Thursday, 26 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: The Miser's Coat (#1)

"The magic mirror spoke of Seven Soldiers who would one day ride against me.. I see no Seven" - Gloriana

So here we are.  The finale of the maxiseries.  We left each miniseries with the Sheeda invasion of New York having just begun.  Can Grant Morrison pull off a satisfactory conclusion to each character's arc, plus depicting more backstory and historical context and a mega battle and its aftermath?  Well, no not quite, it's here that Morrison's reach finally exceeds his grasp.  Oh it comes very close to completely working, thanks to a phenomenal art job by JH Williams III, but in the end there is too much going on in too short an issue, and in places it lapses into incoherence.  Plus unforgivably I had to look up some up on wikipedia because it is not at all obvious what had happened.  Some characters like Shining Knight and the Manhattan Guardian get a very good wrap up.  Others, most obviously, Frankenstein get screwed over and barely appear.  I would have liked it better if all the historical background had been spread across the miniseries and the final issue completely devoted to the fight against the Sheeda.  That said, we would have been robbed of JH William's riff on Kirby's art style plus his lavish Frank Frazetta style Athurian fantasy sequences. He also blends the seven characters we have seen portrayed by very different artists together in a way that keeps them looking unique while also being of the same overall style.  Basically JH William's owns this final issue and that it still manages to satisfy as much as it does can be laid in a large part at his door.

The issue begins with one of the Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp telling the story of the Seven Soldiers destined to save the Earth but never meet.  It seems like he is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader, but it later transpires that he is dealing with the rogue "Eighth of the Seven" Zor, as detailed in Zatanna's mini, who put the whole Sheeda plan in motion.
Now that's how you make an entrance.
We then cut to Gloriana as her troops invade New York.  Frankenstein is still in the Castle Revolving's control room, and suddenly Sir Justin/Justina the female Shining Knight rises from the Cauldron of Rebirth and boy does she ever look pissed.  Then we start a lengthy flashback, with JH William's doing a marvellous take on Jack Kirby's style as we see Metron and some other New Gods arriving on pre-historic Earth.

Narrator: "40,000 BC.  The Sky Tribes bring structure to a savage world.  The refashioned it in their own image...The primitive inhabitants of a primordial Earth.  And gave them fire, inspiration and magic"
We then rattle through history, the most important element being the introduction of the red haired Aurakles, the Earth's first superhero, who appeared in Mister Miracle's mini.  He holds the Seven Treasures, the Sword (Caliburn), The Cauldron, The Hammer, The Merlin Sprite, the winged horse Pegazeus and an enchanted spear that can "carry death across time and strike a target a millenia away".
Metron and the New Gods, Kirby style.
The ancient men invent a time machine and visit the future.  The machine is discovered by Melmoth and the Sheeda invent their own, leading to the first Harrowing of the Earth. We jump to the era of Sir Justin and how Arthur found Caliburn and the children of Pegazeus.  Then later recovered the Cauldron from the Sheeda, although if you read my look at Shining Knight's mini you'll know how things panned out for the Earth of this time. We then jump back into the present and the actual battle for New York led by Mahattan Guardian.  The battle is rendered via newspaper pages giving it a unique feel and adding in more information in a way that's fun to read.  Apparently even the crossword is relevant, but I can't say for sure, I suck at them.  Anyway, I can't do them justice, so enjoy them yourself.

And a little further on in the issue, but I'm doing it here as it fits in better, is the wrap up to Manhattan Guardian's storyline.
So cool.  Then we cut to Alix, the Bulleteer, driving through the chaos of battle to get Sally to the hospital.  Sally wakes up and sneers that it's Alix who'll need the hospital, all the while, Justina fights Gloriana.  Then Zatanna and Misty arrive on Vaguard, before Zatanna can raise magic hell, Misty knocks her out saying she just realised the reason she wanted to learn magic was to fight her step-mother.  The Sheeda recognise her as King Melmoth's daughter and she takes off. 

Luckily Ali-Ka-Zoom arrives on the scene and wakes Zatanna up, handing her the little guy in a jar, revealed to be the Merlin Sprite, one of the Seven Treasures. Klarion meanwhile is out on the streets, revelling in the chaos - ominously he wonders "which side shall I..." before being distracted by Misty.  We get yet another text heavy page, which to sum up sees Klarion steal Misty's magic die, using it along with his own to complete the "Fatherbox" another Treasure.  He then flies off on a giant Sheeda insect mount, leaving Misty distraught, and telling the recently arrived Zatanna that no one can stop Gloriana now.
At the same moment, Father Time, the leader of S.H.A.D.E as introduced in Frankenstein's mini, gets a transmission from Frankie which he sent when he was in the future and makes a horrible discovery.

Father Time: "He says the Sheeda are the pinnacle of natural selection...the last living species clinging to a dying Earth!  Consuming their own history to survive,,, They're not fairies, not aliens.  They're us.  One billion years from today.  The Sheeda are what man will finally become!"

Frankenstein is still in Castle Revolving's control room.  Suddenly Klarion appears and as Frankenstein is a "grundy-man" he takes control of him and orders him to take the Castle back to the Sheeda-side.  Zatanna meanwhile uses the Merlin Sprite to power a spell that does something to power up or protect the Seven, it's not totally clear frankly. (Wikipedia says "In the final battle against the Sheeda, Zatanna casts a spell to move time and space, retroactively positioning the Seven Soldiers to overthrow the Sheeda." but that's not at all obvious from the issue itself, ah well)  Shining Knight and Gloriana are still locked in combat, Gloriana gets the upper hand and knocks Justinia off the high spot the are fighting on. 
Zatanna uses Overpowered Magic.  It's Super Effective!
Then we see Mister Miracle visit Boss Dark Side, and now he has "God Sight" he can hear and speak to Darkseid lurking inside his human host.  He offers himself as a trade for Aurakle's freedom.

Darkseid: "I promised the Sheeda a world to ravage in return for Aurakles, beloved of the New Gods."

Darkseid agrees to Mister Miracle's terms, now that Mister Miracle has become the Avatar of Freedom he holds more value.  He shoots Mister Miracle through the head.  Outside, Vanguard catches a falling Sir Justin.  Then I Spyder, having changed sides again, shoots Gloriana through the head with an arrow.  She falls into the road below and with Aurakle's now free the Spear that was throw thousands of years ago can find it's mark in the form of Alix's out of control car (she being a direct descendent of his, the hair you see), and it hits Gloriana and explodes, finally killing her for good.  And with that the Sheeda attack on New York is over.
A battered and badly hurt Gloriana, finally taken out by the most reluctant of the Seven.
Some time after the battle we see Justinia, now on a girls school uniform, talking with Ali-Ka-Zoom.  She is still sad about losing everyone she cared about, but Ali hands her Caliburn and says he found records of a past Golden Age, led by Ystina the Good, "who knows what big adventures you've got waiting".  We get a single page showing Klarion with the Fatherbox celebrating becoming King Of The Sheeda, and last of all Mister Miracle's funeral.  The final image is him bursting out of his grave and with that, this epic maxi-series comes to an end.
"Wise Fwom Your Gwave!"
So, the finale, while bursting at the seams with content, probably could have used more focus on the final battle in New York and it's aftermath than yet more history, although the artist in me still hearts the Kirby pastiche. Frankenstein doesn't play any kind of role in the final battle, although to be fair, he was the main reason they didn't have to deal with a fleet of Sheeda warships rather than just Castle Revolving.  I only know that Klarion became the Sheeda King from Morrison's notes in the back of the collection, it's not at all obvious from the final pages that things have gone down that way. Misty is rather ill-served which is a shame, she had potential to be an interesting character in her own right and I don't think she's ever appeared again in a DC comic post-Seven Soldiers.  However I applaud the creative uses of text heavy pages to impart big chunks of information in a way that's fun to read.  And so, while not perfect by any means, it's still a worthy capstone to a magnificent epic series, which I put up with the best of Grant Morrison.  It's been collected in two generous and good value trade paperbacks and I heartily recommend it.  Great writing, mostly great art, it's a peach.

