Sunday, March 13, 2005

SEVEN SOLDIERS - SHINING KNIGHT #1

... And somehow, I don't think Danette Reilly will be around to save him. (Although I'd be really, really thrilled if she was.)

Sir Justin of Arthur's Round Table comes to life in this first subseries of the Seven Soldiers project, amazingly rendered by Simone Bianchi (who is he? Newsarama already asked). In the Zero issue, we saw the Sheeda undertake their Harrowing on the present day and the ersatz Seven Soldiers. Now we see them at a far earlier point in time, razing Camelot to the ground and salting the earth upon which it stood.

If the overarching layers of the Zero issue were a bit muddled (they were), then this first issue helps clarify things a bit. We get a better feel for what the Sheeda are and what their game is, although certainly not enough to figure them out. And, in truth, for every question Grant Morrison answers, he replaces with a new unknown. The endgame is still not clear.

The Zero issue was cynical and post-modern, but this is more straight-ahead action and archtype. The Knights of the Round Table are vivid and valiant without crossing over into bombast or cornball; it's an incomprehensibly unequal fight and they are doing the best of what they know how to do. But it won't be enough to save either Camelot or the future and their desperation in the face of ridiculous odds does not come out as hokey.

Arthur's brave knights are losing badly and it it Justin, blessed not with superior brawn or unassailable virtue but instead a talking horse, who finds the keys to the Sheeda's strength. Trying to defeat the Sheeda queen, it is through Vanguard's actions (Vanguard being the horse) that Justin finds himself bewildered and bloodied in contemporary LA, separated from Vanguard and treated not like a valiant knight, but instead like a crazy SCA member who jumped into traffic while riding a horse and dressed in armor. It's a different kind of world that will need saving here.

In his more familiar appearances, Sir Justin is never built like a linebacker -- he's tall and thin, built straight like the sword he wields. Bianchi takes that one step further and there is a slightness and a delicacy to Justin's form; although he's strong enough to carry the weakened Olwyn, Justin's greatest strength is not physical. There is a fluidity to all of Bianchi's renderings and a fantastic use of chiaroscuro, all the more important for the role shadow has in the Sheeda's story.

Overall, a good start both to the miniseries itself and to the larger sea of miniseries that make up the Seven Soldiers project.

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