*This has been reported on quite extensively already, but the passing of a young, vibrant talent like artist Seth Fisher (the fourth and final issue of his Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan miniseries just came out literally yesterday) gives everyone pause, I think. His odd, appealing 2-issue Vertigo series with Andrew Dabb, Happydale, was the first place his distinct visual style came to my attention, and he seemed to be getting more recognition than ever with that latest Marvel series. This is his website, full of images, which stands as a testament to his formidable ability. He will be missed.

Seven Soldiers - Bulleteer #3 (of 4)


Oh my, I made the awful mistake of waiting a day before getting to this issue, and now Barbelith has updated their excellent thread and they’ve covered so much ground already. Be absolutely sure to read it, as it covers a ton of tiny references, possible meanings, recurring characters, ongoing themes, references to older comics - it’s just a treasure trove of stuff. I seriously had no idea that Thumbelina was apparently in league with the Sheeda until it was pointed out to me - some extremely subtle work going on, and yet another Morrison comparison of deadening physical decadence (al la Mister Miracle) offering an opportunity for entrance by evil, whether it be the Sheeda or the Anti-Life Equation.

Of course, this is the kind of issue that easily warrants a treasure trove type of thread: it appears that writer Grant Morrison is hewing to the pattern he established last round, keeping Mister Miracle only tangentially tied to the story-at-large while positively dumping stuff into Bulleteer. It’s a good choice to make in a miniseries already loaded with great planning - much like Guardian in his own book, Alix here is a often a spectator to her own ‘adventures,’ and thus her exploits can accommodate a large amount of material that doesn’t necessarily directly pertain to her. In addition, this issue is set at a superhero convention, which offers ample opportunity for various personages from assorted miniseries to meet up. Plus, there’s penciler Yanick Paquette, who’s pretty much ideal for rendering the glossy bodies and self-conscious dazzle of the superhero convention.

There’s a lot of bits of commentary in this issue - Morrison depicts the convention scene as basically a wasteland of misplaced superstar posturing, vapid exchanges of information, and undisguised sexploitation (the somewhat sparse turnout for the ‘Sweethearts and Supervixens’ panel was a nice touch, as was Thumbelina’s costume design). And just in case anyone happened to forget the ongoing industry critique of this project, Morrison has Mind Grabber Man pretty much spell it out:

I’m a damn good guy and I want to be recognized for that before all my potential just… just turns sour with neglect. Instead I’m caught up in a nostalgia freakshow that never ends. Look at us. Selling our precious memories for bed and board, reliving the times when our hopes reached the high water mark… and then just receded… I’m not like any of those losers!”

Surely the intent behind this project’s extended delving into the revamping of old superheroes can’t be more explicitly put than that! It’s not just ‘the industry convention as metaphor for the industry itself,’ though there’s some of that too, it’s also another summation of the project’s aims, which exist on both within and without the confines of the story itself (in that it’s both about the act of revamping superhero properties and the actual transformations that characters themselves undergo). It’s probably too blunt here for my tastes, actually, but at least it arises through some genuine character motivation and development - and besides, Bulleteer also seems to be the place for Morrison’s little confessions and times for sounding off, what with last issue’s apparent acknowledgement of the project not really working as a series of miniseries anymore.

Ironically enough, Bulleteer is working a bit better than average as its own thing, as evaluated from a strict ‘plot points’ perspective. The bits with Vigilante constitute a really big plot twist for the overall plot, though his participation in Bulleteer itself is fairly consistent, and nicely set up from last issue to this. It’s maybe the kind of moment that makes you a bit mad, as you catch a glimpse of the project’s plots suddenly working on several structural levels at once, though I hasten to add that every series does retain their own individual mood and themes, if not anything in the way of a conclusive ending. More and more I wonder if Morrison has been forced to hedge his bets - a nice, 30-issue maxiseries for those who desire sealed-off endings and thorough A-to-B-to-C resolutions, and individual (more open-ended) spins on motivation and other character work for each miniseries. This necessarily sacrifices the pleasure of those who desire closed-off plot resolutions for the individual miniseries, and I suppose it’d have been nice if Morrison had been able to pull that off too. But following Seven Soldiers in serialization is partially a study in careful compromises, apportioning strengths where they need to go when it’s discovered that they can’t cover everything.

This one’s a strong branch of the series. Even all the cuteness didn’t get to me. And I think that’s because Morrison is never content to rest on one level of activity, even as far as the industry critique goes - forget the drunken speeches by supporting characters, and look at Alix herself. In a place full of self-puffing yammering and dehabilitating commercialism and gross displays of sexism (and it’s important to note that Morrison clearly doesn’t think hype, money, or physically attractive heroines, or for that matter bloody superhero violence are inherently bad - it’s the gleeful excess of it all that seems to get to him), Alix remains a complete ideal. And an unwitting ideal at that - she doesn’t lean on her super heroine ‘name’ in conversation, she can’t comprehend the mechanics of the superhero assembly line, she doesn’t really think of her costume in terms of displaying her wares, as every else seems to. She’s just wearing it to be a superhero, and because she still feels bad about her husband, even for all his awfulness, and she’s only in all of this anyway to do good. She’s both a naïf and an utter superhero ideal (or maybe she only seems the former because she is the latter), willing to use her powers to do good things, because that’s what good people do.

This is beautifully illustrated in the climactic non-encounter with I, Spyder. Up until then, Morrison had been playing it cute with the idea that Mind Grabber Man was going to die to save Alix (for Seven Soldiers #1, no doubt). Li’l Hollywood mentions in part that “Your time is coming… sooner than you might think.” Alix says “Maybe it is your destiny to save the world. Who knows?” just as the deadly arrow rushes in. We’re prepped for a nice sacrificial lamb, and maybe Alix will learn some more cold, hard facts about the nasty, bloody world of superheroics - why, she’s putting all her loved ones in danger, don’t ya know?! Well the world is saved, but the arrow misses Alix halfway due to MGM, but halfway through her own kindness. And as a result, nobody is hurt, at least not beyond the sting of a bug (Spyder?) bite. Yes, good quite unequivocally wins, at least for the moment.

And even then, I, Spyder ponders what could have made him miss. Something inside himself? No time to think, as a man appears with soul-piercing bullets, ready to hand out cures for what ails you. And the book as a whole is plainly meant as a curative as well.