Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha snow.

*Updates Dept: It’s come to my attention (courtesy of Ye Olde TCJ Messaging Boarde) that two of the artists featured in Rock ‘N’ Roll (reviewed yesterday), Bruno D’Angelo and Kako, will be contributing to Image’s upcoming Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle and Sebastian Anthology, due out in February. Considering that the Belle and Sebastian book even came up in the comments section of that particular post, I thought I’d just toss the info up here.

Seven Soldiers - Mister Miracle #2 (of 4)

First off, the Freddie Williams II pages (which are lesser in number and fairly easy to distinguish from the rest of the book) look a good deal nicer than the Billy Dallas Patton/Michael Blair material (hopefully I’m reading the credits correctly in inferring that Williams inked all of his own pencils) - since Williams is on board for the remainder of the series, this is a good sign. It’s not that the Patton/Blair pages are necessarily unattractive - I’d say they’re certainly competent and not without a certain straightforward energy - but Williams’ thicker lines and more stylized designs seem to react better when paired with writer Grant Morrison’s script, its running motif, the heroic cosmic subsumed into the urban forgotten, ably emphasized by the off-kilter look of Williams’ cast. Compared that to Patton and Blair (and how can one not compare them in as tight a situation as this?), who seem a bit too straightforward, a little too clean. Colorist Dave McCaig, despite offering his work on all pages, seems a bit more enthusiastic with Williams, his hues gently glowing and affording a hidden energy to the affairs of the Earth.

Williams’ approach also seems more in tune with that of Pasqual Ferry, artist for issue #1 - I’d previously noted that Ferry’s talents seemed underutilized in that initial outing, his gifts for pulp-fueled action largely ignored to make way for the mild hallucinogens of Morrison’s cosmic encounters. Now I’m wondering if the script is partially meaning to tease out the cosmic feeling hidden in a real-world milieu; maybe this mode of operation is actually well-suited to that. It’s certainly what I was thinking upon reading both issues #1 and #2 together - I expect you’ll be doing the same, since issue #2 suffers badly on its own, meandering around with seemingly little direction. Only after refreshing yourself with earlier material does Morrison’s intent become clear(er) - the classic Kirby cosmic comics of days gone by are here literally trampled into the concerns of grit, grand forces made into bums and evil installed in real world positions of power. Once again, it neatly follows one of the running the concerns of the Seven Soldiers project as a whole - the transformation of pleasant heroics and grand adventures into dire ‘real world’ difficulties (“And Motherboxxx is just a childhood thing. A toy… somebody made for me.” - see also: the Newsboy Army of Guardian and Zor the evil creator in Zatanna) instead of a more enlightened maturity.

Perhaps Morrison means to hammer his point home here by utilizing his most direct application of Kirby influence yet - the King even gets a creator’s credit here, making him an individual among the creators of a hundred characters revamped within this project. Unfortunately, these two issues give me the feeling that Morrison, in his quest for directness, is perhaps finally allowing his own understanding of these characters to dull his storytelling acumen. Simply put, the series thus far not only presumes a certain familiarity with the New Gods pantheon, it relies upon it for much of its thematic/emotional power.

Yes, Metron gives us a very brief New Gods for Dummies presentation in issue #1 to ensure that the unacclimated reader doesn’t get 100% lost, but the pursuant cook’s tour of revamps and reimaginings seems remarkably distant, as if Morrison knows what we’re supposed to feel upon encountering such and such a character as a street person, and he relies only on that to inform us. Morrison did well with uilizing shorthand and suggestion in other books in this project (or All Star Superman, for that matter), never letting his own knowledge of DC arcana cloud everyone’s experience, and trusting in the reader’s own familiarity to just the right degree, but here for the first time he seems to lose his balance. As a result, it’s like we’re being ushered from character to character without the opportunity to drink anything in, unless we already know what‘s going on.

We can still catch a few interesting ideas, though they don't quite cohere. As I’ve indicated above, the themes of the project are very much present, even if there’s still little literal connection to the overarching plot. The tunnel-eyed Dezard tearing up people’s spirit and stamping out fantasy via overanalysis is certainly amusing, and it’s yet another facet of the ‘bad’ brand of maturity the project’s villains often indulge in (note that Morrison doesn’t decry Dezard’s approach across the board - it is the ‘technique of a healer’ after all). Recasting Darkseid as a Suge Knight brand of mogul is cute. And hey - now that I’ve gone and looked up a bunch of New Gods information on the internet, I’m perfectly ready to admit that transmuting the Apokolips-escaping Mister Miracle concept to an entertainment star looking to avoid the corruption of high living (his greatest 'escape') is actually pretty clever. But it's not terribly interesting, stripped from its comics tie-in, at least not with the execution it's getting.

Indeed, all I’m getting from this story is these intermittent bursts of cleverness, and little else to hold my interest. The project-wide themes are registering, but Morrison is going to have to work harder to build up interesting characters and resonant action if this thing is going to succeed on anything beyond a macrocosmic level. Otherwise, we’ll be left with another Shining Knight, another ultimately dull patch in a generally strong endeavor.