So, What Happened Next...?

Before I sign off on this series finally, lets have a quick look at the post Seven Soldier's careers of these rebooted, reimagined characters.

SHINING KNIGHT: She appeared briefly in Infinite Crisis, the year long weekly series 52 and the Teen Titans.  But when the 2011 New 52 reboot launched, she became a regular member of the "Demon Knights" in the titular series which takes place in the Middle Ages.  Her background was altered a bit and although biologically female, he was gradually and sensitively revealed as trans-man, however the series was cancelled after thirty issues or so and I'm not sure if he is active in the current DCU.

MANHATTAN GUARDIAN: Sadly DC prefer the original concept of the Guardian, so Jake has been reduced to bit parts in major crossovers, although a team-up between him and the original Guardian may be on the cards in the future.

ZATANNA:  She remains a hugely significant character in the DCU, with appearances constantly in the last ten years.  Most recently she is a member of the New 52 series Justice League Dark, a collection of magic orientated DCU characters.

KLARION THE WITCHBOY: Like Manhattan Guardian mainly reduced to bit parts in major crossovers, but it seems he is to be given his own series, it remains to be seen how much his Seven Soldiers history and powers will feature in it.

MISTER MIRACLE:  The Shilo Norman Mister Miracle recovers from his nasty bout of death (thanks to his merging with Motherbox).  He plays a key role in the battle against Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation in Morrison's Final Crisis. He also plays a major part in Blackest Night/Brightest Day. But as far as I can see he has not so far appeared in the New 52 DCU.

THE BULLETEER:  Despite quitting the superhero business, she was back in action with a lot of guest appearances in many different series.  But again, does not appear to have been used post the New 52.

FRANKENSTEIN: Although his fate was left up in the air in the finale issue, he also makes guest appearences in various crossovers.  During Flashpoint, he got his own alternate universe mini-series.  Then was given his own title once the New 52 launched.  Sadly this only lasted for sixteen issues, with Frankie going on to become another member of the Justice League Dark after its cancellation.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: Frankenstein (#1-4)

"Fear not.  In wrath's name.  I am at your service" - Frankenstein

Let's get this out of the way right from the start pedants who are looking at the cover and howling "Frankenstein was the scientist NOT the monster!" This is dealt with by Frankenstein saying he took on his creator's name as a tribute to his work.  There easy.  Now lets move on.  Of course Frankenstein's monster has a long history of appearing in every medium you can think of.  DC's version of him first appeared way back in Detective Comics #135 in 1948.  He doesn't have much of a history in the DCU prior to Seven Soldiers so Morrison really goes to town creating a new one for him out of full cloth.  Interestingly he was probably, along with Sir Justin - The Shining Knight, the most popular character of the Seven Soldiers series, and it's easy to see why.  Frankenstein here is based looks-wise on his most famous image in the cinema versions but has the poetic soul and quick intelligence of Mary Shelley's original.  He's also given a very "Hellboy and the B.P.R.D" style relationship with the DCU paranormal investigative agency S.H.A.D.E and his wife, "The Bride" even makes an appearence.  A word about Doug Mahnke's art, I love it!  While I appreciate the fact that art in the style of JH Williams III will leap off the page and make sweet love to your eyeballs, my own preference is for slightly less "real" styles, and the gloriously gothic nature of Mahnke's "ugly aesthetic" here is something I find tremendously pleasing. And it allows Morrison to succesfully experiment with another genre this time, that being horror.
FRankie versus Melmoth's Sheeda maggots.
The story begins with Frankenstein and Melmoth battling aboard a moving train in 1870.  Melmoth was introduced in Klarion The Witch Boy's mini and is Sheeda Queen Gloriana's husband.  He is also functionally immortal.

Frankenstein: "You cannot kill what does not live, Melmoth."

Melmoth: "Nor that which cannot die."

Frankestein blows Melmoth's head off then the train crashes and leaving his fate unknown.  Later by 2005 and town has been built where the train derailed.  We are introduced to a boy only referred to as "Uglyhead".  He can hear other people's thoughts and is surrounded by students all thinking "Uglyhead." Then a dark haired girl passes him telling him not to listen to what they say and he thinks to himself "I shall spare this one."

We then see more thoughts of the students, mainly expressing their insecurities.  The mean teenage girls ask the dark haired girl if Uglyhead is going to be her prom date.  She ignores them and finds her real boyfriend and asks him why everyone calls the boy Uglyhead.  Her boyfriend admits it "something to do."
To be fair, he does have an Ugly Head.
Later Uglyhead confronts a blonde haired girl outside a shop and starts messing with her head first by reading her thoughts then influencing them.

Blonde Girl: [thinks] "Why is he making me feel so insecure."

Uglyhead: "Because deep down you hate yourself and I can see it.  Deep down you're an Uglyhead too."

And we then see the Sheeda on his back, who seems to be focusing his power rather than mind controlling him.  He asks if she is ready to change and later at her house she is tearfully eating pizza and talking to her boyfriend on the phone:

Blonde Girl: "W-well maybe I've got a new boyfriend and he says zits and a fat ass and no confidence would really suh-suit me.... Help me Steve, something terrible is happening to me."

Next day the blonde girl shows up at school looking spotty and plain.  Steve is upset but Uglyhead says now she looks like she feels on the inside.  Finally after mindfucking the rest of them he takes control of them all, so all they can think is "Obey".

Later that night, the Dark haired girl and her prom date arrive at the school, confused as to why it's all dark.  They go into the hall and are confronted with the sight of the rest of the kids being consumed by huge maggoty things.  Uglyhead says the Dark haired girl can be his queen.  Her boyfriend creates a diversion for her to escape by electrocuting himself and the others with the lights. 
The Prom that year was something of a bust.
She runs for it, but in the corridor, Frankenstein bursts his way up through the floor saying something was "left undone."  Uglyhead leaves the main building saying he wants to show the adults what their "perfect children" have become.  Frankenstein picks him up and throws him through a window, then stabs his sword into his neck killing him and his Sheeda rider.  He then sets fire to the school.  The dark haired girl asks if she can come with him and be his Girl Frankenstein. But he responds:

Frankenstein: "I must walk my road alone.  Find your kin and tell them to gather weapons for armageddon's breath is now upon your necks."
And as he leaves he instructs her that if the Sheeda or Dark Melmoth return, to give them the message: "Frankenstein lives!"
Kill it with fire!!
We next find Frankestein looking totally badass, riding a "flesh eating horse of Mars".  He has tracked Melmoth to the planet and is aiming to deal with him for good.  He leads a pack of the horses to Melmoth's base, which is a repurposed ancient Martian civilisation's.  He thinks to himself:

Frankenstein: "Here, under an archaic firmament sullen with cinders and cinnamon.. star speckled with the lights of ulcerated rubies in a mostrous zodiac of spilled blood, vengeance must come."
Martian travel in style.
The action the cuts to Melmoth, heavily bandaged after being set on fire during the events of Klarion's miniseries. he is showing a group of gangsters round his base.  Melmoth tells them that he is all that stands between the human race and extinction.  He fills in some backstory about himself, he was King of the Sheeda until:

Melmoth: "I was usurped by an ambitious, evil bitch who dumped me at the first fall of Camelot and left me to walk through the long centuries.  I've been wandering the godforsaken Earth for ten thousand years now.
He goes onto say he was kept alive by magic and bloody-minded rage, until he found the Cauldron of Rebirth and replaced his blood with it's waters.  He then warns them that his wife is coming to eat civilisation.  He says he's had centuries to plan, build armies and enlist criminal dynasties.  He says he's grown fond of mankind and his plans for it are "more benevolent".  When one of the gangsters asks how he funds all this, he takes them to a huge room full of gold (apparently the tomb of Earth's first superhero, Aurakles, he of Mister Miracle's mini), which is mined by the teenage "recruits" of Team Red (see Klarion's mini).
Aurakle's golden tomb.
Suddenly Frankestein bursts through a wall and lets the flesh eating horses deal with the gangsters.  He smashes Billy Beezer's shackles and tells him his friends are waiting for him on the other side of the "Erdel Gate".  Melmoth is not afraid of Frankenstein this time, he says he knows the secret of his creation, he gave Doctor Frankenstein several drops of his blood to bring his creature to life.  That makes Frankenstein a "Grundy-Man" and he uses a sigil to stop Frankenstein in his tracks.  But Billy Beezer knocks it out of Melmoth's hand, then they all race inside the vault because some "grave protectors" had been activated and were about to attack.

Melmoth says Frankenstein and he are on the same side really and that he is Frankestein's "Dad".  But Frankenstein ignores him and picks him up and starts to feed him to the flesh eating horses.

Frankestein: "Welcome to hell.  For when you enmerge from the guts of these monsters, you will be conscious.  You will still be alive in the form of dung!"
Melmoth screams that "I could have saved them from her!" before his head gets eaten and Frankenstein, his revenge completed gathers up the slaves and takes them back to Earth.
And Melmoth doesn't even make it to the finale issue.
The next issue begins with scenes set in a small American town called Salvation Valley.  It seems drinking the local water has turned everything opposite.  Clever children are now stupid, birds prey on cats, old women fight in the streets using broken bottles and soldiers are turned into cowards.  The fleeing soldiers run into Frankenstein amd warn him about the water.  Then a huge pack of rabbits, squirrels and other usually inoffensive creatures charge him.

Frankenstein: "Madmen say that the meek shall inherit the earth.  Has that awful day come at last?"

As they begin to swarm him, a military helicopter appears.  The side door opens to reveal The Bride (of Frankenstein), although she has two extra arms.  She hauls him into the chopper and once he is safe says "welcome to the S.H.A.D.E mobile" then she shoots him in the head.
Introducing The Bride.
He wakes up in shackles and a man in a bowler hat called Father Time tells him that S.H.A.D.E stands for "Super Human Advanced Defence Executive" or more prosaically, "Superman meets James Bond".  He then offers Frankenstein a job, or else.  Once Frankenstein agrees and is released, Father Time tells them that an experimental super weapon got loose and infected the town.  He says that dead beings like Frankenstein and The Bride won't be affected by it, and they have already lost one expensive super soldier down there.

Frankenstein and The Bride travel back to Salvation Valley by boat, as they travel, Frankenstein notes that he doesn't seem to inspire the fear he once did.  She says that he slept too long and this is an "age of monsters and wonders" now.  Frankenstein says she was designed to be his companion... she says:

The Bride: "You were never my type."

Frankenstein: "Your type?"

The Bride: "Alive. One of these days they'll figure out how to sew on a sense of humour.  Everything is different in the 21st century Frankie."
And the disembark the boat and happen upon a scene of bloody carnage.  A herd of cows have massacred a load of humans.  Frankenstein and The Bride blow them all to bits The Bride says, when they are done, that she got her extra arms in India when she was brainwashed by the Red Swami and had them grafted on.  Luckily S.H.A.D.E rescued her. They then come face-to-face with the super-weapon, a clear, almost jelly like humanoid, it's a "wetform AI" which bled into the local water supply when it escaped.
ZOMG!  Killer cows!
They are then confronted by the missing super soldier "Pilot Zbigniew X".  He says he drank the water and saw his destiny as a soldier not to destroy but create.  Frankestein then blasts the wetform AI apart.  A shocked Zbigniew say they won't kill him, he is too important.  But the Bride cuts his head off and they call S.H.A.D.E back in who preserve the head which has all the expensive bits in it. 

The town is unsalvageable, S.H.A.D.E are having to initiate a "radical enviromental detox".  Feeling used, Frankestein refuses to ride with them saying "I'll walk".  He does however take up the ofer to continue working for them and go looking for a "time monster in Tibet" because that's what we find him doing at the start of the final issue.
Frankie versus Neh-Buh-Loh
Frankenstein comes across Neh-Buh-Loh feasting on the corpse of a flying horse, a flock of which are corcling overhead.  Frankenstein now has an internet connection to S.H.A.D.E and tells them he has acquired the target.  Neh-Buh-Loh has been banished there after Gloriana discovered he hadn't killed Misty, her step-daughter and Melmoth's daughter (see Zatanna's mini).  Neh-Buh-Loh is has a full on Villainous Breakdown.

Neh-Buh-Loh: "I have lived three billion years.  I might have grown to replace this entire universe.  But there is a flaw in me that keeps me small."

Frankenstein: "Let that be your epitaph".

They fight hard against each other while onboard the S.H.A.D.E mobile they travel to Manhattan which is under Sheeda attack.  The Bride jumps down to help in the fight.  We then get an image of a computer readout summarising what happened in JLA Classified (covered in my look at JLA Ultramarine Corps).

Frankenstein: "You're losing heat... to the second law of thermodynamics.. Becoming colder..uuh..slowerm less organised.  Supermen from this universe invaded you long ago.  They could not heal you... instead they gave you medicine to hasten your end."
First Melmoth, now Neh-Buh-Loh, Frankie deals with loose ends!
He thrusts a spear into the now unintelligable Neh-Buh-Loh who finally dies.  Frankenstein contacts S.H.A.D.E and calmly states he needs a new right arm. His next mission is to travel aboard a Sheeda timeship to cause some havoc.  So he gets aboard Castle Revolving which returns to the time of the Sheeda empire.  There he confronts Queen Gloriana;

Frankenstein: "I have vowed to protect humankind from evils such as you".

Gloriana: "Evilsss? We are the children of our fathers are we not?  Humankind has ever preyed upon the Earth and we are only the last link in that chain.. we are survivor organisms."

