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November 04, 2006


nicholas danger

I was waiting for you to get around to posting a proper review of this issue, and I wasn't disappointed. Some of your conclusions I'd come to myself, some I'd read on barbelith and elsewhere, but excellent analyzation of what I feel is one of the most ambitious projects Morrison's attempted to date.

A couple more specific things:
I suspected Hannah Control was a robot as soon as I finished Guardian #3, so the confirmation of my suspicion was nice.

I thought the page of Zatanna "awakening the universe" was nice, if too much of an echo to her own mini, but what do you make of the fact that the response to her was not "Ready" spelled backwards ("ydaer"), like her and Misty's spells, but that it was actually written mirror-image style (actually backwards)? Are we to take this as the reader/universe responding to Zatanna?

But anyway, nice review/wrap-up.


Of course I've been waiting eagerly to see your take on this, and I am not disappointed. But I think we diverge on two points.

I really don't see Aurakles as any sort of reference to Alan Moore. There are more than a few direct allusions to Morrison's bete noire scattered through Zatanna, yes...but that doesn't mean every longhaired bearded madman is some kind of dig or veiled reference. His role as "Earth's first superhero" makes this additionally suspect, as Morrison would not lightly credit Moore with being "first" at anything.

Aurakles (or Oracle as he was previously known) comes straight out of Justice League of America issues #100-102 -- i.e., the revival of the original Seven Soldiers of Victory written by Len Wein, to whom Morrison has said the whole project is dedicated. IMHO what Aurakles represents here is the original sense of heroism, the morality and ethos of superheroes Morrison feels was epitomized by Wein's stories, and which has its origin in the works of Kirby among others. Perhaps Morrison is saying that noble conception of the hero has been bound and broken by darkness and deconstruction, and now it's time to set that idea free.

My second quibble (and this may just be me being dense) is that I think you overstate the importance of Darkseid in this story. GM clearly has something new in mind for the Fourth World characters and this series helps lay the groundwork for whatever that is...but the whole New Gods aspect of this story is just one of many concurrent threads, not necessarily more important than several others. But I'll definitely have to give this more thought...


Nicholas: "Are we to take this as the reader/universe responding to Zatanna?"

I think so.

RAB: Who says Aurakles can only mean one thing? In his original form he's the first superhero, but the aged, broken, bearded figure we see in Mister Miracle #4 has become a problematic patriarch who offers freedom through destruction and sends Shilo into the degraded world of modern superhero comics. Aurakles is an in-text equivalent to Moore, the figure who most combines the roles of benevolent forerunner and bad dad. (And his resemblance to Urizen evokes Moore through Moore's very public fealty to William Blake.)

((Just to tie Blake further into the book's Kirby-inspired mythology... are you reading this, Matt Rossi?... to what group or entity does Urizen belong? The Eternals!))

"...that doesn't mean every longhaired bearded madman is some kind of dig or veiled reference."

Does this mean you don't want to hear my take on No-Beard vs. All-Beard, then?

Or the implications of the Unknown Man shaving Zor? :)

As for Darkseid, I don't think I'm overstating his importance at all. Seven Soldiers #1 frames the entire project in the mythology of the New Gods and gives Dark Side the last word (if not the last image). In fact, the only way Morrison ties in Mister Miracle is to imply that its cosmic struggles have undergirded the rest of the plot, like the divine avatars heavily disgused in material form.


Nice overview. I wonder, though, if Alan Moore is the only good/bad father figure/creator that Morrison uses in this project. Kirby is the "father" of 3 of the 7 soldiers (Guardian, Mister Miracle, and Klarion), and my initial reading of Guardian had me putting Ed Stargard into the role of Jack Kirby - a child who grew older but never grew up, who watched his creations and friends get perverted by other creators (Zor) and his former business partners (I'm fairly certain that Stratos, the bodyguard for Silencio, was one of the "elemental golems" that Baby Brain created as crimefighters) taking them away from the heroic ideal he set out for them.

And the way that Baby Brain is drawn in the scene where he "tells" Zor that he knew Zor would be beaten makes him look very much like one of the Unknown Men. And, thinking about it, Stargard fits the role of an Unknown Man fairly well - what he does for Jake is almost exactly what the Unknown Men do for Dalt - take a man who has it in him to be a hero and "stitch up a costume" to make his outside fit his inner hero. And its fitting that a Kirby analogue would be one of the secret architects of the universe.

