I am out of titles. It had to happen. I really considered just hitting keys at random for this one, like sfidkbzknf. This is the new frontier.

*Seven Soldiers Dept:

That's the great strength of superhero comics - internal psychological conflicts can become actualized. Inner dramas can be played out as literal, world-shaking battles… 'Seven Soldiers', seen from that perspective, is all about superheroes on the couch, trying to deal with all the strange and unusual feelings they've been having these last few decades, and it's no coincidence that so many characters in the book are seen attending self-help groups or undergoing therapy. There's also the matter of my own tendency towards severe and crippling depression, and the way in which I use my work in comics to unearth, personify, and come to terms with a lot of painful and difficult emotions. I'd like to think that these comics allow us to discuss things like hope and failure, love and loss, confusion and certainty, by effecting the alchemical transformation of hurt and self-doubt into wonder.”

Grant Morrison looks back with Ian Brill on the recently-completed megaproject, over at Newsrama. Lots and lots of tasty stuff on Morrison’s writing process for the various issues (a discussion that spills out into chat about his most recent projects, like Batman and The Authority), including some eye-opening chat on late-game alterations, the effect of leaving revived characters to the hands of others (“I honestly don't expect anyone to actualize the potential of these characters, but I'd like to be proven wrong.” ) and the effect Morrison hopes Seven Soldiers #1 might have as a single issue. He also explains that Zatanna bit thusly:

When Zatanna casts the cards in the final issue, she's making a connection with the reader, inviting us to join her in making sense of 'the passage of a few people through a very short space of time' as Guy Debord so poignantly described his life and that of his friends, and by extension the lives of us all.”

Oh just read it.

The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M #4 (of 4)

This has been a thoroughly odd series. In case you don’t recall, it’s an older-skewing, comics-format, Image-published sidestory to Frank Beddor’s young adults prose novel series The Looking Glass Wars (Book 1 now out in the US). The comic is written by Beddor and Liz Cavalier, with art by Ben Templesmith. This is the final issue of the first miniseries (two more are planned), extra-sized for $3.99 with 36 pages of story.

The plot, briefly, concerns Hatter Madigan, a royal bodyguard of Wonderland, who’s searching around our world for lost little Alyss, the heir to the throne who had to flee a nasty coup. Madigan is a master of blades, all the better for fighting our world’s junkies of Black Imagination, a substance that turns men into monsters. He’s not shy about it - at one point early on, he hops on his horse and lets his blades twirl around his back like a speedboat, leaving a stormy mist of dismembered body parts and grue in his wake.

All of which, mind you, takes place in the context of a story that often seems reminiscent of an ‘80s children’s television cartoon; there’s also a wicked Baroness who lives in a (literally) b&w world because she’s obsessed with hooking children up to an evil machine and sucking their imaginations right out. It’s really sort of Care Bears or Muppet Babies, except for the gory throat slashings and maimings that tend to pop in. One would expect this sort of thing to be impossibly disjointed, and while it is certainly jarring it somehow manages to succeed through its curious sense of conviction. It doesn’t as much draw attention to itself as a gory revision of children’s stories as assert its independent existence as a strange hybrid of whatever Cavalier & Beddor find interesting, clash be damned. This makes it no less batty, but it does at least seem organic, even while spitting out thought bubbles like:

What a completely outrageous lie. There’s a very strong scent of imagination emanating from her with overtones of boldness and sensuality. It’s really quite… intoxicating.”

The bit about the overtones made it funny. For me.

The crucial component, as it’s been for every issue, is Templesmith. His art takes on a decidedly jaunty beat at times, playfully cooking up images like an ominous crystal-powered imagination sucking machine that somehow retain the flavor of a child’s drawing; his actual drawings of children are also pleasing, big detailed heads atop pyramid lumps of bodies. It’s the perfect tone of hyperactive adolescence to adopt, right down to the weight given to the title hero smashing mightily though things, his body slowly descending to the ground over three panels as villains flee his fury as shadows in the background.

There’s still more to come, as has been announced before, so don’t expect an awful lot of closure. Being the first segment of a bunch of sidestories to a larger work that’s only 1/3 complete doesn’t offer a lot of chances for wrapping it all up with a bow. I could have done without the extended homage to Neil Gaiman’s Delirium too, I think. But Hatter M has proven itself to be a weirdly compelling thing, as far as disposable action stories go, possessed of a unique sense of being and an honest eccentricity that pushes it a little ahead of the pack.