Monday, 9 December 2013

Seven Soldiers of Victory

Grant Morrison and a cast of thousands
Seven Soldiers of Victory (2006)

Seven Soldiers comprises seven four-issue miniseries plus some other stuff, each miniseries featuring one of the seven principal characters as they form a team without actually meeting. It's been collected in the four volumes I have here, which I was going to write about individually until I realised it might become too repetitive. The idea is that one is supposed to be able to read the seven miniseries in any order, and I initially began with order of publication - as they appear in the collected volumes - but it became a little too confusing so I've opted for one character at a time bookended by the two specials.


The relationship between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison was vividly and uproariously depicted in the beloved 1970s sitcom That Plonker Next Door wherein the suburban Morrison family find themselves frequently and comically at odds with their neighbours, the Moores, headed by the gruffly bearded Alan who worships Sid's Snake from the old Whizzer & Chips comic strip - with hilarious consequences; and there's probably some sort of irony that the best description of practical magick I could find in a short time just happened to preface an interview with the latter:

Moore believes magic is a grammar—a linguistic, symbolic structure for looking at the world. He has at times described interactions with gods and demons; he insists these entities are not real in the phenomenal sense. They are ideas, but they contain all the power of these gods as if they were real. Moore believes that art and magic are aspects of the same part of human consciousness: the will to create. Magic, for Moore, is not about the material world but the world of the mind. Its only authentic external expression is art.

Much as Moore and Morrison seem to harbour serious reservations regarding each other's continued existence, I'd suggest the above applies particularly well to the work of the latter; and I'm suggesting this just to make it clear what we're talking about here, given how Seven Soldiers of Victory might be deemed an alchemical work, broadly speaking - narrative as ritual.

The story, divided as it is into seven parts which intersect to a lesser degree than you might expect, is reasonably straightforward in terms of mechanics, but disorientating in regard to the whole. This is particularly so as each individual story tends to serve up an odd shaped slice of the fantastic life of its star, chronology leaping around all over before ending seemingly abruptly in a couple of cases; so the whole is some way from being a neat little jigsaw puzzle which slots happily together and dispenses a chewy gum stick of perfect sense when you press the red button at the end. There is a lot going on in this story, so I'm just going to have to concentrate on what made sense to me, otherwise we could be here all evening.

The dominant theme of Seven Soldiers of Victory seems to be that of layered realities, those of the characters and their readership and how we might intersect and so on; all with some of that trendy quantum physics thrown in for seasoning and the sort of mathematics by which it can be proven that the story is a universe in its own right - although I can't remember if I picked that up myself or from one of Andrew Hickey's excellent related essays. Grant Morrison becomes a character in his own comic, not for the first time, writing the lives of people who seem to recognise themselves as essentially fictitious.

Equally significant may be the recurrence of that which springs to life, which emerges from below the earth or the underworld, and the animation of previously unliving matter - variations on a theme which crop up time and again and may be seen as crossings made from lower to higher levels of being, or travelling towards Godhood as I suspect Morrison may see it.

This transmutation is disrupted by the Sheeda - villains of the piece identified with the Sidhe, the fairy folk of myth - creatures who devour culture, pillaging and corrupting their own history and who, it turns out, seem also to embody the aforementioned Godhead towards which everyone else aspires given that they turn out be humanity from the far future at the furthest reach of evolution. On one level this may be deemed to reflect - ooh off the top of my head - Alan Moore's Watchmen recycling the culture of a more innocent age for its own ends, or even what Morrison himself does with the Seven Soldiers in question - each one hired from DC's stable of also-rans, arguably excepting the comic book incarnation of the Frankenstein monster who, by the way, seems commendably faithful to Mary Shelley's verbose original. On another level, the story represents culture as a self-generated institution, symbolic perpetual motion, a universe bringing itself into being, which probably qualifies as magick at least as much as anything Paul Daniels ever did; and the why is addressed in an Ed Stargard newspaper column in the final chapter:

In the fury of bright crayola colours, broken bones, and sound effects that can burst your ear drums if you let them, the themes may seem unfamiliar but trust me, those are human stories, writ large, dressed in capes and riding magic carpets to other universes, and if life with the Super-Cowboys taught me anything it taught me this...

When you use your X-ray vision to really, really look... ever day is mythology.

At least it feels like an answer to me. Obviously it's all much more complicated than can be summarised in four or five paragraphs, and Seven Soldiers of Victory distinguishes itself as a comic which not only rewards repeat reading, but quite possibly demands it and certainly deserves it. I'd rank it as the best thing Morrison has written since Doom Patrol, and therefore one of the best thing's he's written by some way.

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