By Graeme McMillan
“What does this have to do with me?”
If The Bulleteer is less a superhero comic than a comic about superhero comics — and it is — then the second issue makes a lot more sense than it does if approached in a more traditional light; it goes from becoming a story in which the title character of the series is barely present to one that illustrates the drawbacks of the shared universe, and serves as an example of a crossover gone wrong. But perhaps I’m giving Grant Morrison too much credit.
Whatever the reason, The Bulleteer #2 isn’t really a Bulleteer story at all; in her very second issue, Alix finds herself replaced by the larger Seven Soldiers storyline as a whole, with the issue acting as both a sequel to, and explainer for, the events of Seven Soldiers #0. Even the title of the issue, “Who Killed Seven Soldiers?”, makes it clear where the issue’s true focus lies. To make matters worse, Alix is reduced to a peripheral character in the issue; she basically spends the entire issue standing around as “FBI Metahuman Specialist” Agent Helen Helligan offers exposition at any given opportunity that, all told, should have probably appeared during the earlier Seven Soldiers issue.
Why did the Vigilante’s team fail? Why were there only six of them, and who was the missing hero referenced during the issue itself? Where did Nebulos come from, and what does he have to do with the Nebula Man, an earlier incarnation of the character who fought an earlier version of the Seven Soldiers of Victory? That’s all here, but it’s information that only makes sense for those who’ve read Seven Soldiers #0; to anyone only following The Bulleteer, it comes across as meaningless, perhaps even frustratingly so. Why are people talking about this, instead of Alix’s story?
There are some signs that Morrison knows exactly why this issue is unsatisfying, and is using it as commentary on the failure inherent in the crossover structure of Seven Soldiers in its entirety, if not all crossovers altogether. It’s not just Helligan’s investigation that is an incomplete story in the issue; there are repeated instances of narratives that appear in fragments, events that aren’t explained or moments that lack any sense of closure.
It’s not just the things that refer to other comics in DC history, although there are plenty of those — aside from the obvious Seven Soldiers #0 references, the issue also points towards the Justice League of America issues where the Nebula Man and the Iron Hand first teamed up, as well as a genuinely obscure issue of World’s Finest Comics where the Vigilante/werewolf connection is first made — but bits that exist purely as beats for this issue alone: Helligan’s sister’s fiancee being a werewolf, which is a denouement without an introduction, or even Helligan’s call to Brian, which refers to a milkshake that even he doesn’t seem to understand. Throughout the whole issue, Morrison’s intent is clear: We’re all part of other people’s stories, and sometimes we won’t understand quite what those stories are unless we step outside of our individual perspectives.
(“Stay with me. I know it’s a lot of information, but that’s the way I work,” Helligan, who focuses on the connections between stories, says in the issue. “Everything at once.” It’s Morrison being meta, again. They’re crowing about how to approach Seven Soldiers, and how they’re approaching it as a creator.)
But what does this mean for poor Alix? Nothing good. She’s not just pushed to the sidelines, she’s made into eye candy for Iron hand to gawk at — “You, I like. I could polish you right up, eh?” he says, a page after Helligan tells Alix, “Hey, I don’t need you to fight or to say anything” — with Yannick Paquette playing along happily; Alix’s poses are continually cheesecake shots, with her stance continually emphasizing her breasts or her ass, depending on where we are as viewers.
As with the first issue, we’re complicit in the objectification of Alix, but in this issue, so is everyone else, including Alix herself. It’s a strangely disorienting experience, and a disappointing one after the potential feminist reading of the first issue.
As with all good (Read: very bad) crossover comics, the actual Bulleteer plot gets squashed into one page at the end of the issue, and it’s a clumsy and obvious one that leans too heavily on the foreshadowing to work: Alix finishes telling her new roommate, Sara, about her travel plans and Sara responds by saying that she’ll be a great superhero as soon as she gets an arch villain of her own, while twisting an umbrella with her bare hands behind her back. Do you get it? Do you? Sara is going to be her arch villain.
It’s such an obvious moment that Alix’s inability to recognize what is going on makes her seem at best naive, if not downright stupid; again, devaluing and hurting the character who is, in theory, the star of the show. If The Bulleteer #2 does anything beyond illustrate the dangers of the crossover comic, it demonstrates how much disinterest, if not contempt, the series seems to have for its title character. “Somebody up there loves you, Mrs. Harrower,” says Agent Helligan early in the issue. Judging by this issue, it’s not anyone in the creative team.
Seven Soldiers of Victory: Bulleteer #2
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Inker: Serge LaPointe
Colourist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Phil Balsman
Graeme McMillan is a writer for the Hollywood Reporter, Wired and Playboy, as well as being one half of the Wait, What? podcast. He can be found on twitter here.