Manhattan Guardian #4 & Shining Knight #4

The Infinite Crisis event isn't my cup of superheroes but I really like what Grant Morrison is doing with the Seven Soldiers of Victory megaminiseries. This is the best stuff DC (or any other comics company) has put out in years. Two of the minis wrapped up this week.

Short version: They're both awesome!!

Now for the long versions. With pictures!

The Manhattan Guardian #4 (0f 4) - DC (2005)
Where's Bat Boy?

The Newsboy Army features heavily in this one. Morrison has an affinity for quirky, superpowered kid gangs. The Deviants from Klarion #3 are another example. There's just something about adolescent ass kickers that works. The lineup features Ali Ka-Zoom, the future Merlin of the Ghetto (nice tie-in to Zatanna, there), a millionaire dog and a hyperintelligent baby. This is the kind of craziness that really sells a book to me and Morrison makes it work.

He has created a main character I really care about. Jake Jordan is a truly good man who is just trying to do the right thing with what he's been given. The publisher of The Manhattan Guardian gives him quite a bit by making Jake the newspaper's own superhero reporter. Jake, along with the other six Soldiers of Victory, ends up facing down an invasion by the Sheeda which will be wrapped up in the bookend special issue once all of the miniseries are finished.

This is by far the strongest issue of the miniseries and it answers several of the questions asked by the first three. It also ends in a cliffhanger of the highest order. I can't wait to see what happens.

Cameron Stewart's art has been consistently good throughout the series but he really shines on the flashback sections depicting the Newsboy Army's adventures. Moose Baumann fades the colors in those sections, giving them an older feel as well as setting them apart from the present-day stuff.

A lesser writer might have overplayed the camp value of the kid gang but Morrison acheives a balance between the candy-colored innocence of the past and the harsh realities of the present.

Shining Knight #4 (0f 4) - DC (2005)
Hey, Kids!  Alt Text!

Simone Bianchi's art in this miniseries is among the best things I have ever seen in a comic book. Dave Stewart, the colorist, is to be commended, as well. Every panel of these four issues has been a pleasure to behold. The first two-page splash is so evocative it would make me want to write a comic book based on it if Morrison hadn't already done so.

Morrison's writing lives up to Bianchi's images. Pacing is one of the most important talents a writer of monthly comics can possess and Morrison is its master. The story of Sir Justin has fallen into place just slowly enough to make the reader want to see the next issue. This built up to a surprise in this final issue that I honestly did not see coming. Nice work, Grant!

Justin, the last member of Arthur's round table, has been transported to our world by magical means and must fight the evil queen who wants to take over our time/space coordinates and add them to her empire. That's her on the cover, up there. The action is well-drawn and well-written and I love it when someone nails a high-stakes "fish out of water" story.

However, the best thing to come out of this miniseries is the character of Don Vincenzo. I want this guy to show up in more series after this. He's a mafia don who is surrounded by mystical enforcers and an otherworldly consigliere. He's like John Constantie as a made man. I want Vincenzo to go over to the Infinite Crisis crossovers and whack a few people. They seem to like that sort of thing over there.

These two issues encapsulate what I like about the Seven Soldiers stories. They pull together the weirdest shit from all possible sources and arrange them into fully-realized characters who are involved in stories that work on multiple levels. This is an ambitious project which has rekindled my excitement about what is possible in the comic-book medium. I hope some of the copycats inspired by it are truly inspired.

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