It's implied here and spelled out clearly in the finale, but the Sheeda are infact an evolution of mankind and their empire is in the future.  Ooh twisty.  Gloriana goes to attack Frankenstein and he activates the explosives he sat up on each of the other timeships in the fleet, blowing them up.  He then runs and locks himself in the wheelhouse of Castle Revolving as it travels back into the past to continue the assault on the Earth even though the fleet has been reduced to just The Castle Revolving.
And he screws over most of the Sheeda fleet too. 
And that ends the final miniseries, with just the single issue finale to go.  I'll 'fess up now, I have never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but I really like the stoical philosopher Morrison writes him as.  I don't know how true that is to the original, but it makes for a cool comic book character.  Brains plus brawn plus lots a swords and guns make for a total badass as well which probably explains why he was something of a breakout star for the series.  The first issue at the high school is nauseatingly creepy, while the town of killer cows and bunnies is made to look genuinely threatening rather than comic thanks to Doug Mahnke's art.  The way he dealt with Melmoth was hilariously creative and it was heartwarming when he rescued the slaves.  Finally the Neh-Buh-Loh plotline was wrapped up satisfactorily, with the events of JLA Classified finally paying off. This one remains my favourite for the wonderful art and the body horror threaded through it, now with the invasion fully underway, albeit to a far lesser extent than it would have been had Frankenstein not intervened, it's finally time for the finale.  Join me in a few days to see if Grant can pull it off.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: The Bulleteer (#1-4)

"I don't want to fight you.  You need help.  I can help you" - Alix

This mini has a very intriguing premise.  In our world we don't have superheroes, people still however idolise them, want to look like them and dress like them, with people pretending to be superheroes at geek conventions and dressing like them in porn films.  They are fetishised even though they aren't real, and Grant Morrison has decided to look at how this culture would translate in a universe that did have real superpowered individuals on it, with his own experiences of various comic comventions informing just how little would actually change if the superheroes were real.  Because he decides to look at some of the less savoury aspects of this fetishisation and fascination by men, he asked the artist's Yanick Paquette and Michael Bair to draw all the female heroes in fashion model poses.  There are no contortions of the human body though, the artwork is shows them as beautiful women in revealing costumes but without reducing them to mere sex objects thanks to Morrison's humane script.  The only issue I have with this sexualisation is that Morrison does such a good job making the heroine a good-hearted, somewhat meek and gentle human being that objectifying this way for purely meta reasons feel a little off somehow.  With that caveat out of the way, lets move on.

The story begins with the person who will become The Bulleteer - Alix Harrower - standing in front of a mirror in just her bra and knickers so we can see she's metallic all over apart from her striking red hair (the hair colour is actually something that will come back into play in the series finale).  She says to her self "Now what?".  There is a flashback to her and her husband Lance, both metallic being seen in an emergency ward.  She is OK but her husband can't breathe and he dies.
Alix's scumbag husband.
We then flashback further to when she was a normal woman, waking up and going downstairs to find her husband in his lab.  He guiltily shuts off his PC because he was looking at a porn site, she doesn't notice this.  He says he is up late dealing with emails and making his "smartskin growth pattern" work.  Alix goes and looks at a metallic covered mouse in a cage she dubs "Metal Mickey", who is super tough and strong.  Her husband says he needs to test it on human skin "simple as that."

Next day he says has she ever thought about being a superhero.  He wants them to be like the 1940's husband and wife team "The Human Bullet" which he's updated to "The Bulleteer".  She says she "can't imagine anything more horrible".  He also wants to preserve their bodies so they will stay young:

Lance: "All I'm saying is youth doesn't last forever.  Unless you're a superhero."

We briefly return to Alix in the present remembering a conversation she had at the hospital about the crazy lengths people will go to try and give themselves superpowers.  Then we are back to when she looked normal.  She arrives home from work and hears a pained yell from the basement.  She runs down and finds Lance covered in metal.  He starts gasping for air and touches her, the metallic substance flowing onto her and covering her.
Alix get metalised.
Back in the present, Alix contemplates the helmet from The Bulleteer costume Lance had gotten made for her. Then back to his funeral, then her conversing with her doctor.  She says she can't make rent anymore as she can't do her job now.

Alix: "I work with autistic children and they... they thought I'd been replaced by a robot."

She then admits that she did some checking of Lance's PC and found he was having a sexually charged online relationship with a superheroine pornstar.  In distress at this revelation she just blindly ran, hoping to hit something that might kill her.  Instead she happens upon a crashed train and helps out, rescuing several people.  This makes her think there might be something in this superhero lark, and the issue ends with Alix in the full Bulleteer costume.
The Bulleteer revealed.
We then find Alix at a meeting being led by FBI special agent, Sarah Helligan, who previously appeared in the Shining Knight miniseries.  She was bitten by a Sheeda during that storyline and her condition in this issue deteriorates fast.  She is showing them slides of what happened to the six heroes who went out to Miracle Mesa to hunt a giant spider in Seven Soldiers #0.  Alix asks what this has to do with her, and Sarah says she was on Greg's answering machine.

Alix: "Oh my God.  I was all set to go to Arizona that day.  I even bought a ticket, then I lost my nerve."

Sarah comments that "someone up there loves you" then shows the footage taken from the hoverbike camera's of the six being horribly torn apart by Neh-Buh-Loh and the Sheeda.  Then Sarah asks if Alix has a costume as she needs her to pull something off.  In the car, Sarah tells Alix about being bitten the previous night.  Then they arrive at a prison to see an inmate called Ramon Solomano aka Iron Fist aka The Napoleon of Crime.  Sarah fills in some background on him:

Sarah: "Forty years ago, Greg Saunders and the original Seven Soldiers of Victory fought your Nebula Man in the Himalayas.  One of them died, the others were lost in time for thirty years.  But that wasn't enough for you was it?  The Nebula Man has returned last week and killed a new team of Soldiers on camera."
Sarah and Alix interrogate Ramon.
Ramon says he's flattered if he think she can cause all that carnage from inside his jail cell.  He hopes Greg Saunders suffered at Nebula Man's hands.  He then clams up.  Sarah says he can do better than that.  The previous night some kids had broken into the museum of Superhumanity and stolen a World War Two subterriene machine (see Klarion's mini for more on this).  In the confusion, no one saw her "borrow" another exhibit, Ramon's old prosthetic Iron Hand. 

To force Ramon to talk she has Alix break a couple of digits off it and a distressed Ramon finally admits he called Nebula Man up in the past, when Neh-Buh-Loh was searching the Himalaya's for a lost tribe of winged horses and Seven Soldiers to kill.  When his nephew showed him Greg's advert, he got him to summon Neh-buh-Loh/Nebula Man again to kill them.  He says Greg deserved to die and that he was a racist.  He tells them that when Greg arrested him and his gang for the first time, Greg told his man "Lupelino" that if he found anymore of his filthy kin around he'd "flay your hide and hang it out to dry."

Sarah, with some amusement shows Ramon evidence that Greg was actually a werewolf and recognised his own kind when he found them.  Then she demands to know more about what bit her.

Ramon: "She is it's mistress, and they come from the place that is the end of all hope.  Thank God I'll be gone before they show their faces to the world."
He then says Greg came to him the previous night and shot him in the heart.  He starts bleeding from his chest and collapses.  Outside the prison a now very debilitated Sarah asks Alix to drive her to the registrar on Express Street.  As they sit in traffic, she calls up her brother and says "I'm sorry about the milkshake."  The traffic is not moving so she asks Alix to get her there somehow.  Alix carries her there, and inside, Sarah's sister is getting married to a man called... Lupelino.  When the registrar asks if there is any just cause or impediment, Sarah yells:

Sarah: "Don't do it sis! The guy's a werewolf!"

Sarah then finally dies in Alix's arms.  Later Alix thinks to herself:

Alix:  "It was just so sad and awkward until the police and the monster hunters turned up."
Fare thee well Sarah Helligan.
Then we see her packing to go away on an "insane bodyguard job" she accepted.  She now has a young English woman lodging with her, who tells her she makes a great superhero and perhaps what she needs now is a nemesis, "A deadly arch villain of your very own."

We next see Alix at a superhero convention bodyguarding a mermaid - oops, sorry, person of marine origin - called Stellamaris.  After telling assembled reporters about prejudice in Hollywood against her kind, she starts choking and gasping that the water is poisoned so Alix breaks the tank and rescues her.  As we see images of Alix at home and at the convention, a narration identifies her as a "target" and wonders "where's the door in her, that death can use."  The mystery voice is I Spyder, now an agent of the Sheeda, who starts fashioning a new arrow.
The resurrected I Spyder
Back at the convention Alix is attracting a lot of male attention.  A young man called Lucien who has mind powers rescues her and says there is someone she just has to meet.  It's an old woman called Susan, wife of the original 40's Human Bullet.

