Sunday Slugfest - Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #1

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Michael Deeley, Shawn Hill, James Redington, Jason Sacks, Ray Tate
“From this World to That Which is to Come”

Michael Deeley

Limbo Town was sealed off from the world. Its blue-skinned citizens pay penance for their forefathers’ sins. They invoke the protection of Croatoan and practice witchcraft. They raise the dead to mine rocks to trade in the High Market. Klarion wishes to follow his father to the lands past High Market; to the mythical Blue Rafters. But the religious leaders are sealing the Wicker Gate against the coming Sheeda. They’ve also summoned a terrible creature called Horigal. Now Klarion faces this monster alone.

Frazer Irving successfully conveys the feeling of a town living in eternal darkness. The blue-skinned people in high black hats and buckles look like the opposites of the Puritans. Their behaviors and fears are still the same. This is a gloomy place that may not be so far from our world as we may think. (Never before has a Kit Kat wrapper seemed so important!)

As I understand it, the original Klarion was an immortal boy of considerable magic power. He could be cruel, but wasn’t exactly evil. His pet cat Teekl could transform into a werewoman. I always thought the character had potential, though he didn’t appear very often in the DCU. Morrison’s version of Klarion as a rebel in a repressive society brings much needed depth and motivation. It could be retconned as his new origin.

As for the story itself, small community ruled through religious fear, elders hiding a secret about the outside world, teenager bravely rebels and finds the truth. It’s The Village meets The Crucible. But it’s done very well.

Shawn Hill

Plot: Your typical coming of age story. A too-clever boy balks at the rigid world around him and his dismal future, finally making a break for it with his trusty ally when he gets the chance.

Comments: This story is another case of Morrison taking the simplest of premises and making it fresh with some clever ideas applied with surgical precision. Here the strongly arresting Gothic and moody art from Irving initially keeps the reader off balance.

This village of witches all has blue skin. Though each has an animal familiar, conformity seems to be the norm, a rigidly enforced one. Sigils, pentagrams and hex signs are employed like any interchangeable symbols (yellow ribbons and patriotic flags, perhaps?), to ward off evil. Their pilgrim garb (a Salem witch trial reference) allies them with their hysterical historical enemies, a telling clue. Religious zealotry becomes its own mirror image. Community leaders, the “Sub-”missionaries (heh) demand strict adherence to the norms. Outright panic is directed towards a rival race, the faerie Sheeda, as scapegoats for all that threatens Croatoan’s grim harmony. As it turns out, however, the corrupt Submissionaries are more concerned with preserving their own rigid power structure in the face of a changing world. What could be going on he—Oh. Right. Clever Morrison.

Thanks to a few useful allies (a sympathetic Father, his cat Teekl), Klarion has an edge on the other kids. But also thanks to his own innate cleverness, he’s more prepared than others when real true evil rears its deadly and hideous head. Good cliffhanger, and yet another example of Morrison creating his own self-contained multi-title crisis with help only from some of the best artists around. If DC was only Vertigo, this is how it would look.

James Redington

This is the best title so far from Grant Morison’s Seven Soldiers project.

A bold statement for a bold comic.

This comic is fresh, it is exciting and it looks as good as it reads. Who would have thought that Klarion The Witch Boy could be so interesting and fun? I didn’t. To be fair the only times I have encountered Klarion before this were in back up stories in old issues of Action Comics (I think) which I never read anyway. I don’t know anything about him and thank goodness, because coming into this series with fresh eyes is exactly the right thing to do.

Klarion is basically a troubled teen in a strange, slightly Amish town called “Limbo Town” where everyone is extremely pale and looks like a witch. They dig up their dead and the town leader (I assume) called Judah then removes what is left of their mind, takes control of them and turns them into slaves, which they call them Grundys. Klarion wants to escape this life and his future like his father has, the only man to leave Limbo Town (or so we are led to believe, basically he left and has never returned… a mystery…).

