“Burn, Witchboy! Burn!”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frazer Irving
Publisher: DC Comics
This is probably a bad comic. If it weren’t Grant Morrison, if it weren’t Frazer Irving, I’d knock a couple of bullets off for it being largely a fight scene. I hate it when they do that. Three of your Yankee dollars for twenty two pages of people fighting. Not good enough.
But if it were always as well done as this, I wouldn’t mind a jot. First of all, it looks great, because Frazer Irving is one of the greatest artists working in comics today, and if you disagree, you’re some kind of filthy deviant that needs to be sterilised. Irving’s art is unlike anything ever seen in US superhero comics, an absolutely gorgeous yet creepy style reminiscent of woodcuts put together by aliens who are addicted to cartoons. Part of the reason I’m excited to see his upcoming Iron Man work is because it’s such a crazy but wonderful mishmash that I can’t conceive of how such a thing will look. The most cretinous thing DC have ever done is not get Frazer to draw a Batman comic. Fools!
And then there’s this Morrison bloke, who should disappoint me by turning in a fight issue for the final chapter of this miniseries, but packs it with so many fun moments that I have no choice but to let it slide. Klarion turns into a cat/witchboy hybrid thing to kick arse; he and his mother have a comically strained discussion as she apologises for trying to burn him at the stake; and my personal favourite sequence has Klarion’s sister, surrounded by nasty Sheeda-hired gunmen but not backing down a bit, summons an army of Solomon Grundies to fight for her. The second most cretinous thing DC have ever done is not get Morrison to write Incontinent Crisis. You think the Phantom Lady getting rapekilled is a cool comics moment? An. Army. Of. Solomon. Grundies. ‘Nuff said!
I’ve not followed the majority of the Seven Soldiers stuff, as that’s Too Much DC For Me, but by gosh, the whole thing was worth the time and effort for Morrison and his collaborators if only because it spawned this series.
Plot: Having returned to Croatoan, Klarion finds a most unwelcome greeting; his mother is the leading force behind a posse of good wives intending to burn him at the stake, and his little cat Teekl, too!
Comments: This is a stunning return to form after an iffy and derivative (of Peter Pan of all things) third issue, and a brilliant finish for this, the best of the Seven Soldiers series.
Morrison is not one to neglect to use a gun he left on the mantelpiece, and in this issue all the disparate seeds he’s spread along the way come to fruition. Why is this subterranean tribe of witch-Pilgrims such a mix of opposites, holy rolling witches? Because they are the spawn of a “Sheeda-man” who raped a group of Puritan girls back in the day, and stashed them far below “Blue Rafters” as future breeding stock. The day has come to cull the herd, but Klarion’s worldly nemesis doesn’t really understand the bizarre world his actions miscreated.
Every plot point that mattered in previous issues is revisited here, giving high-concept climactic scenes to the Sub-Missionaries, the Horigal, the Grundies and Klarion’s own quest for independence. There are irrevocable changes, and a rebalancing of the scales both above and below. And I’ll say it again; you really, really don’t want to piss off Teekl, be you Sheeda or soldier or fool. He has a rather drastically simple sense of good and bad.
Most interesting: Some of the other Seven Soldiers series have felt inconclusive, but I don’t find this one does. Klarion achieves his desired status change, while escaping the fate his provincial village insists upon. He’s free to show up in the final capstone issue of the project, but only because his work in this world is done, and done so well.
Grim visions: Irving outdoes himself with this issue, somehow mixing up dire, macabre irony with a real sense of fun and beauty, even in a palette that’s mostly black and blue. It’s not been a particularly easy ride, but it has been a fascinating, stylish, gloomy and Gothic good time. And if the last installment was a little too Lost Boys for me, well: “Even mothers can make mistakes,” offers Klarion’s, in a very nice little summation of all of Grant’s subtext.
The origin of Limbo Town is revealed, as Klarion the Witchboy fights for his life against the Sheeda Mister M. As the women of Limbo Town call in the last defenses, Klarion undergoes a horrifying transformation. Will it be enough to save his kin?
Klarion, perhaps more than any of the other Seven Soldiers minis, has had this whimsical playfulness about it, incorporating several bits of apocryphal history into a story whose hero is blissfully ignorant of his own unique nature. Klarion's innocence is his point of empathy, as he looks wide-eyed at the world above and even trusts the townspeople who are about to burn him to see the error of their ways. His cat, Teekl, is also a lot of fun, and as the symbiotic relationship they share is made more explicit this issue, it is very interesting to see which of the two personas takes control.
On art, Frazer Irving gives an unusual roundness to the faces of Croatoan society, contributing to their subtle strangeness. This roundness of features also makes the characters remarkably expressive, as they seem to be capable of only the most profound of emotions. Of course, the ever-so-slight blue tint to Limbo Town residents’ skin is also an excellent design choice. Human-but-not is both the most terrifying oddity and the most sympathetic.
Assuming he survives Seven Soldiers #1, where Klarion might fit in the DC Universe is uncertain at best. But that is perhaps the character’s greatest strength: DC has nothing else like him. Sure, there are a few “goth” characters, like Raven in Teen Titans, but not really, and not with such an intricate and inspired background as Klarion. Perhaps his place is not important; there’s no reason Klarion should need to interact with Superman every few months to be a viable character. If played correctly, Klarion the Witchboy could join Sandman as DC’s pop culture property.
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