I think that somehow Darkseid fits into the "bad dad" side of the equation as well, though I can't yet put those feelings into words (maybe after another read-through of the series). My gut may just be reading too much into the association of Darkseid and Kirby and wanting to map the two of them together, instead of any rational symbolism purposefully planted between them.

Alex Freed

I've been looking forward to your take on this issue, Marc (and Jog's, as well--still waiting for that one!). There's much to say, but one specific point I'd like to flag regards Alix's concluding moments:

Although I would've liked to have seen more time devoted to Alix, too (Bulleteer was one of my favorite series, next to Shining Knight), this ending worked for me. Just like in Bulleteer #3, Alix "wins" because she forsakes violent superheroics in favor of compassion. Her choices are vindicated here--it was the right choice to take Sally to the hospital not just on a personal level, but also on a cosmic level.

(Someone else may have mentioned this first--it might even have been you, Marc--but does Alix remind anyone else of Audrey Murray from The Invisibles? King Mob's final words to her could apply equally well to the Bulleteer, I think.)


I think you're absolutely right about Kirby, Jer, and I'd made the same guess about Stratos--wonder what happened to the other two golems? Interesting that while Moore is rebuked for forcing a jaded, narrow vision of maturity on superheroes (nor is he the only one--Miller is visually cited and then dispatched in Seven Soldiers #0), Kirby is gently chided through the figure of Baby Brain for keeping them in arrested immaturity. Neither approach is sufficient on its own and Morrison is looking for that third road.


Miller is visually cited and then dispatched in Seven Soldiers #0

Really? Where? I don't think I know what Frank Miller looks like, so I wouldn't recognize that anyone in particular was supposed to be him.


Sorry, that was a shorthand for Miller's style, which appears in the scene where the Whip licks her wounds and calls up the Vigilante. Even the captions begin as terse Millerisms, until Shelly admits "I've taken this whole morally ambiguous urban vigilante thing about as far as I can" and starts gushing about cosmic funerals and rogue gods.


Is the crossword telling us that the real action, the real war has been happening on this remote plane all along?

I don't think so. To me, Dark Side throughout the Seven Soldiers project has been the personification of "realism" in comics - a point driven in my Morrison's reimagining of the New Gods, one of Kirby's wildest and most imaginative ideas, as street-level thugs, pimps, and hos. He spends the entire Mr. Miracle series trying to destroy Shilo Norman, avatar of the DC Universe. (Don't believe Shilo-as-DC? Every other character in the miniseries belittles him - from Jonelle's "All this good and evil, genesis and apocalypse stuff... it's not cool," to Dezard's constant entreaties to treat everything as metaphor. Interestingly enough, once you settle on this interpretation, Bedlam-as-Marvel naturally leaps to the forefront and issue 3 reads very differently.) Shilo only escapes after suffering through endless "realistic" stories - among them Infinite Crisis - and pleading with the comic book itself to let him be escapist fantasy: "...How about you and me escape together?"

Dark Side in 7S #1 is by working with the Sheeda, who have always represented the comic creators/industry. (Never creating, but merely harvesting the gods, Arthurian myths, and original superhero tales to sustain their existence.) This hackish sort of business model is ripe for realistic stories - once the Sheeda have destroyed everything that makes comics great, Dark Side can "hunt the living gods themselves through the ruins". To this end he's chained up the Alan Moore analogue, essentially the father of realistic comics, and profits from the outside money "realism brings in - mainly Hollywood ("You'd be surprised how many curious rich folks like you stop by for an evening's entertainment.)

Dark Side's last comment is making the argument that realism is inevitable, and will always win out, a point proven wrong on the very next page, when Shilo does the least realistic thing possible, and comes back from the dead.


I don't buy into all the points of this industry allegory, Craig; for example, I don't think Bedlam, "A plastic man who smoothes away all the rough edges for maximum appeal," could correspond to Marvel, which was known for adding rough edges to humanize its characters. He's a commercialized copy of Shilo, not the radical departure from DC formula that built Marvel. But that isn't the main reason I have to differ.

Metacommentary runs throughout the Mister Miracle plot, but to reduce it all to industry allegory strips Seven Soldiers of some of its most emotionally moving scenes and turns the project into just another comic about comics, not so different from the Infinite Crisis it criticizes (which also wrings its hands about gritty realism while gleefully upping the body count). It has the metacommentary, sure; but thank god it has something else.

