What an unholy mess Mr. Morrison likes to put the reader in. With this issue, Grant's nearly two year odyssey along the outskirts of the DC comics universe comes to a close. Without Morrison, it's unlikely that we'll ever see Klarion the Witch Boy, Zatanna, Frankenstein, The Guardian, The Shining Knight, Mister Miracle or The Bulleteer ever treated this reverentially again: and that is just too damn bad.
Seven Soldiers was an intensely unpopular, and intensely bad comic from the early days of comic books: it's never attracted the sort of nostalgic importance now given to all of DC's pre 50's stuff. Simply put, Soldiers was what most early superhero comics were when they first appeared: not very worthwhile. Years later, the name was thrown on a variety of teams, although few of these issues are memorable and no lasting series was ever made out of them. When Morrison signed an exclusive with DC a few years ago, part of his agreement was this, the Seven Soldiers "maxi-series," which would be based both on fresh interpretations of archaic, un-used characters and under-used C-level characters. The series arrived with a little bit of the usual "what's Grant doing" fanfare and proceeded to produce 2 long form bookend issues (the one above and the previous Seven Soldiers 0) and 7 four-issue mini-series, each focusing on the aforementioned characters. While all 7 ranged both in quality, and timeliness become something of a factor when some books didn't ship on time, all sold relatively well (if one takes into account that absolutely none of these characters even remotely achieved the popularity of Stephen Baldwin's recent Christian autobiography.) At times, some of the mini-series were a bit incomprehensible (Shining Knight and Mister Miracle specifically) while at other times they were a bit simplistic genre exercises (Bulleteer and Frankenstein.) However, with yesterdays release of Seven Soldiers 1, it's become abundantely clear that these books were, regardless of Morrison's claim to the contrary, designed to be read as one massive piece. Seperately, they are either entertaining or interesting, and on occasion, both.
After his success on Doom Patrol, Morrison released a four issue mini-series called Flex Mentallo, an exploration of the various time periods of comic books. Due to his usage of Flex, a character lovingly copied off the real Charles Atlas, the series has never seen reprint--Mr. Atlas' attornies saw that DC would have to split the profits if they did, and that's never interested DC. Finding the issues has never been a difficult prospect, although it is expensive--which, for anyone interested in any of Mr. Morrison's non-mainstream work, is a bit of a problem. After all, it's in Flex Mentallo 4 that Grant laid down his own thinking on what comics should look like, and it's only now, in 2006, that we're seeing the actual product of that thinking. For Mr. Morrison, the cringe-worthy violence and depressingly un-creative angst of the 80's and 90's has remained for far too long; deconstructionism, as they say, has gone on too long. His current work on All Star Superman and Batman, while totally within the constrictive bounds of the standard super-hero format are excellent examples of what a non-Watchmen version of Batman might look like, while All Star Superman has reached the point where it's really only comparable to the Superman that lives in a little boys mind--the comics themselves have never been this good. Still, Morrison's own hand has made it clear that this sort of storytelling was never a problem for him--in a way, that also makes his mainstream work somewhat redundant. After all, asking Picasso to paint a barn may get you an excellent barn, and the potential for miserable, horrific failure is far less, but it also lessens any potential genius. Morrison has always been good at super-hero mainstream comics...but he's never been very far off the beam of acceptable with them. (Animal Man, for those thinking of Grant's super-hero work there, wasn't a top tier character before or after Grant worked his magic.) Reading Morrison's work in any sort of chronological order would result in a schizophrenic experience: unlike every major writer, Morrison's style changes, drastically at times, from comic to comic. In the late 90's, while revamping a sterile Justice League, one could reach higher on the shelf and be blasted into the psychedelic freak show that was The Invisibles. Seven Soldiers, while filled with the suits of superheroes, is given life by it's astronomical goals: Morrison seems in these pages to be more concerned than he's been since those heady days of Flex Mentallo to bridge the time period between modern super-hero comics back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, trying to connect our current myths to the myths of old. It's daunting, impossibly difficult stuff going on in these pages. Whether Seven Soldiers worked or not isn't the point (it did, sort of. Not really.) The point is that Morrison tried something here, that, instead of plying this sort of metaphysical self-examination of fiction for any of the indie publishers who would have gladly helped him, he got permission from his corporate masters to use some of their dustiest toys and then proceeded to, heroically, build a ladder that would take us to the moon.