What is appealing about this comic is it doesn’t feel like a DC Comic (being a DC comic is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong), it’s set in its own little world where the problems are as real to the characters as anything we experience in our world. Klarion has an annoying little sister, he has no Dad, a mother forcing him to live the life/future laid out before him …, and he also discovers a three headed dragon creature that has killed a whole section of the town, and he has a physic link to his cat… Grant Morrison creates a world that is all too real and completely alien as well.

Helping Grant on his way is British born, Essex Boy Frazer Irving – known for his work on 2000AD. Frazer has created an eerie edge to this world… and may it be noted that Frazer Pencils, Inks, and Colours all his own work – impressive!! I like that the Grundys all look the same, I like that the villagers of Limbo Town are very similar – none really stand out from the crowd apart from Klarion and Judah – these people follow blindly. The rainy atmosphere and the darkness of the art never detract from the story and the use of splash pages helps the story and highlights the dramatic tension. Definitely keep an eye on Frazer Irving as he hits the American market. If all his work lives up to half of the quality here…

“Wow” is all I can say… I have been impressed so far with the Seven Soldiers comics, but this is the first one that has truly blown me away on art and story. So it’s 4BULLETS for the art and 4BULLETS for the story… can I have 8 bullets?

Jason Sacks

Wow, what an odd comic. I mean, Klarion is just plain strange. It seems there’s an extradimensional place where an odd civilization of creatures live. There are witches, of which our guy Klarion is one, but they’re an oppressed minority who seem to be on the outs with the rest of their civilization. There are hints of supernatural creatures, and there’s a Kit Kat wrapper in there, too. It’s all very strange feeling, which I’m sure is part of the point of the book.

It’s also tremendously intriguing. What is the story with the Grundies, who are dead people brought back to life for manual labor? What is the strange fairy-like creature that Kalrion’s cat Teekl kills? What is the creature at the end of the book? And what is this strange place Croatoan? Lots of questions, almost no answers. Which is immensely exciting to a reader. Being thrown into a strange world where there are no answers provided helps make the reader feel off-balance, like we don’t know what to expect from the story. We know that we can trust Morrison to provide answers, so the journey itself can be a pleasure.

Frazer Irving’s art, and especially his coloring, are absolutely sensational. With his use of mostly blue and gray shades, Irving creates a world that seems extremely claustrophobic. Except for Teekl and the mystical beings, everything is blue. Blue faces, blue fingernails, blue ground. When Horrigal appears on the last page, his purple highlights explode off the page. This all helps lead readers to feel what Klarion is feeling. We want to be free of this world, but at the same time, the world of Croatoan is intriguing.

Klarion is a very strange comic, but it’s wonderfully written and drawn, and is very intriguing. Of the four first issues so far of the Seven Soldiers series, it’s my favorite.

Please Visit Jason Sacks’s Comics Blog

Ray Tate

Klarion the Witch Boy appears as though it was produced by Hammer and photographed by Stephan Czapsky, responsible for the blue look of Batman Returns. Then it seems the original writer who wasn’t very imaginative to begin with dropped dead.

Grant Morrison takes charge of the script to produce yet another triumph for the Seven Soldiers of Victory multi-series. Our hypothetical Hammer movie began as a simple morality fable, and Morrison turns it into something different. He also directs Frazer Irving to go nuts, and Irving gleefully snatches at the opportunity by taking the ordinary trappings of supernatural cinema and making them unique. For example, the Submissionary, the equivalent of an Inquisitional witchfinder, bears all the over the top pomp and bullying of the debauched Bishop from Blackadder but seen through the eerie celluloid of The Cabinet of Caligari. This chap is probably what John Bolton looks like when he peels off the human skin from his latest victim and removes
his fake Wilfred Brimley mustache.

