I don't recall if I've reviewed a Seven Soldiers book yet.

*New Comics For Presentation on Your Computing Machine Dept: Peter Bagge takes on medicinal marijuana in his latest four-pager for Reason Online; the victimization of people who commit largely victimless crimes, sometimes at the hands of more hurtful but less financially attractive-to-law-enforcement criminals, is a running theme. Even more so than usual, this is sober, personal interview-fueled comics journalism rather than rollicking farce, although Bagge’s occasional in-strip consternation at how unbalanced things are turning out (“Note to self: talk to prosecutors for a future Reason feature.”) is pretty funny.

Seven Soldiers - Klarion #3 (of 4)

We're now approaching the home stretch for the first wave of releases, and things are getting slightly more anecdotal in general. If there’s any connection between the third issues in this project, it’s that each issue is structured as something of an individual anecdote, eventually leading into a grander scheme at the cliffhanging conclusion, ushering us toward the fourth issues. Shining Knight creates the most trouble with accepting such analysis, as the events of its issue #3 step largely from everything that’s gone before (I daresay that Shining Knight is proving to be the most smooth-flowing work thus far if taken as a single miniseries rather than a series of segments in an Event centipede), though Justin’s surrender to the police does occur in an empty space between issues #2 and #3, blocking off his interview as a little story of its own.

The rest of the books are easier: Guardian, Zatanna, and this thing here all traffic in individual tales of action, set some indeterminate time after the conclusion of their respective second issues, and each one closes with a big cliffhanger, promising to tie everything in each individual title together via incorporation of elements present from the beginning (taken in order, Galahad, Stargard’s secrets, Misty, and the people of Limbo Town, all individually lead their according protagonists toward their personal conclusions). So what does this type of structure actually accomplish? Mostly I think it affords writer Grant Morrison a chance to easily interconnect the various series (both through structure and explicit inter-plot citation) while retaining a veneer of self-contained individuality. But I reserve the right to babble on even more later.

But making comparisons and examining similarities can only take us so far, just as crafting a bunch of bonded storylines can only do so much for Morrison. This issue is a bit of a letdown, though I think it’s largely because other titles in the project haven’t started out with tremendous strength, and now benefit from the kick of rising expectations, the comics Event equivalent of Hulk Hogan starting up a nice stop ‘n clap with the audience as he waves his arm and rises from the mat. Klarion, meanwhile, was quite excellent right from issue #1, and I find myself feeling kind of disconcerted with the whipcrack action and jumpy pacing of this issue, which seems to work against the peculiar, plesing tone that the book has set up so far.

Basically, it’s a little too heavy on the action for me, since what I‘ve grown to enjoy about this book is Klarion‘s personality, his effervescent excitement at breaking through barriers; his sense of morality isn’t exactly fine-tuned either which certainly sets him apart from the rest of the Seven Soldiers protagonists. There’s plenty of flaws to go around across the board, but this one seems just shy of being malevolent. And there’s tiny scraps of that here (“Shall I tell you the hour and date of your death?”), but it’s filtered through a more traditionally heroic framework; we even get a rain-soaked Moment of Choice, in which the bold yet reluctant hero decided to risk it all by returning to aid those who once spat on him. What self-sacrifice! What familiarity! Had Klarion simply said “You know what? Screw those bastards.” in that final splash panel, I’d have been devouring my fingertips in anticipation of issue #4. Now - well, it seems that we’re in a more secure place, though insecurity is what I appreciated about this title.

Oh hey, remember in my Zatanna review when I mentioned that there were no discernible patterns of seven in Klarion? Well there is now, with our Witch Boy being drafted as the seventh member of an all-kid crime (?) squad. “All I’m saying is this: we only just got the gang working straight again,” remarks vain team leader Billy Beezer (I‘ve entirely stopped trying to look up the origins of all these dusty characters, btw), the seventh element obviously completing the portrait. But then, a member gets lost (hmmm, the Newsboy army also may have cast a young boy into a void in their critical act of self-destruction… hmmm…), and everything pretty much immediately falls apart. To Morrison’s credit, he draws some keen parallels between the seemingly candy-coated world of the blue rafters, its money and flash evident, and the unique Puritanism of Limbo Town; both societies send the young men away for a little rude awakening at a certain age, after all. So at least the themes are nicely self-contained. And hey, Frazer Irving draws and colors it all mighty pretty, the big dragging through the Erdel Gate being a colorful highlight.

But still, a bit of a comedown. I guess that the onrushing force of the total project is helping out books like Guardian and Zatanna, and maybe that same clattering machinery is bringing Klarion down a level, almost in response, a type of balance achieved via Morrison’s eye turning from the individual series to the big picture. But then again, I thought the latest Guardian was lovely on its own terms, apart from its role in Seven Soldiers.