Over the last few months we’ve heard from our Seven Critics of Victory as they’ve followed the 30-issue run of Seven Soldiers as written by Grant Morrison – one prelude, seven miniseries each with a different artist and lead characters – and now, one epilogue. To complete our epic project, we asked Chloe Maveal, Emma Houxbois, Alex Lu, Steve Foxe, Andrea Ayres, Sara Century, Graeme McMillan and David Brothers to join us for a massive, conclusive roundtable as we head now to Seven Soldiers of Victory #1.
Did the spear find its mark? Read on to find out.
The issue starts by building more mythology – what’s your take on the increased background that the issue adds to the narrative?
Emma Houxbois: There’s going to be a lot of caveats and asterisks on all of my answers both because we’re talking about Morrison, who is very slippery, and also me, who can never look at anything through a single lens.
With the mythology aspect, my answer is a cautious yes. Pulling from Welsh mythology and the English Arthurian appropriation/derivative of it creates this really fascinating and clarifying dynamic of cycles of imperialism and colonization. That said there’s a pretty big barrier to understanding for American readers who aren’t well versed in those traditions.
That’s always the challenge with Grant Morrison, to some degree, that he pulls from such esoteric places and so frequently delivers his ideas in such equally esoteric ways that a lot of people miss out on the full scope of what he’s saying because they don’t have the frame of reference to engage on that level. That’s definitely true of Shining Knight, The Filth, and Doom Patrol to name some prominent examples.
The fundamental debate with Morrison is whether the fact that so many of his comics come with homework attached makes him a stronger or weaker writer. That’s a dynamic that Ales Kot and Tucker Stone more or less had a debate about in the TCJ last year, where Stone kind of accused Kot of posing as “the one genre writer with a library card” by pulling from so many oblique sources in their work. Kot defended their position by saying:
“Bringing a set of ideas and references into comics that aren’t there otherwise always felt like precisely one of the key reasons to even make comics in the first place — because what would be the point if I was just rehashing the same stuff others are doing? I’d feel empty and sad if I’d be doing that. And playing it safe in comics sounds like a very boring way to treat a deeply interesting practice.”
The mythology is intended to add to Alix in particular, by connecting her to Aurakles. Should this have been in her miniseries rather than leaving her most notable backstory here and in the Mister Miracle mini?
Graeme McMillan: Is more of her notable Seven Soldiers backstory in the Mister Miracle series? I’m not so sure it is; I think the mythology behind Alix and Aurakles is so sketched in and suggested that it doesn’t really exist anywhere beyond the final issue of Seven Soldiers. MM has, what, one panel where Aurakles talks about the spear?
I’m in two minds about the question here. On one hand, I think that adding her “destiny” (ie, that she’s the spear) would have seemed out of place with what Morrison and Paquette were trying to do in the Bulleteer series — it’s too grandiose and intangible in a series that was attempting, over and over again, to offer a down to Earth deconstruction of the superhero genre. (It also answers Alix’s question throughout the whole series far too early; it doesn’t matter if she decides to be a superhero or not, fate has already chosen for her.)
But, then again, it is an important part of the Bulleteer story, in theory, and so perhaps it should have been included…? I think to do so would mean that Alix’s entire series would have to be rebuilt from the ground up — which, to be honest, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
The Manhattan Guardian’s sections in the final issue are literally from the Manhattan Guardian itself, as it reports on what happened. What are the merits and drawbacks of that stylistic choice in finishing off Jake’s story?
Alex Lu: This is something I acknowledge as an opinion rather than something I would argue is theoretically unsound, but I tend to find text-based in-universe material to be a difficult swallow in comics. Whether it’s the snippets of Under the Hood in Watchmen or The Manhattan Guardian issue here, I find that these pieces tend to break my immersion in a comic rather than enhance it.