Susan: "So tell me, who is responsible for your outfit, honey?"

Alix: "My husband had it specially made, before he passed away."

Susan: "Hff.  He turned you out like a hooker, then died?  Was it shame?"

Ouch!  Lucien then leads Alix through the convention.  His own panel is "In the pink corner - superqueer bashing, kid sidekicks and life on the fringes of the law."

They pass a female panel called "Sweethearts and Supervixens" and one panellist is complaining that the very name of the panel shows the restrictive nature of female superhero roles.  Later Lucien has left Alix and is drinking with some other heroes.  Lucien is pissed Aquaman won Best Comeback - "All he did was shave!".  One of the others says he'll win "gayest newcomer" for sure.
Wouldn't be a panel without some random off-topic question.
Alix has cornered a female superhero in the ladies toilets, who she recognises from the online porn sites.  She is injecting herself with shrinking serum and Alix asks is she knows a hero called Sally Sonic, the girl her husband was having an online affair with.  The Shrinking Woman (called Thumbelina) asks if Sally screwed her husband.  "She is so predictable."

Thumbelina: "Sally likes turning guys against their human wives and girlfriends, that was her thing."

She then flies off and Lucien appears, somewhat the worse for drink.  He asks Alix if she wants to team-up with him.  Then lets slip that he isn't even gay. he just pretends "it helps me stand out in a crowd."

Alix: "What is it with everyone here.  Why are you all so obssessed with being special?"
Wouldn't be a convention without some drunken self-pity.
Lucien is bitter about not being a member of the Justice League.  He collapses drunk and a big muscular gay superhero appears and asks him if he would like to team up, eliciting a groan from Lucien.  I Spyder fires his arrow just as Alix says maybe all three of them can team up to find Sally Sonic.  As Lucien gets up, he pushes Alix back a little and the arrow misses and hits the big guy. And it just bounces off him.

I Spyder:  "I Can't miss.  I never miss.  Unless I mean to".

Greg Sanders: "I know they got you working for the other side. But I seem to recall recruiting you to my team boy... and we ain't through."
Once Alix is back home, she recounts her experiences to her lodger. Saying she feels she has lead a very sheltered life.  Her lodger, who is called Sara Smart reaches into her shirt and produces a whistle.

Sara Smart: "Sounds like bad things happen to people when they put costumes on.  It must be horrible to be like that girl Thumbelina. It could make you mad".
Alix: "I didn't mention her name did I? Sara Smart? It's you, isn't it? Sally Sonic.

And Sara/Sally transforms and attacks Alix fiercely.  The final issue alternates between flashbacks to sally's past and the battle in the present.
Sally Sonic, what a bitch.
Sally's Past -  She is at the home of an old woman after saving a pet of hers from some bullies.The old lady gives her "The Whistle Of The Wind Kings" as a reward.  We then see Sally flying with World War Two era planes and foiling bank robberies and being told by a doctor that she isn't aging anymore.   Then kneeling by her parents grave promising to only use her powers for good, before finally being evicted from her house and sent to boarding school because she is to young to live on her own even though she is now in her early twenties.

The Present: Alix lies crushed under a refridgerator (a playful nod to the Women In Refridgerators trope maybe?), while Sally mocks her for allowing her into her house.

Sally: "They love it when you do the change.  Men... when you change from a plain ordinary girl into a superheroine.  Lance loved it.  He told me so in a hundred emails.  Your beloved husband told me everything about your bland, boring life together."
Alix fights back.
She sneers that women like Alix drive men into her arms.  Alix gets up and smashes the fridge over Sally, yelling at her for encouraging Lance's "stupid fantasies". Sally says the world is rotten to the core and no place for good girls like Alix, and breaks her arm.  Alix tries to reason with her, but Sally just tells her how to punch more effectively.  Alix still doesn't want to fight, saying that Sally "needs help".

Sally's Past: After being locked in the headmistresses punishment wardrobe for days, she breaks out and goes to London.  she immediately bumps into a friend soldier called Dennis.  He has "X Powers" and says he was inspired to become a superhero after meeting American ones during the war.  He seduces her and they end up making love.
Don't worry she only looks like jailbait!
Present: Sally asks if this fight is what she wanted.  A big showdown with the woman who stole her husband.  Alix just wants to know why.

Sally: "I wanted what you had.  The handsome scientist, the lab, the lovely home.  Except I'd have dressed for him every night 'The Bulleteer and Sally'.  We were made for each other.  Buut now he's dead."

And she throws Alix through the wall and down onto a car below.

Sally's Past: Dennis is showing saucy photos of Sally to an assembled group of seedy individuals, selling her as the ultimate, never aging, jail-baity porn star.  Back home he guilt trips her into agreeing to do more photo's by saying it would solve their financial problems.  Finally he persuades her to drink "Doctor Hyde's Evil Serum" by telling her it's a power potion.  Later he tells her that her father, who was a judge, sentenced him and his brother to five years in jail for burglary and assault which he thought was very unfair.  His brother caught pnuemonia in prison and died, and Dennis has waited all this time to get revenge by corrupting the Judges daughter, even though the Judge himself is dead.  All Sally says to this is "time to go on... patrol again Dennis?"
Those are bullets hitting her....
Present: Sally flies down to Alix,s till lying atop the car and says the world changes you whether you like it or not.  Alix headbutts her and rips the engine out of the car, and hits Sally very. very hard with it.

Alix: "I don't care who you are!  I don't care what your ****'n sob story is!  Don't take it out on me!!"
Beware the nice ones.
With Sally knocked out she calls an ambulance for them both, but they are busy uptown with the small matter of the Sheeda invading New York so she'll have to drive them.  Greg Saunders suddenly appears behind her saying he represents "the spirit of the gun".

Greg: "You're the Seventh Soldier.  You're the key to victory over the other side."
He says the future of every living thing depends on her coming with him.  Alix says she has heard mentally ill people talk like the way he and Sally are.

Alix: The fact I can no longer tell the difference between paranoid schizophrenia and the day-to-day realities of life as a costumed crime fighter counts me out of any special destiny you care to come up with.  I quit."

Greg tries to tell her she can't.  But she won't listen.  She picks up Metal Mickey and says she has to get Sally to a hospital.

Alix: "You and destiny are on your own.  It's over. World, save yourself".
Alix and Metal Mickey, saying NO to Destiny.
And that brings The Bulleteer mini to a close.  I have to admit, qualms about Alix's depiction in costume aside, the art does remain playfully cheesecakey and well drawn rather than a morass of Escher Girl style madness it could so easily have turned into. Alix is one of the more passive characters in the series, stuff happens to her rather than she initiating them.  But that reflects her position as a niave newcomer in a world that seems completely insane when you take a step back and look at it critically.  The convention issue is very entertaining and filled with little nods from Morrison's own experiences at them (though not obviously as a beautiful woman, though he's heard plenty of stories from them too).  The sleazy aspect of superhero fetishism is explored here in a way that I have not seen before.  With Lance coming across as the type of man who'd stalk and photo cosplay girls in our reality then beat off over the pictures later. Sarah Helligan gets a fine send off, giving us important backstory info about Neh-Buh-Loh/Nebula Man, a storyline that did indeed happen to the original Seven Soldiers.  Now with Alix refusing to take up her destined role, how will this affect the finale's battle?  Not long to wait now...

