Author/Illustrator: Grant Morrison/J.H. Williams III/Simone Bianchi/Cameron Stewart/Ryan Sook/Frazer Irving/Mick Gray
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics
Seven Soldiers is an epic tale of life, death, triumph, and redemption that explores the nature of heroism and sacrifice. This first of two hardcover volumes features the exploits of four of the seven soldiers; the Shining Knight, the Guardian, Zatanna, and Klarion the Witch Boy. Independently, each of these characters is featured in a story arc of their own that redefines their purpose in the DC Universe. But their stories also interweave with the other soldiers’ tales, and tells a grander story of a devastating global threat to mankind. Together these reluctant champions must arise and somehow work together to save the world…without ever meeting one another!
(from the blurb)
This book starts with Seven Soldiers of Victory #0, which introduces the concept of seven heroes needing to band together to overcome a foe that one can’t handle by him- or her- self. With this special issue, we see that a group of seven is a special and that each Age, or era, or whatever, has one of its own.
The stories of the first four Soldiers of the modern day (because that’s what they are!) are then told in an overlapping manner – Shining Knight #1, Guardian #1, Zatanna #1, Klarion #1, Shining Knight #2, Guardian #2, etc.
Non-spoilery thoughts on each Soldier’s story under the respective LJ-cuts.
Shining Knight is Sir Justin, a Knight of the Round Table who is the last one standing during a battle against powerful enemies. But somehow, during a faceoff at Castle Revolving (love the reference!), he finds himself propelled centuries, millennia, into the future…to the “modern day”. What is his mission and (how) will he survive?
I’m a big fan of Arthurian stories so I loved Shining Knight’s sections of the book, although I found the second part a little confusing in terms of what actually happened. I also love that the part that takes place in Arthurian times – mostly issue #1 – mentioned what I believe are references to the Mabinogion with at least one of its character names. It also showed – and named – one slightly less-well-known Arthurian knight, who happens to be one of my favourites, with a group of much better-known peers. It made my reading experience to see him mentioned!
The design of the knights’ armour, and the general feel of the world, was also something new to me for a portrayal of the Camelot era. Simone Bianchi’s artwork is richly detailed and the colours by Nathan Eyring are dark and mysterious. Both suit the mood and feel of the story beautifully.
Issue #4 also introduces some other fascinating federal-agent-type characters, and got me thinking of ways to keep them in the DCU beyond this…maxi-series, I guess it is?
Guardian is Jake Jordan, a once down-on-his-luck ex-cop living in New York. Getting a job as the resident superhero and symbol of what is on the surface a tabloid newspaper brings a whole lot more to Jake’s life than he had bargained for. But who is his mysterious boss?
Jake’s story is an interesting tale of ‘the city’ and its changing nature as well as a look at how different societies can or do function. It’s also very much the story of one man trying to do his best in a variety of testing situations. The last part of his story plugs him directly into the greater Seven Soldiers narrative – and it also leaves the story of his personal life without a proper resolution. I want more of this!
I like Cameron Stewart’s art in this. It’s perhaps the “plainest”(here meaning least stylized in a way) out of all the examples in the book apart from the #0 issue – but it’s very good.
Zatanna Zatara is the famous DC Universe heroine, Justice League of America member, and stage magician – but at the beginning of her story here she’s just (unintentionally) caused a situation that she’s not proud of. She also gains an apprentice named Misty, whose ties to the greater Seven Soldiers story is hinted at in the last part of Zatanna’s story.
Overall, the story was a good one. This is my first time reading anything substantive with Zatanna in it and after this, I can see why she’s a fan-favourite character. I like her, and her supporting cast (which includes two magical women!) a fair bit. Ryan Sook’s art is also lovely and I can see why he was (IIRC) selected as the favourite Zatanna artist in a fan-run poll about the subject.
It’s a good look at the magical side of the DC Universe, which is something I had close to zero familiarity with before this (Madame Xanadu in her Vertigo series was the closest I’d gotten previously).
Okay, confession: I had no idea what Klarion was like before reading this, with his portrayal on the Young Justice animated TV series being the only time I’d really seen the character in action. Because of that, I was very pleased to be able to read this…and by the time I finished, glad to have done so.
This Klarion is from a well-hidden group of magic-using Puritans who live in a very structured society. His natural curiosity and desire to explore are frowned upon, but one day he manages to reach the “surface world” – for lack of a better term – and the 20th century.
He falls in with a group of misfit children and their mysterious leader Melchior, who is definitely more than the benevolent benefactor he appears to be at first. And while Klarion will presumably help to stop the evil plot Melchior’s planning, issue #3 ends very abruptly in this volume, just like Zatanna’s and Jake’s. His story isn’t by any means over…but it looks like I’ll have to read the second trade to find out how it ends.
Frazer Irving does fine work, particular with his stylizations (shapes of characters’ faces, body and facial language) but most remarkably with his colouring. Great stuff.
Overall, I thought this book was really very good, if not brilliant. Disturbing at some points (graphic scenes of giant monsters, among other things) but touching at others, it has a mix of fantasy elements and more ‘real’ elements (Guardian’s girlfriend’s reactions, perhaps, to the events of issue #2 (as seen in issue #3)? The way the investigation into Shining Knight is done in issue #4?) that, when considered as a whole, worked well for me.
This is also the first Grant Morrison work – out of three including this one – that I’ve read and really managed to enjoy without feeling like he’s working with the expectation that I have a lot of background information. One of the others, Batman: RIP, just utterly confused me and the other, his pre-New 52 Batman and Robin series, had some plot points that I didn’t get (because, as I realized later, I hadn’t read RIP beforehand).
Really looking forward to finding a copy of Volume Two somewhere.