There are merits to the form, of course. On paper, it seems like an excellent way to world-build and give the reader a wider scope of how your universe functions. And in principle, to deny a creator the right to play with the form of their story is to stifle the creative development of a medium. Throughout the Guardian’s mini-series, we were regularly told that much of what Jake Jordan did was in the name of the free press and the people. To some extent, it makes a great deal of sense that we’d now get to see his story culminate through the eyes and words of the paper.
That being said, the reason why I find this storytelling method to be challenging is because it asks me to activate a different part of my brain than the one I normally use when reading comics. In comics, the primary thing your mind is doing is simulating movement. You use the juxtaposition of images and dialogue, as well as the way those elements change from panel to panel, to form the world of the story in your mind. Sections like this newspaper segment totally break this pattern and ask you suddenly process the comic as though it were prose, using your brain to build not only narrative flow, the world of the story itself. I’d argue that, in this case, this method of finishing out Jake’s story is less intimate and thus less effective than it could have been. While we get to observe most of the other soldiers take a clear and direct set of actions in the battle against the Sheeda, we spend almost all the Manhattan Guardian’s pages arguing about what he represents in conceit rather than in action.
What do you make of Ed Starguard’s editorial piece within the comic?
Alex Lu: To put it bluntly, it’s a little self-aggrandizing. The metatextual commentary being made here, of course, is that all stories—including or especially superhero stories—are ultimately stories about people. What motivates them? What are their flaws? How do they grow or fail to live up to expectations? How do their struggles reflect our own? It’s a nice sentiment, but it reflects the ideal rather than the reality of superhero storytelling. It acknowledges the human potential of heightened storytelling without exploring the fact that superhero comics often intentionally mire themselves within their own island. For every book like Supergirl: Being Super or Ms. Marvel that reaches out and touches people whether or not they know Kara Danvers or Kamala Khan, there are a dozen other books that essentially function as continuations of decades-running in-jokes. Even many of Grant Morrison’s own works do this, although his work at least often feels like a recontextualization than a retreading.
Seven Soldiers certainly adheres closely to the philosophy Starguard espouses here, though. It takes a number of different heroes and pushes them all out on deeply personal journeys. Yes, there is an overarching continuity to the world of the story and yes, there is a big war to fight at the end of the road, but we spend the vast majority of each of the soldiers’ stories exploring what makes them human more than what makes them heroic. Building that sense of connection and empathy allows the last chapter of the series to hit that much harder—and it’s ultimately what makes Seven Soldiers one of the best offerings DC’s main universe has put on the shelf.
As Zatanna and Misty arrive on the scene, Misty betrays her partner and runs off. How do you feel about the way we see their partnership in this final part of the story?
Andrea Ayres: While in our emotional hearts, I think we want to see Misty and Zatanna stick together the entire time, it would have made their characters feel stunted. Their entire arc is about finding and charting your path. For Misty, that means confronting Gloriana (no matter the outcome). For me, it feels like their partnership culminates the way it should. There’s a kind of longing we have as a reader to see Misty’s arc play out differently, and I think that’s exactly how we should feel.
I also think it’s important for Zee’s character to have cast the spell of awakening by herself. In the past when Zee has felt outwitted by those around her, she turns this around to be a condemnation about her choices and powers. In this instance she doesn’t, she is able to summon the strength required to cast the spell which puts the Seven Soldiers and the rest of the events in motion.
Klarion seems to step into the comic off the page of a fantasy novel, and his duel with Misty turns everything into a game.
Steve Foxe: Klarion’s face-off with Misty aligns neatly with his characterization throughout his titular Seven Soldiers mini-series: he’s not outright malicious or calculating, but he is puckish. Everything is sport to him because he grew up cloistered in a regressive underground society. Who can blame him for having a bit of fun? Angling his part this way also helps maintain the concept of the Seven not really meeting/interacting (even if that obviously doesn’t hold true throughout the whole issue–they just don’t knowingly work together as a seven-part harmony). Were Klarion to take a more actively antagonistic role, he’d get in line behind Gloriana for an ass-whupping.