Monday, 16 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: Mister Miracle (#1-4)

"How about you and me escape together?" - Mister Miracle

Once upon a time in the 1970's a man called Jack Kirby came to DC comics and created many popular and long lasting characters and concepts some of whom we've already met during this series.  By far the most popular and enduring creations to come out of that time were The New Gods.  Two sets of alien Gods, the good ones of New Genesis led by High Father and the evil ones of Apokalips led by Darkseid, who you may have heard of, he's probably the DCU's most prominent uber villain now.  They decided to form a pact in which the two leaders exchanged sons, Darkseid sent his rambunctious son Orion to New Genesis, and High Father's son, known only by the name he got given there "Scott Free" went to Apokalips and became an escapologist who could escape from anything.  He finally escaped to Earth and became a sometime member of the Justice League for a while and still active in the DCU to this day.  He is NOT the Mister Miracle this miniseries is about, although the background of The New Gods is still hugely relevant to it.  This mini contains a third Mister Miracle also created by Jack Kirby called Shilo Norman, who is Scott Free's apprentice and who was fairly obscure and unused by the time Morrison picked him for Seve Soldiers.  This I have to say is my least favourite of the series, mainly due to it requiring so much backstory knowledge of the New God's pantheon and also for basically being a prequel to the Grant Morrison penned crisis crossover that followed Seven Soldiers - Final Crisis - sharing with that series the same unclarity of writing that can make Morrison's work infuriating at times.  It's also the only miniseries to suffer inconsistent artwork Pasqual Ferry does the first issue and I assume deadlines got the better of him as Freddie William's II take's over for the rest on the mini.  Both artist's work is fine, but there is a slick, soulessness to it that isn't really my cup of tea.  Anyway, moving on.
Escaping a black hole (or not)
The story begins with Shilo doing the ultimate act of escapology, escaping an artificially created black hole.  He has a Motherbox, a sentient computer owned by the New Gods, which was given to him by Scott Free. Something goes wrong and he finds himself face to face with Metron, the science God, who tells Shilo he is needed:

Metron: "I am Metron.  Observer/Calculator/Traveller/Rebel."

Motherbox tells Shilo the void inside him is about to be filled.  He is told about the War in Heaven and that the "Dark Side" won.

Metron: "The choice is simple.  Freee the bright ones of be slaves to the dark.  Live and join us or die for the Dark Side."

Then Shilo appears out of the black hole.  Later his friend and manager wants him to join a party celebrating his feat.  Shilo says "There has to be more than this."  He ponders his vision of Metron, his friend says maybe he is having a mid-life crisis.  Shilo, retorts he's only twenty-three.  We then cut to him in therapy.  He tells his therapist he was taken to some girls at the party, a woman offering him them has a forked tongue. Shilo cries "They're not even human. They're from the Dark Side." And he runs outside.  His therapist is skeptical about this whole, War Of The Gods thing.

Therapist: "You gamble with death because you can't face life Shilo.  Maybe this is life forcing you to change."

Shilo: "I've been coming here for three years, how come my self-esteem never improves."
Shilo and his therapist
Later outside a man in a wheelchair accosts him. Shilo intitally mistakes him for Metron. He says he is not, but sometimes they share a wager.  He says he made a bet on Shilo's life:

Man: "I said you'd lose everything at the beginning.  Death the Black Racer tells it like it is.  You've attrached unwelcome attention from the Dark Side."

Then a black car attempts to kill Shilo as the man says it was "time he was tested.  Can he escape death itself?"

Another man in a wheelchair shows up and tells Shilo he is being tested for his first experience with the Dark Side.  Shilo jumps and leaps to avoid the black car.  The two wheel chair bound men discuss him.  The second man says he is "freedom's spirit", the other one says he has a motherboxx, the last one in existence.  Shilo then escapes into the sewers, outrunning the black car.
Outfoxing the "Black Racer"
He comes across who the thinks is the Metron in a wheelchair, but the man is heavily disabled and freaks out.  A huge guy comes and yells at Shilo for upsetting him,but also calls the man Metron. Shilo says he has a motherboxx so they large guy takes him to a gang of homeless people.  But when Shilo pulls out motherboxx they run and the big guy tells him to go away.  Back in therapy:

Shilo;"Down in the dirt there was a brotherhood and community and vision.. like human life, all human life was so precious and every individual human story worthy of.. I don't know.. mythology."

The therapist says his experience in the black hole was a quasi-religious one, leading to him seeing every bum on the steet as a prophet.  Shilo says he did the stunt in the black hole not for symbolism and his motherboxx is just a childish thing.  He imagines her talking to him and it keeps him calm.  His therapist wants to see it but Shilo says it's personal and leaves.

Next we see the therapist taling on the phone about how he intends to get Shilo to hand him the motherboxx.  He also has a forked tongue.  Then he puts the phone to the ear of a distraught woman in his office and infects her with the anti-life equation.  The issue ends with a huge grinning black guy thanking the therapist for bring Shilo to their attention.
Never trust a beard like that.
The action then cuts to a new escapologist called "Baron Bedlam" who also does impossible stunts.  Shilo tells his therapist that he intends to invite the Baron to open for him at his next big show, even if it is weird having so close and imitator.  Back home he obssessively watches Bedlam's stunts saying it's impossible for him to have survived them.

His friend, ZZ say's it was unwise to tell the newspapers about all the war between good and evil stuff as people are laughing at him now.  Shilo realises ZZ is going out with Lashina, one of the dubious girls from the last issue.  And he makes them go away.  Later Jonelle, Shilo's girlfriend, goes to find ZZ to get him to make up with Shilo.  She finds him hooked up to lots of thing wires, and "Granny" grabs her saying "You're mine now."

Next Baron Bedlam confronts Shilo, saying he intends to replace him, all of Shilo's friends including Jonelle are with him.  His therapist - Dezard - appears and says:

Dezard: "Poor insane Shilo.  Your New Gods have abandoned you.  Now is the time of evil gods.  Now is the time of your soul's extinction."
Baron Bedlam and Shilo's friends.
And he has Motherboxx.  The huge black guy they all call Dark Side appears and whispers the Anti-Life Equation in Shilo's ear.  Shilo staggers out into the street in emotional pain from the equation, but a random act of kindness on the street brings him to his senses and he returns for Jonelle.  Dark Side says Shilo must be immune to the Equation but not the Omega Sanction. 

Then the others start beating him, as he cries for Motherboxx which is being taken apart by Dezard.  He is then set on fire and put in a car boot and pushed over the edge of a cliff.  The issue ends with him heavily bandaged in a wheelchair, buying adult nappies, which Dark Side finds amusing.  Finally two strangers approach and say:

Stranger 1: "The life equation has you in its grip."

Stranger 2: "And there's only one way out."
Boss "Dark Side"
The final issue begins with the disabled man from the end of the previous issue dead from an overdose.  Back to normal, Shilo is barbequing stuff as Jonelle reads him an article about a man called Shilo Norman who commited suicide the day they moved there.  Then Shilo embraces his daughter, then time jumps and she is a teenager, then he is an old man on a hospital bed.  Then we find Shilo working at a prison, his co-worker saying he "wound up sacrifcing your dreams to a steady pay-check."  He goes to see a huge prisoner called Aurakles.

Aurakles: "Did.. did the spear find it's mark?"

He then tells Shilo he sees a dying man inspiring a hero in him, but "what have you become?"  He says he was broken in the torture camps of the "Sheeda at summers end".
Aurakles, actually important for the finale.
Aurakles: "Thou are lost as I am.  Only set me free and break this chain....wilt thou give up thy life for me?"

