Bulleteer #4, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette.
The final issue of Bulleteer is more about Sally Sonic than Alix Harrower, although as Sally's unfortunate life represents a possible fate for Alix the flashbacks never seem out of place.
This late in the game any regular Seven Soldiers reader can spot the recurrent themes in Sally's story: the stunted aging, the importance of change and mortality, the forces that conspire to pervert innocent heroes, and the very blunt critique/participation in superhero comics' fetishization of women that has been this book's bread and butter. I am a little surprised that Morrison would resort to such a hokey excuse for Sally's corruption ("Doctor Hyde's Evil Serum") when he'd already done such a great job of taking Sally to the precipice of that corruption quite naturally, through her own naïveté. But he's done this before, with the Vigilante's lycanthropy or, to switch projects, with the paranoia-inducing alien chemicals in All-Star Superman. All of these stories present plausible psychological motivations for some pretty unsavory behavior and then veer off into the transparently ridiculous shelter of genre devices.
It smacks of the same refusal to grow up that characterizes so many of the failed heroes in Seven Soldiers--if you assume that psychological realism is the only way to tell mature stories, which Morrison plainly does not. That's the way favored by Zor and the Sheeda, who both force the heroes they encounter to "grow up" into the venality of what passes for realism in most comics. It's the wrong kind of change, as bad or worse than stasis, and the two feed off one another. Morrison's alternative seems to be heroes who can grow into real emotional maturity, and who can say something valid about our lives without giving up even the zaniest genre trappings, but attributing their behavior to Mort Weisinger plot devices like the Evil Serum feels like an unpleasant atavism.
(I'm also surprised that Morrison didn't explain Sally's behavior through the Sheeda, who have become more naturalized through steady exposure. Although perhaps he does--there's one panel near the end where Sally seems to scratch the back of her neck, right where they ride, as she talks about madness and change...)
Alix goes through a few changes herself in this issue; happily, no Evil Serum is in sight (although Sally does make the offer). Last issue Alix inadvertently saved herself through her own empathy, but this time she can only triumph by shutting out her archnemesis, crying "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOUR +%@&'N SOB STORY IS!" just before she delivers the coup de grace. This hardening and Sally's negative example of the fate awaiting attractive female superheroes--the culmination of four issues that bombard Alix with dead, failed, or twisted heroes--prompt Alix to turn a deaf ear to the Vigilante's pleas for help. Morrison dumps the information about her role in the Seven Soldiers storyline a little too easily, but Alix's renunciation of her mission does great things for future stories, cementing her even further as a classic Marvel-style reluctant hero and establishing a challenge for the finale that ties right into one of Morrison's recurring themes. Somebody has to pull Alix out of her jaded, negative attitude towards superheroes and rekindle her compassion or we're all finished. Come to think of it, if the Evil Serum is, like the Guilt monster or the Omega Sanction, just a stand-in for the forces that strip us of our idealism and grind us down, then maybe Alix caught a whiff after all.
This comic isn't the tour de force of issue #3, and the pieces of the grand puzzle aren't delivered as elegantly (and hence aren't as thrilling, even though by all rights they should be moreso) as those in #2. Still, it's a nice little finish for a series that surprised me by finding more emotional depth in its arch premise and its unabashedly cheesecake art than I would have thought possible. This was right up there with Zatanna and Klarion as the best Seven Soldiers has had to offer.