Misty gets tricked out of her power by Klarion, and more or less vanishes from the story afterwards. Do you think we should’ve seen more from her?
Andrea Ayres: I mean, I find Misty compelling as a character so selfishly, I always want to see more of her. I think Misty’s arc makes sense. It leaves you wishing she could see another way. We get trapped in the binary so often as humans, I only have two paths. Yes or no. Good or bad. We get trapped in future thinking and stop thinking about now.
Klarion is very interested in the present, in causing chaos. This chaos is the opposite of the binary. It represents the possible charting of a different course, one that Misty couldn’t see because of her fears. This results in her returning to Zatanna’s side after the battle.
Early on Klarion says he hasn’t actually decided which side he’s on. He ultimately seems to decide “his own” (or as the time tailor calls it “a third road”) and ends up acting as betrayer. Does that… make sense?
Steve Foxe: We knew, going into Seven Soldiers, that one among the seven would end up a betrayer. That Klarion accomplishes this without overtly aligning himself with evil–or without even overly sabotaging the other six heroes–is impressive. We get to root for the little jerk and sympathize with his off-kilter worldview without worrying that we’re on the side of the baddies.
We find out that Mister Miracle exists absolutely separate from the other Soldiers, other than his rescue of Aurakles. Do you think that choice works?
Sara Century: Oh, I don’t think our guy got a fair shake here. Through a lot of my coverage, I was annoyed that Shiloh was being treated more like a chess piece than a character. That really pains me to say, because I feel like in the Kirby days he was written as a fairly stereotypical “troubled but good-hearted Kirby youth,” and I was hoping that this series would do interesting things with him.
Because there was so much imagination for the story overall and so little for Shiloh, I think he really ended up being a missed opportunity here. The fact that this mini-series was mostly redundant to the Seven Soldiers arc is a pretty depressing final note on that front. I think Shiloh deserved a more active role in the story rather than the passive one he ended up with. He’s kind of the Neo here, but without the compelling arc.
Frankenstein, to be honest, has very little to do here. What do you think about his one-page starring role in this issue?
David Brothers: It sucks, Steve! The Bride and Father Time get more space than Frankenstein does, and the space Frankenstein does have is given over entirely to furthering the aims of the mega-series as a whole. As a result, there’s nothing particularly Frankenstein-y going on here, other than him blowing a bad guy’s head off. I’m not super into the “artist aping other artists” conceit of Seven Soldiers #1, but even then, JH Williams II doesn’t do a very convincing Doug Mahnke, so there’s not a lot of fun to be found here.
Is it fair to suggest that the fourth issue of his miniseries covers a lot of the material which perhaps should have appeared here?
David Brothers: I think the vast majority of the fourth issue would’ve been better as part of this one, but I imagine that since this issue is so dense with exposition to begin with, it would’ve absolutely ruined the pacing of the book. It takes a series that began with a bang and gives it a real whimper of an ending, which is pretty disappointing. Frankenstein was one of the most interesting series going into the finale, and then for it to be pretty much a non-factor in the end…well, that’s superhero comics for ya! Wakka wakka wakka!
At the end he loses his freedom, turned into another “grundy” by Klarion. Does that play into his character arc or is it a disappointment?
David Brothers: It’s a disappointment! The character’s arc thus far was about self-determination and sacrifice. Here, he’s turned into a tool for Klarion’s benefit, and it happens in a way that doesn’t bring up any of the texture that makes Frankenstein so interesting. He didn’t intentionally succumb to save others, he wasn’t forced into bondage…it was just “Hey these things can control me! Oh no I’m being controoooooollllllleeeeeed…born on a Monday…”
Do you think this all feels fitting for Klarion, or is it that he was simply one moving cog too many and Morrison couldn’t think of a better use for the character in this final issue?