Klarion is even more streamlined than The Guardian. There doesn’t actually seem to be any big ideas in this one that wish to turn physics--either real or comic book based--inside out. Certainly Morrison puts a spin on Solomon Grundy, and of course, this spin exhibits the typical Morrison brilliance that makes one shout, “Why didn't I think of that!” He also brings in his recurring villains the Sheeda, but almost all of Klarion is a really good dark fantasy that’s not necessarily out of reach from those writers whose skill level is far below that of Morrison. This is not meant to slight
writers everywhere. There are simply those writers that transcend even great writing, and Morrison is one of them.

What makes Klarion a work of pure Morrison genius is that he once again creates a whole teeming world parallel to our own. Basing Klarion’s civilization on severely twisted Puritans, Morrison shows that conformity is the enemy to reason and that religious right dogma isn’t really about worshipping the true god but about gobbling up power. This allows the unjustly privileged few to exert their will on others. It’s not an original idea, but the way in which Morrison presents the sad truth exhibits novelty, and that’s especially interesting given that the title character isn’t really a new kid on the block.

Klarion dates back to Jack Kirby’s classic pre-Crisis series The Demon, and has been a mainstay nemesis for Etrigan. The magical brat also pestered Batman in “The Demon Within” on The New Adventures of Batman and Superman. He most recently vexed the entire DCU in Sins of Youth. Morrison has forgotten none of this history. This is the Klarion that intersected with Etrigan. He even has his magical cat Teekl.

Morrison surprisingly and without nullifying Klarion’s history makes him a sympathetic figure. The author does this not by extracting the weird-looking boy’s bile but by emphasizing the oddities of the hell dimension from whence Klarion came.

Klarion hails from a sunless world that’s inhabited by evil, magic-using pilgrims. Nothing in this land stirs curiosity. Societal rules have made the people impotent, and they take out that sense of hopelessness on each other. The reader can very easily sympathize with Klarion’s desire to quit this dystopia. In fact, their point of view is so bleak, but entertainingly bleak, that I wonder if this mini isn’t set on Morrison’s Earth-2.

Appendix: Is it Gibberish?

Cereberus: The three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades in Greek Mythology. Horigal, although his origins are quite different, seems to be a magical cousin. Horigal is however past the Wicket Gate--which is an obscure reference to Pilgrim's Progress a Christian classic by John Bunyan, not recommended unless you need a good nap.

Croatoan: When pre-Revolutionary War, North Carolina colonists disappeared
without a trace from Roanoke Island, they or their abductors/killers left behind one word carved in a tree. That word was Croatoan. Nobody to this day knows what happened to the colonists or what the enigmatic signature meant. Morrison implies that Croatoan is an ancient and nasty god, at least that’s how the demonic pilgrims of Klarion depict him. Morrison’s Croatoan could also reference Wotan, another name for Odin, who was actually pretty decent and not unlike how Marvel characterizes him. Most of the Norse gods when compared to those of other pantheons seem far saner and definitely more benevolent.

Solomon Grundy: Based on the nursery rhymes--which also have hidden meanings--this character plagued the original Green Lantern during the pre-Crisis and later Batman during the post-Crisis eras of DC comics. James Robinson in the pages of Starman borrowed a few pages from Doctor Who to put a spin on the character: whenever Grundy is killed and emerges from the swamp of his birth, he emerges as a different incarnation of the same character. Thus, an intelligent, benevolent Grundy became the norm. Grundy returned to his former glory as a member of Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang in the Cartoon Network’s Justice League. Morrison referenced Grundy’s swamp in the zeroth issue of Seven Soldiers of Victory. It's unlikely that Grundy’s appearance and Morrison’s reference are pure coincidence.

Zombies: The true zombies created through biochemical means based upon the poison tetrodotoxin found in various marine life are victims of a criminal act that places them in coma-like states. Upon awakening, the cultural influences combined with the damage to their brains makes them easy prey to cultists who usually force them into slave labor--a use that Morrison employs in Klarion. The mining scenes are very reminiscent of the Hammer classic Plague of Zombies.

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