It goes without saying that Grant Morrison is one of the greatest comic book writers of all time. Its empirically fact. Seven Soldiers is one of the hallmarks of that meteoric career. It also showcases his admiration of Jack Kirby’s body of work, featuring several of the master’s characters. Admittedly, it took me many years to read this series. My best friend has been hounding me to read it since it came out in 2005/2006. I held off, because I knew it was going to be good and I needed to be in the right place to take it all in and appreciate it for what it was. I think that I was right to do it this way, but also angry that I did, because I’ve missed out for those six years on something incredible.
The most striking thing about Seven Soldiers is that while people refer to it as a series, possibly owing to several jumping on the bandwagon after the fact with the collected graphic novels, it is actually not a series but rather a heading over seven 4-issue miniseries preceded and succeeded by the two proper Seven Soldiers issues. Each series, as you can imagine, pertains to a different member of the eponymous Seven Soldiers of Victory. Those characters are a veritable lottery of third stringers and people that a lot of comic readers from the millennial generation had never even heard of. While I had heard of them by the time I read these graphic novel collections, that can be owed greatly to the fact that Morrison wrote about them in this series. This is one thing that Morrison is aces at, taking old, seemingly worthless characters and turning them into goldmines of innovative, provocative storytelling. His first gig with DC was revamping the laughable character of Animal Man into one of the bestselling books on the rack.
This time around his cast of characters include: the Shining Knight, The Guardian, Klarion the Witchboy, Zatanna, Mister Miracle, Bulleteer, and Frankenstein. The Shining Knight, Sir Justin and his his winged steed Vanguard, were original members of the Seven Soldiers from the Silver Age version. Though I heard of Justin before, Morrison puts a crucial twist on the character that has influences seen in comics currently coming out, i.e. Demon Knights. Zatanna is perhaps the most mainstream of the characters, but again her inclusion makes sense considering the characters Morrison is drawn to. Bulleteer was technically a new character remodeled off the Golden Age characters, Bulletman and Bulletgirl. Frankenstein, though a character of classical literature, was adapted into DC’s panoply in 1973 by Len Wein for the Phantom Stranger title. Morrison picks him up, but again warps him into a completely new and innovative version. The remaining three, The Guardian, Klarion, and Mister Miracle, are all Jack Kirby characters that until Seven Soldiers hadn’t been utilized since the 70’s. Klarion appeared in two issues of Kirby’s The Demon, and little was known about his background, so Morrison had a blank slate to work with. Jim Harper, the 40’s beat cop known as the Guardian, is replaced with Jake Jordan, ex-cop turned roving reporter/avenging superhero. In the original Mister Miracle series the title character, Scott Free, was an exiled god of New Genesis who masqueraded as a daring escape artist known as Mister Miracle. In that same series Scott mentored an African American youth name Shilo Norman to one day replace him. Shilo is the Mister Miracle here, but there is no mention of Scott, so it is insinuated that Morrison is taking the character in his own direction yet again. In all seven cases, he has spun straw into gold.
What really makes the Seven Soldiers series interesting is that though they are the Seven Soldiers who are destined to defeat a common enemy, they have never met and we are told in the #0 issue, will never meet. So who is this apocalyptic threat to mankind, and how can the Seven Soldiers hope to hold off Armageddon when they don’t even know who each other are or that they are part of a team? Morrison finds a way, and getting there is more than half the fun. Each series follows the character’s individual destiny and defines them. In the meantime, as you read each, references are made to other series tantalizing the reader as to the larger picture evoked by all seven. Aided by an army of artists, Simone Bianchi, Frazier Irving, Ryan Sook, Freddie Williams II, Yanick Paquette, J.H. Williams III, and Doug Mahnke, Grant Morrison’s work is a masterpiece and should be read by anyone who considers themselves a comic book aficionado.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #1: Drawn by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Michael Bair
Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2: Art by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Michael Bair
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #3: Drawn by Ryan Sook, Colored by Nathan Eyring, Inked by Mick Gray
Seven Soldiers of Victory #1: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart & J.H. Williams III