Steve Foxe: I would have a hard time accepting an argument that Morrison didn’t know how to move these pieces around the board. Seven Soldiers may not be flawless, but it’s one of the most impressively orchestrated “events” from the Big Two, and we haven’t seen anything quite like it since. Klarion isn’t the only member of the Seven whose role ends up feeling tangential to proceedings, but I think that speaks to the “butterfly flapping its wings…” approach Morrison has applied to the team. This isn’t a tightly wound Rube Goldberg machine of a superhero mission, but a series of happy accidents that saves the world while Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest are off hitting snooze on their alarm clocks. Klarion plays the role of the self-interested disrupter, which is what we saw him do time and again in his own series.
I, Spyder is the secret weapon of the time tailors, and he shows his true colours by shooting the Queen and leaving her in the street, ready for her final fate.
Chloe Maveal: I was never a huge fan of I, Spyder as a character so maybe my opinion is a bit bias, but I think having him be the one to shoot the Queen was a move that added the spotlight that the character needed after a heavily-bolstered but ultimately flat arc. It gave him a purpose that he solely needed.
However, I think the choice to use him instead of The Whip for that purpose goes back to my piece in Issue #0 about Morrison’s struggle with the concept (during this period of his career, at least) that women can hold a bigger purpose.
Ystin spends the issue in a swordfight with Glorianna, but ultimately acts as distraction whilst I, Spyder kills her. To your mind, is that a disappointment?
Emma Houxbois: No, I’m not disappointed that Ystin didn’t take Glorianna down herself. Expecting a big, classic good versus evil fight at the end of any Grant Morrison comic is a losing proposition. It’s about what the story reveals to us, not who “wins” and “loses,” which I think Shining Knight really emphasizes in #4 between Don Vincenzo with his tommy guns going out in what he thinks is a blaze of glory and Ystin feeling no triumph or satisfaction out of killing Galahad. Shining Knight’s lasting value is what the conflict tells us about gender as a social construct and the dynamics of colonization.
That’s the kind of thing that I think has so much more value than worrying about whether Ystin got this or that cathartic moment. I also just think that the correct emphasis was on Galahad. That’s where the real pathos and drama was. Galahad was her hero, the example she wanted to follow. Being forced into conflict with him and being forced to kill him had so much more dramatic value than shifting that emphasis to a struggle between Ystin and Glorianna. I think Misty is a very interesting foil for Ystin in that sense, that their conflict was so much more direct.
Zatanna realises what’s going on and summons the infamous spell to assemble the seven soldiers.
Andrea Ayres: She’s only able to be the hero, to deal with the pressure because of what she has gone through in the past. Her getting closure with her father in the previous issue (Zatanna #4) allows her to summon her full strength.
When Zatanna says “Let’s do this, you and me together.” It’s not really clear who she is talking to. Is she talking to us, her father, the Time Lords? Is she talking to herself? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that Zee is embracing the fact that she isn’t alone and never has been. She has been lonely. She has been self-punishing and self-hating, for sure. Depression, anxiety, grief… those big feelings we tend to be fearful of, they can make us want to isolate ourselves. Sometimes so much so that we can’t see all the help that is available to us, should we only reach out and grasp it. I just want to mention that this issue never ceases to blow my absolute mind. The art of J.H.Williams III in SSoV #1 is legendary.
Glorianna is killed when Alix crashes a car into her, after being distracted by Sally Sonic. What do you make of Sally? She’s a villain to the point of bizarre self-sacrifice here.
Graeme McMillan: At least that’s consistent with her portrayal in the Bulleteer series. There’s an in-story reasoning for this, if nothing else: She’s been exposed to “Doctor Hyde’s Evil Serum,” and is for all intents and purposes acting out a caricature of how an evil villain is supposed to act. For that matter, if we buy into the idea that Alix is simply fulfilling destiny in this issue, then surely Sally is, too? Without Sally’s actions, then Alix wouldn’t have lost control of the car, and she wouldn’t have become “the spear.”
