Seven Soldiers of Victory
by Grant Morrison, various artists (DC Comics, 2006)

Zatanna has always deserved better in the DC Universe.

As was so briefly demonstrated in her brief miniseries Everyday Magic by Paul Dini and Rick Mays, Zatanna is more than just the sum of her tophat, tails and fishnet stockings. Even though she had a major supporting role in DC's major Identity Crisis storyline a few years back, she continues to be underutilized by the company's creative teams; I have always imagined her in an ongoing Vertigo series that could easily prove as edgy and thrilling as the long-running John Constantine, Hellblazer title while also being funnier, sexier and fitting a little more neatly into the mainstream DC continuity.

So, with Zatanna getting a starring role in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory event, I knew I would eventually pick up the series -- even though I had misgivings about some of the other characters in the book, and the little I heard about the plot didn't excite much curiosity.

Well, I like the bits with Zatanna, much of which involves her temporarily losing her powers in the aftermath of Identity Crisis, feeling out of sorts in the DC Universe and finding herself saddled with a young, backwards-talking apprentice with (of course) a secret past.

But the rest of this cast floundered, and the story -- despite Morrison's demonstrable skill as a plotter in the past -- never really comes into focus. It feels like it's trying to hard to be another "big event" in DC's continuity, but the foundation isn't there and the payoff is weak.

There is a mysterious race of fairy-like beings -- sometimes wee, sometimes human-sized and occasionally monstrous -- who want to take over and/or destroy the world. Legends say only a team of seven can defeat them, but all teams that have tried so far have failed -- and died. Luckily, none of them included any big names in the DC stables or else they'd have had to come up with an explanation why the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman couldn't do the job.

So this latest team of seven isn't a team at all. In fact, they don't even know each other, and they don't know they're part of any "team."

Besides Zatanna, the group includes an odd assortment of DC C-listers, none of whom I can foresee moving up in the ranks any time soon. There's Klarion the Witch Boy, scion of a race of subterranean magical Puritans; the Guardian, a disgraced former cop who now works as the headline-grabbing superhero for a Manhattan newspaper; the Bulleteer, an eye-candy character whose fetishist husband accidentally coated her in a super-hard metallic skin that, apparently, also gave her bonus strength; Mister Miracle, a gaudy escape artist who is dressed exactly like the late Scott Free, the New God version of Mister Miracle, and awkwardly ties this series into the Final Crisis saga that followed; the Shining Knight, the last survivor of King Arthur's Round Table who has traveled through time on a flying horse; and Frankenstein. Yes, the immortal monster, who now carries a gun and fights for justice. Ugh.

The Guardian and Bulleteer might actually have some potential as supporting characters in the future, although neither could stand alone. Zatanna, as I've said, deserves a series. The rest of these also-rans should hit the dustbin right away, if they haven't already.

This one never managed to engage my interest, although I doggedly worked my way through all four volumes. I've heard some people say Seven Soldiers of Victory is a modern classic that requires its readers to work really hard to understand its myriad layers and levels, but nothing about it inspires me to want to put that much effort into the experience.

review by
Tom Knapp

21 February 2009

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