Sovereign Seven #1
By Chris Claremont & Dwayne Turner
“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…” (38 Pages)
First off, I should admit something: I go back and forth between thinking that Chris Claremont is a genius and that Claremont is the George Lucas of the comic book world – you know, the guy who should have just gotten out of the business twenty years ago. This will probably color my whole opinion of the following thirty-some issues of Sovereign Seven. I like the guy; don’t get me wrong. I just never really know what to expect when I open one of his books. That being said, let’s dig in.
The series starts out with a bang. We first meet S7 as they fall from the sky (like any good alien arriving on Earth in the DC Universe). Claremont knows he’s got a barnburner here – a real, live one. And he plays it up: “It was a dark and stormy night, when Sovereign Seven came to town….” It’s fitting that Claremont allows his story to play out like a classic mystery novel. It follows your basic Claremontian storytelling maxim: there should always be more questions than answers. And those questions abound after just a few pages. Who are Sovereign Seven? Where do they come from? Why are they on Earth? And how awesome is Dwayne Turner?
Yes, the art definitely holds your attention. Mr. Turner has a solid understanding of what it means to be a storyteller, and no matter how confusing all the new characters become (and it does get a tad confusing), it’s no fault of his own. I’m not very familiar with his work outside of his early 90s run on Wolverine, but Turner’s style here has evolved from earlier days, and for the better. Sure, there’s still a gritty quality that made him one of those infamous X-penciler extraordinaires – but here he shows a cinematographer’s eye, with a new, faintly manga-influenced flavor which befits the more adventurous, lighthearted tone of S7.
By page two, we’re thick into the action, with S7 dropping out of an energy portal in typical super-hero fashion, landing themselves their very first fight on Earth – against big, spiky demon guys with hand-held, plasma-shooting Gatling guns…
…This was the 90s, so we’ll just have to forgive Dwayne Turner. At least it wasn’t X-Cutioner. (Shudder)
Being super-heroes and all, S7 feel obligated to stop the demonic uglies from putting the smackdown on a very defenseless human, one Toby Merlin. Merlin holds an amulet of which we assume is infused with very powerful magic, because these demon guys want it bad enough to take on S7 in a firefight. With their Gatling guns. That shoot lasers. God, I love comics.
Claremont, probably not wanting to confuse us too much in the first few pages, allows the team leader, Cascade, to take on the uglies. Cascade’s power seems to be the ability to teleport in sort of a liquid form (get it, Cascade?). But apparently, Network (another of the Seven) can focus the abilities of her friends onto Cascade, thus making Cascade all the more powerful. The demons are down in no time, giving us a few pages of character development between the Seven that allow the reader to get to know the team: Network, Rampart, Finale, Cruiser, Cascade, Reflex and Indigo (from l-r).
Claremont and Turner take us elsewhere for an interlude featuring another character known as Maitresse, who’s perturbed by her daughter’s absence. Honestly, she’s a bad dude. She sucks the life out of people. She looks like she got lost on her way to a Youngblood reunion. She also rules her own world. But since she only gets a couple of pages, we’re left with mostly question marks.
Back to the Seven, who’ve taken the unconscious Toby Merlin to the nearest settlement – Crossroads. Crossroads is, at the very least, a café/inn. It may also be a town. This is not made clear. Not much has been made clear so far. Hopefully, we get some sort of explanation soon. All we know is that the cops ignore the commotion at Crossroads because of its position, at the edge of at least two states we’re led to assume. Ergo, it’s outside of their jurisdiction.
The obligatory second wave of villainous nasties shows up at the inn, also after the amulet in Merlin’s possession. Rather than the demonic uglies, we’re introduced to a group of women – Jack Kirby’s Female Furies! It’s confusing as hell, having not only been introduced to seven new heroes, but also two new supporting characters (who we’ll save for next column), and now at least seven obscure super villains (it’s hard to tell how many in the commotion of the big bar fight). While a bit superfluous, the fight does give us a chance to learn the abilities of our heroes….sort of. Network is telepathic. Indigo rolls around real well. Rampart has some sort of shielding power. Finale has a sword. Cruiser likes to eat. Reflex is big.
Then suddenly, Darkseid appears. I kid you not. Darkseid. He retained the services of the Furies to retrieve the amulet, and now he wants it back bad enough to show up in person. In a hat and trench coat.
Now, I’m no expert as far as the DC Universe is concerned, which is exactly why I wanted to review these issues of Sovereign Seven in the first place. So I have to ask: Does Darkseid wear trench coats often? Is this normal Terran fashion for him?
And the hat. I like the hat.
Cascade and the heroes have no idea who he is, and if the reader didn’t have a rudimentary understanding of the DCU, they wouldn’t know either. Darkseid, however, does recognize Cascade, and mentions that she reminds him of her mother (could it be Maitresse, the sucker of souls seen earlier?). Cascade doesn’t much appreciate the comparison.
Merlin hands over the amulet without much fuss, not wanting to die a horrible death. Darkseid and the Furies leave in a flash of light. And the Seven, penniless and new to Earth, agree to repair the damage caused to the inn during their fight. So, for the time being, S7 have a temporary home.
In the final pages, Maitresse appears in a postlude of sorts, falling from the sky to a flaming world, discovering the rumors that her daughter (confirmed as Cascade) has escaped are true. Confused yet? Good.
And yet, in spite of all the absurdity, I liked the issue. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Claremont’s prose. In the pages of S7 it takes on something new – a fairy tale quality reminiscent of Tolkien or E. Nesbit. Gone is the angst of his X-Men days, replaced with a greater emphasis on wonder and adventure. It has a sort of a Jules Verne by way of Alice in Wonderland type of vibe that I found very refreshing. Sovereign Seven are strangers in a strange land, and the confusion experienced by the reader only reinforces that fact.
Like any good Claremont serial, the first issue, while confusing as all get out, is filled with a number of mysterious characters and potential plotlines. Claremont and Turner have set the table quite nicely, even if we don’t yet understand what the heck is going on. S7 definitely has potential, and with time, could develop into an engrossing read. The cast is there, and so is the artwork. Here’s to hoping that Claremont still has the magic.