Sally Sonic is a problem in Seven Soldiers as a whole, and, to be honest, a character I wish someone would revive and spend some time with. I’d want to see what happens if someone wanted to try and unpick all the misogyny and bullshit she’s buried under in here and actually deal with what is genuinely one of the most traumatized characters in the DCU. (It’d never happen, of course.)
And Alix’s final role is revealed to be “the spear” – as a descendent of Aurakles, when her car crashes she physically flies goes straight through the Queen and kills her. What do you think that says about her character?
Graeme McMillan: Nothing good, sadly. It underscores that Alix has no free will, and turns her unfortunate literal role in the miniseries into metaphor: She is a weapon, a tool, to be used by others. Considering that her mini ended, in theory, with Alex finally choosing to make a stand and make decisions for herself, that her very next appearance is, essentially, “Ha ha, she’s fulfilling fate which is what she was meant to do all along” feels oddly cruel. It’s Morrison as Lucy snatching away the football. What does all of this say about Alix’s character? That she’s never going to escape the expectations of other people. That she’s ultimately powerless. It’s really depressing, honestly.
Glorianna, in death, emerged as the “true” enemy here rather than the other characters – Melmoth, for example – who could have picked up that role. What’s your take on the character, ultimately?
Emma Houxbois: My view of Glorianna is shaped by Zatanna much more than Shining Knight, because it was a lot more understandable to me when the event was first coming out. In Zatanna, Glorianna is the evil queen from Snow White, Misty is Snow White, and Nebuloh is the Huntsman. Like I kind of alluded to earlier, that dynamic between Glorianna and Misty alleviated the pressure of there having to be a direct resolution between Glorianna and Ystin. So more broadly, Glorianna works like Prince Charming in Fables: the prince for Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty were all the same guy. She’s a fantastic multipurpose foil for the female soldiers.
I think it’s interesting and really valuable to have this villain who embodies the collective patriarchal fears about women’s sexuality and power in the context of a set of series that features female protagonists with such radically different performances and understandings of gender. I mean sure, we could have a male villain to emphasize the direct, explicit notion of patriarchy’s relationship to imperialism. But I think it’s so much more interesting to say “the patriarchal imaginary” is the enemy instead of “the patriarchy is the enemy.” The Geiger influence in Bianchi’s art really reinforces the idea of Glorianna as a nightmare of what women are afraid they’re seen as and men hold over them.
You can go back and forth on that, the old chestnut of is this a portrait of misogyny or a misogynist portrait, but I really do believe that the way Ystin, Zatanna, and Alix grapple with how their gender shapes their worlds and their perspectives on power vindicates my view of Glorianna.
How do you feel about the Sheeda overall? We don’t see them much in the #0 issue, but they were a real threat. Do you think they live up to the series?
Chloe Maveal: AHA! Here’s me being positive about this series! It finally happened! I actually really like the concept of The Sheeda for one sole purpose: Morrison set it up beautifully for these antagonists to be a one-off. Because of their way of existing in the story, it’s left to question whether they are able to return in their known form to the continuity of the DC Universe –and that’s a-okay because…well, why not have them be the brief villain?
It’s always somewhat refreshing in comics to see villains in particular fill a niche (but important) role only to not be heard from again. We see the same villains so many times that having antagonists that are so far out there in terms of concept and survival in fictional existence is something fresh and unexpected. Plus, realistically, even though they fall a bit flat without the use of the Time Tailors (see below, oof.) the “what if”-ness that the story leaves on of whether they could exist in continuity in their present form is delightfully vague.
Jake ends up as the hero on the streets, riding an old police horse, saving the day, and getting the girl. How does that follow up on the exploration of superheroism as a male power fantasy for Jake that we’ve seen before?