When Shilo turns to the reader at the end of MM #4 and says "How about you and me escape together?" he's talking to all of us--his tormentors, his friends, you, me--telling us that he embodies something fundamental in us, a universal desire to be free that we can realize if we forgive our enemies and ourselves. I'd rather read that comic than one that stops at the level of allegory and has Shilo talking to nothing more than the borders of his own comic book. I think your reading of the industry allegory is more right than not, but Seven Soldiers has been at its best when it goes beyond the allegorical to express other truths through other kinds of meaning.

Dezard alludes to these more universal, embodied, tropological meanings when he tells Shilo, "Demons and angels are fighting within us. Their titanic campaigns are fought over and over in the churning mud of human hearts and minds." That isn't so different from Shelly Gaynor's final column--"the themes may seem unfamiliar but trust me, those are human stories writ large, dressed in capes and riding magic carpets to other universes"--a viewpoint Morrison endorses. Both Dezard and Shelly say that the cosmic battles of superhero comics are most significant as dramatizations or extrapolations of our own warring emotions and desires. Dezard parts company only in his misuse of this insight, telling Shilo to ignore the cosmic manifestations in a world where they're real (but handing us a pretty good strategy for decoding them in our world). The point is still the human battles, not the industry ones.

Jones, one of the Jones boys

Nice review, like all your other ones for the series.

Did you think it an odd storytelling move to announce on page *2* that Gloriana's "plans of conquest lie in ruins but she thinks victory's still assured"? Of course her defeat is a foregone conclusion, outside the narrative, (it's the last issue, after all). But that caption robbed the issue of a lot of narrative momentum.

And, like you, I too found the Mister Miracle beats unsatisfying, a wholesale rehash of #4 of his own series. Really, does he do *anything* here that he didn't already do there? Ah well, even Homer nods.

Jones, one of the Jones boys

Speaking of Morrison v. Moore, the series got me thinking that a good comparative framework is Nietzsche's concept of Dionysian v. Apollonian style. Moore, of course, is the stately Apollonian formalist, and Morrison the wild Dionysian enthusiast.

This helps illuminate the series' greatest "failure", namely that it doesn't cohere, at various levels (at least, not without a tremendous amount of fancy hermeneutic reconstruction from the charitable reader). Had Moore written it, all the structural "i"s would have been dotted and the "t"s crossed, as with his smaller-scale but similarly Altmanesque "Top Ten". But Morrison seems to consider such formal perfection the bugbear of small minds. And so instead we get a mad rush of ideas which don't all fit together well but is more viscerally powerful.

(Am I the only one who thinks "Lost Girls" would have been better had Morrison written it? It certainly would have been a lot more fun!)

No, wait. An even better comparative framework is Bert and Ernie, with the "super-hero" archetype as the rubber duckie...

Derek B. Haas

The I, Spyder bits said to me that Mr. Miracle was never one of the seven soldiers--that Spyder was, all along, and that Mr. Miracle was just an intimate participant in the underlying mythology of the project, from the New Gods and the creation of heroes, to the basic themes of slipping the traps of binary thinking, stunted/forced/restrained growth, etc.


First of all, thanks to everybody for the kind words and the discussion.

--Interesting theory, Derek, and it fits with Shilo's role as a glossary on the action rather than a participant in it.

--Alex, I thought the ending was right for Alix as well--I just wish we'd seen more of it. The moment Alix decides to take Sally to the hospital she becomes a mature, compassionate hero (whether she sees herself that way or not) and she saves the world. But we never see that decision, a huge oversight.

--Jones, I think the caption on page 2 was referring to the destruction of Gloriana's fleet in the last issue of Frankenstein. Of course, that just highlights the problem that maybe Gloriana's fleet should have been destroyed in the final issue. It would've given Frankenstein something to do.

And I have to ask... what do you have against Zizek? :)

Jones, one of the Jones boys

One word: Lacan.

Besides, my real name @yahoo was already taken. Who knew there were so many other people called ihateheidegger?

Mark Parsons

Marc, this piece is far & away the best piece of SSoV analysis I've yet seen.

***Please, please, PLEASE try & pitch a SSoV companion book that you can edit & write! Something like Jess Nevins' LoEG books with annotations, analysis and INTERVIEWS!

