I thought it would make more sense the second time through.
A prophecy of seven heroes destined to save the world but never meet provides the loose structure for Grant Morrison’s sprawling celebration of comic subgenres. Alternating between tales of the weird west, Arthurian fantasy, horror, and post-modern superhero deconstruction, it’s a comic book mash-up for the hyper-literate. Who would win in a fight between Iron Man and Batman? Who cares? What if FRANKENSTEIN and the NEW YORK POST teamed up to fight evil fairies from the end of the universe?
Eschewing Metropolis and Gotham for New York City, Morrison’s epic follows the seven as they cope with everything from pirates who haunt abandoned subway tunnels to traitorous time tailors and lovelorn homunculi. Each issue in the collection tells an separate story, but the best are linked by self-contained character arcs that other entries in the series lack. As such, the tale of Klarion the Witchboy, a descendant of the lost Croatoan colony who chafes at his necromantic Puritan upbringing, is the series’ stand-out. Meanwhile, the issues that focus on more conventional heroes, like Zatanna and Mister Miracle, are a nearly impenetrable mess reliant on a high tolerance for hallucinogen-inspired magic and an advanced knowledge of DC universe obscurities.
Typical of Morrison’s work, Seven Soldiers is best in its early stages and threatens to annihilate its well-earned goodwill in an ending full of metaphysics and mother boxes. Upon my initial reading, it was easy to assume I had missed some important details. Going through it a second time, it’s clear that while Morrison packs more relevant information onto a single page than any other comic writer I know, he skips over just as much. It gives Seven Soldiers the feeling of an adult’s drug-addled nightmare crafted with the logic and unfettered creativity of a child. Which is as cool as it sounds and just as frustrating. When the book is awesome, it’s awesome, but it ends because it’s a story and it has to, without a satisfactory conclusion or an attempt to wrap things up.