Alex Lu: This is one of those instances where I think reach overextended grasp. I certainly agree that this final chapter of Seven Soldiers makes an argument to sell Jake as an archetypal hero. As I’ll get to in a more detailed manner momentarily, the ultimate message of the Guardian’s storyline, as told by its creators, is that anyone can be a superhero: the Guardian is simply a member of the public brave enough to take the world’s narrative into his own hands. It’s an idealistic argument that I’m sympathetic towards, but I do think it largely ignores the consequences that we saw more thoroughly explored throughout the Guardian’s miniseries.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that this flattening of the Guardian’s story is intentional. The media writ large, and especially a tabloid like the Manhattan Guardian, has a tendency to distill news into a narrative rather than a series of facts. If the goal of the Manhattan Guardian’s newspaper pages is to sell Jake Jordan as an inspiration to the people—someone for them to admire and emulate the positive qualities of—sure, I’d say it was a success. The final page with Jake, where we get to see him, mostly outside the context of the paper, get his happily ever after, further reinforces this interpretation by giving his gritty adventures a fairy tale ending. We, the readers, still know the truth of Jake’s narrative, though.
There’s always an “after” that follows “the end” of a story.
What do you think of the treatment of Shilo in this issue? He seems to be about to achieve some sort of satisfaction… but ends up being shot in the head fairly abruptly.
Sara Century: It’s just the worst. He’s shot in the head on panel, dies, and nobody cares or is even affected. His tombstone is shown alone and there are no mourners. It has the tagline “Free At Last” but free from what? Being alive? It doesn’t make any sense and the level of violence pitted against Shiloh continues to be pretty difficult to reconcile. It’s specific, it’s unnecessarily emotionally difficult, it brutalizes one of the very few Black male characters regularly appearing in DC comics during this brief window of time, and it comes without any real catharsis for Shiloh.
His arc is that he rapidly becomes very stoked to be used as a tool to resolve the plot. And for what? There were a lot of other ways this story could have ended. Why couldn’t Shiloh have just become a powerful and important character? They didn’t know what else to do with him, so they just shoot him. It didn’t just cheapen Shiloh’s arc, it was the lowest-commitment route to fulfilling the series’ promise of “one soldier will die!”
You mentioned the Time Tailors before, who then literally sew up the final few pages of the story?
Chloe Maveal: I’m probably going to catch flack for this…but I sort of saw them as a cop-out. I say that because they act as a sort of ultimate story-fixer, don’t they? If there’s something that doesn’t seem to line up quite right when reading through the issue – time tailors probably fucked with it. Don’t get me wrong– from a storytelling perspective it’s absolutely brilliant because they act as a save; but from the perspective of a writing critic? It mostly just seems like a lazy writer’s concept and unwillingness to expand.
Not to mention their existence kiiiiind of puts a damper on the reappearance of many of the characters that show up in Infinite Crisis. Basically, it felt like Morrison set up the ultimate catch-all but it, in itself, had holes in it.
Sara, what do you make of the final two pages of this issue?
Sara Century: It’s around the time I just kind of check out for real. I don’t think most of this issue was necessary, and there were way too many experimental tangents that just complicate the many plot-holes. For me the last two pages just kind of highlight Morrison’s weird inability to coherently explain wtf is happening in this story. Seven Soldiers is fun overall, but there are parts of it that grate on me. It becomes obvious here because even attempting to resolve this story just kind of descends into a convoluted mess.
After four issues with your character, what do you think overall about this five-part story you’ve followed them through now?
Emma Houxbois: I think it’s grown a lot in my estimation since I first read it. Zatanna was the first Morrison comic I ever read, so I really just glanced off the surface of Shining Knight when it first came out. I definitely enjoyed the idea of Ystin turning out to be a girl and how her story in general played out, but it was far down my ranking at the time and near the top of it now that I have the context for it that I do.