Dude, it could easily become a reality and as far as I can see, you are just fantastically qualified. I look FWD to checking out the rest of the blog. Glad I found your site!

Charles Hatfield

Criminy, I guess I'm going to HAVE to get all of 7S and read it after all.

I don't know, but the various comments here give the impression of an almost-impossible richness, imperfectly but interestingly "wrapped up" in grand-standing finale.

Marc, you and I haven't talked about this, but what's your take on Klock's HOW TO READ SUPERHERO COMICS AND WHY? The Bloomian notions of misprision/anxiety of influence that dominate Klock's readings seem hospitable to your readings of Morrison v. Moore.

Derek B. Haas

On the Mr. Miracle front, someone on Comics Should Be Good points-out that the Len Wein Justice League of America story that Morrison has said inspired this featured as a significant plot point that Wing, the "eighth soldier", sacrificing himself.

Charles Hatfield

Marc, read and enjoyed your piece on ARKHAM ASYLUM in the latest International Journal of Comic Art (8.2), just received today. I see you fencing a bit with Klock there, though his take on AA is really tangential to his.

Charles Hatfield

Argh, I meant to say that Klock's take on AA seems tangential to YOURS. Sorry, synapse misfire.


As mine is to his. I generally don't like the elaborate schematics of Bloomian criticism (or the Warren Ellis comics that Klock exalts through those schematics), but you have to use the best tools for the job and Seven Soldiers practically demands a Bloomian reading. (I should also add that I like many of Klock's local readings of individual comics, even if I'm less interested in his larger argument about comics as metacommentary, which I find too claustrophobic.)

I'm still waiting for the latest IJOCA myself--normally the fall issue debut is one of the highlights of ICAF. What else looks good in it?

Charles Hatfield

There's also an article re: Morrison's determined blurring of the "real" and the fictive, or, rather, his questioning of those very categories. Pretty interesting; unfortch, I don't have it on hand at the moment and cannot recall the author's name.

Other intriguing features include transcripts by Mike Rhode of the two Pekar panels at last year's SPX, a long interview between Marjane Satrapi and Christian Hill, a revised version of Jose Alaniz's essay on "Lost Girls," and, IIRC, a few other essays that started life at ICAF. An essay on humor by Fang Cheng is included, as is Alaniz's review of Ana Merino's book on Spanish comics. Not quite as huge as the last IJOCA, but still a bounty of interesting and useful work.

Mikel Midnight

I can't believe you missed the obvious reference in Misty's revealed history: she's Snow White! Another group of Seven that Morrison is just playing with.

You also missed the point of Zatanna's spell. The spell was, in fact, the whole point of the entire series.

Problem: we had seven disparate heroes, the requisite number to defeat the Sheeda, but they are nonoperative as a team. She could possibly have gathered seven random heroes together to attack the Sheeda, but she was no strategist and could potentially have been pulling people from where they were needed at the moment.

In what sense were the seven disparate heroes linked together? Only in one sense: they were published by DC Comics as a set of interlinked miniseries under the rubric 'Seven Soldiers.'

Zatanna had a demon who was MADE OF WORDS. What she used it to do, was to cause the DC universe to become aware of itself as a comic book universe, and thus to conceptually link together herself and the rest so that they could fulfill the prophecy.

It was the culmination of her metafictional awareness as detailed in her own miniseries, and the most fantastic piece of metafiction I have seen in any comic.


I can't believe you missed the obvious reference in Misty's revealed history: she's Snow White!

That was pretty clear since Zatanna #3.

You also missed the point of Zatanna's spell. The spell was, in fact, the whole point of the entire series.

Actually, I think we noticed the same things about Zatanna's spell and Gwydion's metamorphosis into the DC universe (please see p. 25), I just don't rate them as highly as you do. As I said to Craig, I would rather the whole point of Seven Soldiers be something more than mere metafiction, and I'm afraid this isn't even the most fantastic piece of metafiction in Morrison's own catalogue. Buddy Baker's self-awareness had the virtue of dramatizing something outside itself, the dilemma of being a human at the mercy of capricious, unknowable gods; the spell was little more than a plot device and a wink at the reader so overt it hardly needs explication. But at least it came in cool 3-D colors. I need to find me a pair of glasses...

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