I approached this third volume of Seven Soldiers of Victory with some trepidation; it's the first volume since the first itself to feature new characters, which means getting to know (and understand) new heroes only just when we're getting the hang of the old ones. Unfortunately, many of my fears played out; especially given how cohesive Seven Soldiers became at the end of the second trade, the third is something of a jarring departure.
In volume three, Klarion drives Dark Memnoth from his home of Limbo Town, and then decides to return to the world above; we learn that his god Croatoan is a computer system in the form of two dice, now in possession of Klarion and Zatanna's apprentice, Misty. Frankenstein, who has fought Memnoth and the Sheeda throughout time, is resurrected to stop the coming invasion. The new Bulleteer, meant to be the seventh of Vigilante's Seven Soldiers, learns that the Nebula Man that fought the original Seven Soldiers is the same as that working with the Sheeda now. And Shilo Norman, the second Mister Miracle, begins having visions of the New Gods, drawing the attention of Darkseid.
I was confused, frankly, through a lot of this trade. Klarion's transformation to a Horgil wasn't well explained, but understandable; that the Submissionary Judah is a robot left me lost, as did the fairly trippy conclusion to Zatanna. I enjoyed Bulleteer, which was the most traditional super-hero story of the bunch, with a healthy dose of sexual social commentary thrown in; I also liked the equally offbeat Frankenstein (with art from one of my favorites, Doug Mahnke). But Mister Miracle, with great potential as one of the most DC-mythology-centric stories of the bunch, left me both confused and cold; I blame a lot of it on the swiftly shifting art, but it was hard to tell from one page to the next what was going on--is Shilo being chased by a car? Is a wrecking ball coming? Are there a lot of people around, or none? This one bears special attention because of all of the hype surrounding the New Gods these days, but it was hard for me to really get a fix on the character.
In terms of the overall (or underlying) plot, volume three offers a couple of key answers, though still less than volume two. We know now how both Klarion and Misty can each have the magic dice. The seven weapons, I believe, are the two dice, Gwydion the magician, Justin's sword, and the cauldron, leaving two more yet to be found. There's some relationship between the Sheeda and robots--when Vigilante's soldiers are killed, someone mentions that the giant spiders are robots, and Memnoth suggests the same thing in Limbo Town. Then there's also Agent Helligan's strange statement in Bulleteer #2 (and I did enjoy this bit of continuity from Shining Knight) talking about how the Sheeda are from the future, perhaps suggesting there's still more to all of this than any of the characters have guessed.
Though parts of the story still leave me bewildered, Grant Morrison has created a compelling tale, and I'm both shocked and saddened to find myself already approaching part four. Morrison said he's created these characters for other writers to pick up, and so far there doesn't seem to be much of that--I'm hopeful that perhaps Morrison will return to them himself, so that the story of the Seven Soldiers might go on.
[Contains full covers, "what came before" page.]
Be here for volume four ... tomorrow!