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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/31/2005 Archived Entry: "Comics review: The Shining Knight 1 and The Guardian 1 (Seven Soldiers)"

Shining Knight #1
Story: Grant Morrison
Art: Simone Bianchi

The Guardian #1
Story: Grant Morrison
Art: Cameron Stewart

Review by Chad Denton

There're only so many ways to repeat that Grant Morrison is a genius who continuously defines and redefines the medium, so I'll be unimaginative here: Grant Morrison is a genius who continuously defines and redefines the medium. His current project, under the omnibus title of Seven Soldiers, will be a collection of seven mini-series with two book-ends (Seven Soldiers Special #0 and #1) that will finish publication on April 2006 with issues of the two mini-series coming out each month. The trick here is that, while all the series are part of a larger story, each is meant to be self-contained. Each Seven Soldiers mini-series focuses on a different second- and third-tier denizen of the DC Universe - the Shining Knight, Zatanna, the Bulleteer, the Guardian, Mister Miracle, Frankenstein, and Klarion the Witch Boy -- with each exploring different genres and different corners of the DC canon ranging from urban superhero to fantasy to gothic horror. It's an ambitious and refreshingly intricate project, particularly for an era when original series that don't include Wolverine or Superman rarely last past the tenth issue. Different talented artists are being brought to the table as well, so, in addition the various genres being explored, each series is really a different beast. Although Grant Morrison is working with established characters and he has stated in interviews that his aim is to delve into the minutiae of the DC Universe, it's almost like reading a universe of Morrison's own.

The variety in Seven Soldiers is already clear with the first pair of offerings: Shining Knight #1 and Guardian #1. The former, with art by Simone Bianchi shows Justin, a young and novice member of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, trying to save Camelot from destruction at the hands of a malevolent race of supernatural beings. However, his efforts to penetrate the bizarre stronghold of the enemy with his winged horse Victory ends with the young, Old Welsh-speaking knight lost in time and smack in the middle of Los Angeles traffic. The latter, which is based on an old Jack Kirby creation and has art from Cameron Stewart, follows a depressed ex-cop who left his career after he caused a tragic accident. To end his years-long depression, his family points him to a job at the Manhattan Guardian, the newspaper that's proud to claim that it doesn't just report crime, it fights it. Both artists take full advantage of the widely different genres: Stewart's art has a realistic tone that at the same time imitates the classic art of Jack Kirby but isn't afraid to indulge in some more bizarre visuals for the inner workings of the Manhattan Guardian and for the robberies and massacres carried out by the story's subway pirates (you read that right). Bianchi's art, on the other hand, looks like the illustrations of a fantasy novel or a fairy tale with knights wearing elaborate armor and a demon-queen who dances on the line between grotesque and sensual.

As always, Morrison's scripts are strong, with fast-paced plotting (another oddity in this current era of comic book writing) and references to obscure DC Universe continuity, as well as Welsh and Irish mythology for Shining Knight #1, that don't stand in the reader's way but add a new layer to the story for those in the know. As one would expect from Morrison, there are the completely over-the-top, kinetic ideas which could fuel a whole series on their own: An invisible, organic castle that exists outside time. A New York City newspaper office that hires its own corporate superhero to fight the newest headline-gripping crime spree. Pirates that attack subway cars and claim business suits and cell phones as trophies. Camelot as an advanced, fantastic civilization that was erased from the history books and replaced by a much more mundane world. Skillfully mixed with these are more grounded moments that flesh out the characters and give us the feeling that we are peering into a real world.

Time will tell if Morrison succeeds in breathing new life into this misfit collection of characters or even into the DC canon itself, but it looks like Seven Soldiers is off to an excellent start.

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