Alex Lu: The first time I read The Manhattan Guardian chapters of Seven Soldiers, I didn’t think much of them. Honestly, I remembered the Subway Pirates better than I remembered Jake Jordan himself. Reading this story again though, years after my first time, I found myself far more intrigued by Jake than I did before. While I’m not sure that the creative team ultimately succeeds in exploring all the themes they touch upon throughout Jake’s story, it does feel like there was an earnest effort made to examine the dynamics of power in society and the role that power plays in Jake’s life.
The first half of Jake’s story is an examination of class. We see a black man, down on his luck, entrusted with authority by a rich white man who almost immediately sends him to battle homeless pirates in the bowels of New York City. We see how power lost and then regained transforms and reinvigorates Jake, but also creates tension in his relationship with his partner, Carla. We see that tension further explored in the second half of Jake’s story, where a “battle of the sexes” asks us to examine how the extent to which we fit societal gender roles can both imbue us with power and toxicity. I do wish that the ending to Jake’s story acknowledged the murkiness of his narrative rather than casting him as a knight and Carla as a damsel in distress, but that leads to the last question, I suppose!
Andrea Ayres: I mean what is there to say! I love Zee’s arc throughout this story. I feel like it’s so rare to get to spend time with a character who is seeking closure. Zatanna is trying to understand and grasp with her past choices. She’s trying to understand her relationship to her father and the JLA, and getting the opportunity to dive into her mental wellbeing as a reader, was (and remains) an honest to goodness joy. I can’t imagine it happening any differently, and that’s about the highest praise I can give.
Steve Foxe: For Klarion, more so than the other six Soldiers, his mini-series helps contextualize his actions in Seven Soldiers #1. If one were to take the #1 label literally and read this concluding issue first, Klarion would come across much the way he has throughout his other DCU appearances: the Loki-like spoiler who causes trouble for the heroes. Meanwhile, every other member of the Seven, if you met them for the first time in Seven Soldiers #1, would still feel like a hero, even if you didn’t know the full extent of their motivations. What Klarion accomplishes, then, is humanize the Witch Boy, and help explain why he is the dastardly way he is. The four issues of Klarion could easily have led to more adventures for the little puritan Witch Boy who could, but they also satisfyingly flesh out the wrench thrown into the cog of Seven Soldiers #1.
Sara Century: It was surprisingly agonizing for me! I feel like Shiloh could have been so much more interesting. Especially if we really saw that Kirby kid, all grown up. This story treated him like he had no motivation or character outside of taking risks. I really wish they had taken better care of him on all fronts. The entire second issue read like a time filler, and a lot of the New Gods stuff was baffling and appeared sans context. It was nice to see Shiloh’s puzzle-solving skills at play, but we really never got to know him very well. It’s a true bummer because there was tons of space to do that in his loosely-plotted mini. Instead, we just got a lot of unexplained New Gods stuff that required a bunch of page-flipping just to make sure I was catching all the references, which we have to wait for Final Crisis to resolve.
Graeme McMillan: Alix’s story, honestly, feels like a curiously ugly joke to me upon re-reading. It’s a story about how she never gets to take control of her own story, and is utterly beholden to choices and decisions made by others, whether or not she knows about them. She gets, in passing, closure in Seven Soldiers #1 — “you’re free,” the cop tells her, and it’s literal on two levels; not just because she’s not getting charged for the accident, but also because she’s fulfilled her destiny so the rest of her life is, in theory, up to her — but it’s an afterthought that doesn’t really land, and feels lost in the noise of everything else. It’s not enough to wash away the bad taste of pulling the rug out from under Alix’s feet after her failed attempt at agency in the end of The Bulleteer #4.
David Brothers: I think it was a textbook example of how to make a new idea work in an old context. Frankenstein isn’t a new concept, but this take is, and it instantly captured my heart and mind. I was invested in his arc, his setting, and his motivations, not to mention the absolutely killer art never letting up. I think it’s well worth the ride, even though the letdown at the end is definitely a bit disappointing.