Shilo then says he'll set Aurakles free.  Meanwhile Dezard has dissected motherboxx but her consciousness has escaped and merged with Shilo's.

Dark Side: "There can be no escape from Omega.  Each new existence more degraded than the last."

After being forced to live many lives, we finally see Shilo in the void.  He addresses Omega - the "prison he can never escape".  But Shilo says Omega is suffering too and why don't they escape together.  Dark Side angrily says to Dezard that Shilo is turning Omega against him and attacks Dezard.

Child Shilo is being talked to by a different therapist who says he has let the death of his brother overshadow his life:

Therapist: "Forgive yourself and remove those chains you wear.  Become what you were born to be."

Then he is back face-to-face with Metron, who says he survived the first initiation into the "mysteries of the New Gods."  And he is spat out of the black hole one week after going inside it.

Scientist: "Welcome home Mister Miracle."
Meeting Metron again and escaping properly.
And so this miniseries ends,  Apart from one mention of the Sheeda they are entirely absent from this mini, in the same way all the New God's shenanigans is absent from all the other miniseries.  This is basically, as I said at the start a set up for Final Crisis, especially all the Boss Dark Side stuff.  Aurakles will be important in the finale, as will Mister Miracle, although the threads tying all this stuff to the main Sheeda plot is incredibly thin. If you know nothing of Darkseid, Metron, the Anti-Life Equation and the New Gods this is a baffling to the point of incoherence miniseries as no time at all is spent explaining them nor why they are messing about in human shape.  Artistically it is decent, even if it is somewhat undistinguished and totally overshadowed by the quirky excellence of several of the other miniseries.  So, definitely my least favourite of the collection, still decent but also frustrating and suffering from severe unclarity in place.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Seven Soldiers Of Victory: Klarion The Witchboy (#1-4)

"Shall I tell you the hour and date of your death?" - Klarion

With each miniseries Morrison has been having fun experimenting with different genres.  Klarion the Witchboy sees Morrison trying his hand at very weird fantasy, matched with artwork by Frazer Irving that is (once again) absolutely perfect for the subject at hand.  Klarion is reboot of a character of the same way, once again another Jack "King" Kirby creation for DC. Kirby's Klarion came from a place that was called Witch-World where everyone practiced dark magic.  He was extremely talented, but frustrated by the adults of his world, so he opened a portal to the normal universe and with his cat familiar Teekl, arrived on Earth wanting to know all there was about witchcraft and maybe wreak a little havoc on the way.  Morrison stays true to these very broadstrokes, but relocates Klarion to a lost Puritan colony (called Roanoke, which is a real, and infamous case of a town that just vanished) that fell through the earth and was renamed Limbo Town. Klarion is still rebellious and still has a ginger cat called Teekl, but aspects of the Limbo Town's magic and backstory is tied in with the Sheeda storyline rather than following Kirby's narrative.
A "Grundy".
The story begins in Limbo Town, a recently deceased inhabitant is being resurrected, so he can be put to work until he "crumbles".  Klarion, watching this, tuts about what a terrible world it is and his sister hears him and tells him he won't escape the same fate.

Beulah: "I suppose you think you can follow father beyond High Market and never come back.  Think again Klarion".

The undead workers are called "Grundys" and are branded by the towns religious leader, Submissionary Judah. Although the Grundy pleads to be left to sleep in peace he is broken by "Great Croatan who abides and knows all things."  Teekl then grabs something, which turns out to be a tiny Sheeda.  Klarion asks to touch it, but Judah asks if he would be a submissionary and bear the heavy knowledge?

Klarion: "Possibly.  It's the sort of work I'm sure I'd find it very rewarding."
Teekl, Klarion's familiar.
Judah is unimpressed by his sass and warns him off.  Klarion then talks with the new Grundy's son, Ezekiel (who is also Klarion's step-father).  Ezekiel says they aren't dying fast enough to keep the workforce supplied with fresh zombies. Klarion says their world seems insane.  But it seems long ago in the past they were condemned to life in Limbo Town because of a taint that still threatens Great Croatoan.  Klarion wonders how they can both come from a place called "Blue Rafters" and yet be in a place Judah tells them is completely surrounded by stone.  The Book Of Shadows makes no sense he says.
Klarion and Ezekiel chat about things
Ezekiel then distracts Klarion from his ruminations by showing him a precious thing he has.  It was given to him by one of the "trolley men" he met while out looking for Klarion's run away father.

Ezekiel: "This cake of light was not made to last long in our solid world.  But I defied the submissionaries and ate it and I kept it's miraculous imperishable covering so I might remember its sweetness."

And he shows Klarion a Kit-Kat wrapper.  Klarion is fascinated by it, and possibly is the final push he needed to run away himself.  He must move fast though, because of the Sheeda the religious elders plan on closing "the Wicket Gate" and cease trading with the trolley men.  At a town meeting Judah claims to channel their God Croatoan who unsurprisingly agrees the gate must be closed.
Submissionary Judah.
Back home, despite the best efforts of his sister to stop him, Klarion and Teekl sneak out ready to leave Limbo Town for good.  He bumps into Ezekiel who tells him that Judah fears the Witchmen parliament who are not living in fear of Croatoan and implies they won't allow the gate to be closed.  He says he is more scared of his own people than the Sheeda and then leaves to go harvest stones with his Grundified dad and the other Witchmen.

Klarion sends Teekl to cause some mischief with Judah, and using his eyes sees Judah and his two men summon a being called Horigal to deal with the Witchman parliament members.  Klarion races through the Wicket Gate to warn them, but all are killed, and Klarion comes face to face with Horigal, who appears to be a gestalt entity made up of the three summoners and their reptile familiars.

Horigal: "Ye broke the law!  Ye ran away! Ye shall be judged!  Ye sought a world beyond Limbo Town but there can be no such world!  The truth would blind ye!"
Using his wits, Klarion sets a Grundy on Horigal and tries to make a getaway.  Horigal rekills the Grundy and chases after Klarion.  Suddenly a shot rings out, knocking Horigal back for a moment.  An older man appears telling Klarion to hurry as Horigals don't stay down for long.  They are on some subway tracks and Klarion is confused by the approaching noise and lights.  He finally jumps to safety and Horigal is mashed up beneath the train's wheels.  The man introduces himself as Ebeneezer Badde (which I have to wonder if it's a terrible pun based on the infamous Shamen song "Ebeneezer Goode").  Badde asks Klarion his name and where he resided in Limbo Town, after Klarion introduces himself, Badd says:

Badde: "Do you return to you self-imposed punishment down there in the mills of Croatoan?  Or would you go on?  To higher things?  The choice is yours."
Ebeneezer Badde.
Horigal's remains twitch and moan and Badde says it's time to leave before it recovers.  Klarion worries that he can't find Teekl, but Badde says his familiar will find him.  They get on a giant alligator and cruise down a sewerway.  Klarion is gleeful about being away from Limbo Town, in a place that's "hollow and filled with a thousand, wondrous holes that might lead anywhere!"  Feral children congregate on the bank and watch them and throw stones at them.

Klarion: "What a world of mad wonders is this!"

Badde: "It's just a world'll soon get bored."

Badde agrees to show Klarion "Croatoan" and as they walk there they stumble across the dead bodies of the subway pirates from Manhattan Guardian's mini. Klarion asks if Badde ever bumped into his father on his travels, Badde says he has no. Then he finally shows Klarion "Croatoan".  It's the same stone in a radioactive pool No-Beard and All-Beard were fighting over.  Badde shows Klarion a die.

