volume two!
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