Seven Soldiers of Victory: Volume Four – Grant Morrison

Seven Soldiers of Victory 4It all comes to an end in a Watchmen style hammer blow. You have to remember this was originally a multitude of miniseries chronicling concurrent events. Although the tiny hints and references to other stories are there, you are reading this consecutively as a collected work. Other than the grand finale there is no Zatanna or Witchboy to speak of sadly. There is a handy recap of the story so far however for the bewildered or forgetful.

This book, and the series as a whole, seems to be more concerned with detail and intricacy than relatable human drama. The questions it asks and scenes it paints are epic in scale. Having said that there is a profoundly dark scene of corruption and the loss of innocence that is far more tangible than most comics can deliver.

The final issue where all the characters appear for the showdown also has some solid gold Morrison genius. His narrative hocus-pocus goes off the scale as we see the first example of storytelling by crossword puzzle. Literally.

If you have come this far then there is no way you will give up now. And if you have enjoyed yourself then the ending won’t disappoint.

Thumbs Up!

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Seven Soldiers of Victory: Volume Three – Grant Morrison

Seven Soldiers of Victory 3Things continue to get even more exciting and accessible as another two of the seven are introduced. This unfortunately means some of our existing favourites are side-lined a little but this is the nature of such a big cast. Opening with Witchboy is always a good move and the Frankenstein story is well grounded in our own modern angst. There is also a handy recap of the story so far.

The art is as accomplished as it is diverse. The introduction of Bulleteer who spends most of her time in her underwear or less veers the title toward an uncomfortable gratuity. But her emotional intelligence and character depth exceed her clothing quota so there is no need to panic.

The rollercoaster has climbed to its peak. Now it is time for the downward rush of the final volume.

Thumbs Up!

Seven Soldiers of Victory: Volume Two – Grant Morrison

Seven Soldiers of Victory 2For those that survived the mind-bending of the first book this has a much friendlier welcome, even showing off Morrison’s British sense of humour. There is a little less weirdness, only a little mind, and more rewarding crossover between the stories.

The portmanteau of artists produces some excellent work with Frazer Irving’s drawing and colouring being the boldest in show.

Things are ticking along nicely in this much more reader-friendly volume and you can’t wait to read more. There is also a handy recap of the story so far.

Thumbs Up!

Seven Soldiers of Victory: Volume One – Grant Morrison

Seven Soldiers of Victory 1Warning: this could leave you scratching your head, or pulling out your hair. Here is one of those deep reads like Transmetropolitan or Sandman that makes you wish you were smarter. But unlike those titles there is no single character guiding you though. There are seven leads and they all start off in their own story against a backdrop that is equal parts folklore and gibberish.

If you are looking for entertainment, excitement and emotion this seems too intellectual for its own good – but do persevere. There will be an idea, a setting or a character that grabs you such as Pirates on the New York subway, or a Kit Kat wrapper in the Fae realms and you are hooked.

The fact that the stories do start as separate tales and every few issues you have to stop and start from the beginning with a new character’s life can work against it. You can feel like you are making no progress or being overwhelmed with ideas. But the little easter eggs that cross between stories give you a smug little boost to keep you reading.

Being a collection of miniseries there are lots of different artists but most veer toward a shadowy palette and the stories tie together thematically because of this. Having different looks and panel structures also differentiates between the characters and their lives. This enforced diversity achieves much more than a single artist could and the shorter page count lets the illustrators be more creative.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority: The Lost Year – Grant Morrison & Keith Giffen

Authority Lost YearWow, The Authority written by Grant Morrison? A dream come true! Well that was the plan. Unfortunately Morrison lasted two issues then handed his notes to Giffen and was never seen again. Or something.

It’s a mess you can live without. Without the bigger picture that The Authority was founded on then they are just another annoying superteam. You can see the Morrison genius just sprouting before it is snatched away. Giffen has done a reasonable job with the Midnighter standalone title but here he is telling the kind of story he hates. So even he disappears for a while and Brian Stelfreeze takes the strain.

There are also five artists in these six issues as this troubled book was passed from pillar to post. We start off with Gene Ha whose digital manipulation takes a moment to get used to but he produces some incredible effects. His photo-manipulation brings makes it feel really intimate, just as if you are there.

Three other artists, including the esteemed Darick Robertson, do a serviceable job but a new name to me is Jonathan Wayshak. He really stands out, but for the wrong reason. His caricatured style and warped expressions definitely don’t suit this title, which could be why he only did a single issue.

Grant Morrison’s ideas and Gene Ha’s art definitely deserve a Thumbs Up but the rest doesn’t. A real shame.

The Mystery Play – Grant Morrison

The Mystery PlayThis is a very deep work. You get the feeling this is much more intellectual than the average graphic novel. There is a storyline that you can follow for the most part but this quickly unravels. By the end you are wondering how much of what you read was supposed to have happened to the characters and how much took place in their minds.

It is a musing on God and to a lesser extent on religion and Man’s need for such. However, it is so vague that not only do you have to supply your own answers you will probably need to provide your own questions too.

It does have a fantastic sense of atmosphere and really crackles with mystery. The obscure English village has a quirky feeling of menace reminiscent of The Wicker Man. Although you suspect this is modern day the vintage cars, non-descript clothing and charming location lend an eerie, timeless feeling.

The art is incredible. Watercolours throughout, it has wonderfully realistic faces and expressions and beautiful depth and shading. The pictures also conspire with the cryptic theme and certain sequences are distorted to let you know you might not be seeing exactly what is happening. Having an American artist draw English country life doesn’t always work and you get some very American looking cops and the odd vehicle that seems out of place. Unfortunately with a work as non-figurative as this you aren’t sure if it is intentional.

It is definitely up to you to decide what actually happened and how much of what you read was concrete. This is a brave and artistic work but might not be as palatable as some would like.

Thumbs Up for being different.

287/78

Tomorrow: ORCS: Forged for War – Stan Nichols

Aztek – Grant Morrison and Mark Millar

This could be a great story from a great author but it suffers from the same thing many DC titles do and that is Gratuitous Cameo Syndrome. This is an interesting tale of an Aztec trained warrior trying to blend into American society inconspicuously whilst awaiting the arrival of the impending apocalypse. This would be a neat little concept as our hero commits all sorts of social bloopers and we get to laugh with him at how ridiculous both he and society are in equal measure. Sadly the book has to be invaded by other name brand DC characters that just seem to pop up to get someone a royalty cheque. It’s annoying but not insurmountable.

The world is good and really helped along by the art. It is present day but has that Dick Tracy/ Batman feel. You could almost think you are reading one of the original Detective Comics issues as the style and palette are very similar. I liked this ‘timeless’ touch. The villains have a very Al Capone feel to them and may have been exiled from Gotham City. There is some good characterisation and you can really feel for Aztek when he isn’t bleating about his membership to the JLA or whatever super team. There are some good laughs including the Superhero Registration form he is made to fill in by the police department. It was that genius gag that secures this title the Thumbs Up!

11/354. Tomorrow: Avengers: Next