Badde: "This is the house of Croatoan.  This is where the Witchmen come to be initiated in their one great and terrible truth.  There is no Croatoan.  Croatoan is an absent God.  Maybe there was a God here once, but he's long, long gone.  He escaped and left us on here alone.  Only his dreadful chains remain."
Klarion finds out his religion is a lie and is amused.
Klarion finds these revelations to be hilarious.  They return to the sewerway and soon arrive at "the lights of Vanity Fair" where the upper and lower worlds meet.  We then find out what Teekl has been up to.  First she kills "the Rat King" then she communes with the feral children and telepathically tells Klarion that they want revenge on a man they called "The Hunter-Of-Children"  who is of course Ebeneezer Badde, selling kids to a man called Mister Melmoth a person who has specifically wanted a Limbo Town kid.

At the last minute Badde's guilt gets the better of him and he draws his gun, telling Klarion to run.  But the feral kids attack en masse and overwhelm and kill him and it seems the men he was being sold to as well.  Klarion takes Badde's die from his body. 

Note Manhattan Guardian's helmet here.
Later one of the kids is taking Klarion to the nearest station.  She asks if he would stay with them, now the Rat King and Badde are dead, things will be easier for them.  But Klarion wants to see the surface and climbs the stairs into a New York daytime.

Klarion: "Adventure Teekl!  What can we do next?  Which way do we go?

Mister Melmoth: "Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Mister Melmoth".

Now we already know from the Shining Knight mini that Melmoth is Queen Gloriana's husband (although if you are reading the stories in the suggested order, this revelation comes after Melmoth's introduction).  Still the story doesn't beat around the bush, we are told he is a villain from the off.  The next issue begins with Melmoth speaking to a mysterious group of men.  We are filled in on the backstory of Limbo Town and how it is in fact the lost Puritan colony of Roanoke.  The colonists experienced "intimate contact" with something not entirely human, and when the first changelings were born the colonists turned to a darker religion.

Man: "Like monstrous maggots burrowing away from he clean light, they hid their sins deep underground and there, somehow, they thrived, a lost trive of half-human witches."
Mister Melmoth.
Melmoth says the hostel he runds for underpriviledged youngsters has been joined by one of Limbo Towns inhabitants - Klarion of course.  Who is in awe and wonder at everything he sees.

Melmoth: "Everything is new to him.  Everything is holy."

He says they will be using him to burrow down to Limbo Town and will be "Travelling in style".  The action cuts to a terrified Klarion in a taxi being driven at high speed by one of the other delinquents from the hostel.  They end up at the Museum of Superheroes.  The pimp suited leader is called Billy Beezer, who says his gang was taught by Goldenboy and only takes the best.  Although the better team is called "Team Red" a mysterious group they join when they turn sixteen.
Stealing the giant drill.
Klarion uses Teekl to scout in the museum, and then they all go inside and cause a commotion.  Billy lifts a security guards keys in the confusion and they steal a huge drilling machine which they all drive back to where Melmoth is waiting.  Klarion grumbles that Billy threatened Teekl, Melmoth says that at midnight Billy will turn sixteen and graduate to Team Red.  There is a minor dust-up between Billy and Klarion, Billy feeling Klarion is going to replace him as team leader.  But he stops fighting Klarion when Klarion seems to be abou to curse him.  Later that night it strikes midnight and Goldenboy appears to Billy.  he is exhausted and wearing breathing equipment.

Billy: "I don't think I'm sure about Team Red."

Goldenboy: "...It's lies Billy, and pink skies and gold.  It's a hard labour gang.  Oh help me I've seen the gold mines.  The gold in the red place...You're my apprentice Billy Beezer.  Happy Birthday."
The truth about Team Red.
Melmoth appears and mocks Billy as Goldenboy drags him through something called an "Erdel Gate" to Mars to be set to work making money for Melmoth, and we shall see more of this in the final miniseries Frankenstein.  Teekl watches all this with Klarion seeing what's going on through her eyes, he says to the other kids:

Klarion: "Your beloved Melmoth is a liar, a devil and a betrayer as I suspected.  he wants you all for slaves."
Meanwhile Melmoth has assembled a group of armed men to travel with him in the drill to go plunder Limbo Town.  The other kids want Klarion as their leader, but he walks away from them, saying "look not to me for salvation".

Teekl: "Brother Klarion.  Evil will come to Limbo Town."

Klarion tries to brush this off, saying it's not his problem anymore.  But his conscience forces him to return to warn them of Melmoths coming attack and he reluctantly descends back through the subway.
Cat's are masters of guilt tripping.
The final issue begins with Klarion tied to a stake, about to be burned alive by the the inhabitants of Limbo Town, his desperate warnings falling on deaf ears.  He is ironically saved when Melmoth's giant drill comes crashing through the town's ceiling.

Melmoth: "Hello everyone.  Daddy's home... I had spider-sex with all of your ancestors, you know.  All those hot puritan girls  They thought I was the devil and they crawled underground to have our babies."
Klarion in a spot of trouble.
A woman tries to hex him and she is torn apart by automatic gunfire.  Melmoth says the "royal blood of the Sheeda court" mingled with their human strain.  He wants their homes turned into breeding pens and the adult men killed.  Klarion who was set free as Melmoth arrived, reaches the church and rings nine bells which summon the Grundy's back to town.  They start fighting the soldiers.

Meanwhile Judah is dying from the injuries he sustained while being part of Horigal.  He decides to make Klarion a Submissionary.  He hands him his rod and points to a door which has a closely guarded secret behind it.  It's a map.  As Klarion contemplates it, the others chant "come Horigal, come!"  Outside the soldiers have defeated the Grundies and Melmoth comes to the church.Judah refuses to believe he is part Sheeda, but Melmoth somehow "switches" him off mid sentence.  Suddenly Klarion is revealed as a Horigal, a blending of himself and Teekl.  He shreds the soldiers with Melmoth, who runs outside.  Kalrion gives chase and Melmoth gets set on fire:

Melmoth: "Oh this is tiresome.  Tiresome.  This isn't blood that flows in old Mister M's veins anymore, oh no.  The waters of the Cauldron of Rebirth run through me  So try all you want, I'll never die."
Teekl/Klarion attacks.
Still blazing, he warns the Limbo Townfolk that after the Harrowing of humanity, he will return for them.  Then he disappears.  Klarion and Teekl can't seperate but one of the Witch-Women is able to do it for them.  The remaining soldiers are tied to stakes ready to be burned.  Klarion's mother asks if he will take Judah's place.  Klarion replies:

Klarion: "I would like to be many things before I die mother.  Today... today I will be a soldier."
Teekl and Klarion head back to the surface.
And thus the mini ends with him returning to the surface in the giant drill, to be part of the resistance to the Sheeda invasion.  This is a great little miniseries.  Helped along massively by the gorgeous gothic artwork, Morrison establishes a believeable, stagnant, occult yet God fearing culture in the space of four issues.  Klarion is a fun character, something of a smartarse but fiercely intelligent and of course has a fantastic pet cat (Morrison is a real cat lover and has written his own cats into comics before, notably his run on Animal Man, I wonder if the marvellous Teekl is based on another of his?). Melmoth is introduced as another credible threat and the Team Red stuff is quite chilling and will pay off in the Frankenstein miniseries later on.  One of Klarion's interesting traits is his selfishness, and this will have ramifications down the line in the final issue. The die is also important to remember, especially as Misty from Zatanna's mini also has one. Anyway, this dabbling in weird fantasy by Morrison is impeccably pulled off and makes this one of the maxi-series real highlights.