Do you think this issue closes the book on your Soldier, or would you have liked to have seen more from them afterwards?
Emma Houxbois: I don’t really think I’ve ever put any thought into seeing more of this version of Ystin until now. Around when SSOV first came out I was in an online superhero roleplaying group where someone played Ystin as trans, so the Demon Knights iteration was always the next logical step to me. I think we’ve really progressed into a great place in comics where people can actually consistently improve upon Morrison concepts, even if they’re as fleeting as Demon Knights was.
But looking at it now, I think there was a missed opportunity to put Ystin into St. Hadrian’s as a student either in Batman Inc or Grayson. Or Gotham Academy. Ystin would have been a great role model for Maps.
Alex Lu: In my opinion, Jake’s happy ending does not feel definitive, despite how it is portrayed. In the limited amount of time we spend with him and Carla in this issue, Carla still spends most of the story trying to get away from Jake and the chaos he constantly finds himself in. Carla literally tells her mom that they don’t live in “some fairytale.” Being a hero has consequences, and in the cold light of day, Jake is going to have to confront that reality.
In the post-Ferguson, post-2016 election, and post-“Me Too” era, the Manhattan Guardian’s story feels more relevant than ever. It’s an examination of how our world tends to idealize men’s most violent impulses—often in service of interests that are not even their own. It’s also an argument about how the world vilifies those who seek to craft an alternative structure for conflict resolution and those who want to change the societal roles that we associate with power. It’s a story that still needs to be told.
Andrea Ayres: I feel like it’s much better to leave a character wishing we could spend more time with them than it is to grow weary of them. I think we leave this version Zatanna exactly where we’re supposed to.
Steve Foxe: I’ll be shocked if anyone answers in the negative here. Like The Multiversity after it, Seven Soldiers begged for much more follow-up than DC ever gave it. Klarion faired better than some, as Morrison and Frazer Irving’s take certainly influenced the Klarion we saw after, but never with as much depth as was hinted at here (and the New 52 version was a substantial downgrade, which never needs to be mentioned again). We’ll always have these four issues and closing chapter, at least!
Sara Century: I was really unsatisfied with this ending! I would love to see a better story for Shiloh than what he’s gotten so far. I feel like he’s been heavily stereotyped and that he was brought back into continuity here without enough consideration of how important his role really could have been. If you’re going to bring a character with a strongly stereotypical background back into continuity to give him a better story, that’s great. Bringing him back to repeatedly physically destroy him while giving his character development very little thought is less great. His story here wasn’t even really about him, so I definitely think he deserved better.
Graeme McMillan: I did see more from Alix after; she shows up in 52, and is a member of the failed Justice League of America team, which is… another cruelty to be pushed onto the character that doesn’t make any sense. (She had, after all, decided not to be a superhero at the end of her own series, so why would she join the JLA?) As much as I like 52 overall, I wish Alix hadn’t shown up there, or at least, hadn’t shown up in that particular role. The “you’re free” line should have been the end of her story. Let her rest and stop being tortured by Grant Morrison after that.
David Brothers: I’m in a weird space in my life where I don’t necessarily want more of things I like, which sounds absurd at first glance, but there’s a beauty in absorbing something and knowing that’s it, you know? I don’t have to chase down the next thing and hope that it’s not only as good as the first thing, but makes me feel the way the first thing felt…so in that sense, I don’t think I need more. I think the book is closed. But I understand that DC eventually looped back to this character years later and started putting him in books again, which was absolutely the right decision for them to make. From a business standpoint, the smartest thing to do when you have a take on a character that’s this strong is to keep pushing it until the market doesn’t want it any more.
That’s my wishy-washy way of saying no, I don’t think I would want more, but I’m glad that DC was smart enough to bring more out for people who do.
Seven Soldiers of Victory #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: J. H. Williams III
Colourist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein