31 Days of Seven Soldiers, Day 12 – The Manhattan Guardian #3
So here I am, trying to keep up with this ridiculous schedule I have set for myself, and Earthlink, Qwest, and Dell all suck. Apparently something happened to the DSL lines yesterday, and now my wireless router is screwed up, and I didn’t have the Internets for a good 20 hours or so. What the crap? I was almost done with this post, too, which ticked me off even more. So I will try to get back on schedule with two posts in one day coming up soon, but I beg your forgiveness for falling behind! But let’s move on!
You know what? This was kind of a disappointing issue. The whole robot thing is just not terribly interesting. It gives us some nice character development, but overall, it’s kind of dull. It sets up the very good final issue, however, so I guess that’s something. But you’re here for trenchant insight, not my whining! So what are you waiting for!
Hey, guess what? SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!!! You know the drill!
We begin at Century Hollow, New York’s most unusual science park. The narrator, whom we learn is Hanna Control, says that they transformed Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ellis Island Key into a working model of world demographic dynamics! Like the vision of New York that we saw in Seven Soldiers #0 when Shelly was flying through town, this is a project that never was. It’s mentioned briefly in this article. Hannah and her husband, Jorge, reduced the earth’s population to a small scale, creating a statistical portrait of the world. Unfortunately, the robots have turned on the tourists and attacked! Nobody, it seems, has mentioned the similarity to Westworld. Is that too old-school for y’all? Luckily for everyone, Jake Jordan is parachuting in to save everyone! As he flies down toward a map of the world, Ed is in his ear explaining the entire project. If you reduce the entire population of the world to 100 people, Ed explains the statistics, then says that Hanna and Jorge used “ex-military robots” to act out the whole thing out. Didn’t they know it would go wrong? It’s like Small Soldiers, for crying out loud!!!!! And I’m sure it’s like a bunch of other movies about technology gone horribly wrong! We get it, Grant – technology sucks and will bring the Sheeda down on us!!!!!
Phew. I just had to get that out of my system. On the next page, we meet Jorge Control, who is both award-winning and hen-pecked. He enters the control room, where all the workers are dead. Jorge talks to himself, and we learn that he gassed them all, but all he wanted was to teach his wife a lesson in realpolitik. Good job, Jorge! He introduced a killer virus, a Spartacus code, into the robots, which turned them into rebels. He was grumpy because Hanna turned his map of political and social reality into a “tawdry” theme park. In the park, an old man named Ike is in full “I told you so” mode. He predicted that the next war would be against pissed-off household appliances. He says he’s unimpressed with these new-fangled robots, because he fought “Communist hunter killer refrigerators in the jungle of the Far East.” He might be unimpressed, but the robots do succeed in killing him. They’re about to kill an elderly woman and a small child, but Jake shows up and bashes them good! Hanna shows up and automatically assumes Jake is on the SWAT team. Jake doesn’t speak, just leads. We get a flashback as he fights the robots, as Lauren, Carla, and Jake sit in Lauren’s house, and Lauren talks about how much she misses Larry. On the television the weather report mentions that Hurricane Gloria has reached epic proportions off the coast of Honduras. Hurricane Gloria, incidentally, hit the Atlantic in 1985. If you think that a big storm named after the Queen of the Sheeda is a coincidence and won’t play any part in the rest of the saga, you don’t know Grant Morrison very well, do you?
The flashback continues with Jake and Carla at dinner, where Jake proposes but Carla turns him down. This is an interesting section, as Carla tells Jake she was happy when he quit the force and she didn’t have to worry about him dying. Jake snaps back that she can’t say she was happy when he was “broken down and beaten like a dog.” Carla is upset about her father’s death, so she pushes Jake away, saying she doesn’t want to get dragged into this new world he’s a part of. She is angry that he seems to love it so much, and Jake tells her it’s just that he finally got his pride back. This conversation seems to put Carla in a poor light, but we have to remember that she’s just experienced a tragedy. It brings up an interesting point – at the beginning of the series, Carla is clearly not happy that Jake has no pride, and when he does get the job, she’s skeptical but is at least supportive if it will help him recover that pride. She even tells him that she’s been missing his smile, so her anger now doesn’t ring true. Does Carla have a bit of a domineering side, and even though she says she wants Jake to stand up and “be a man,” when it happens, she can’t deal with it? It’s possible, but that’s an unflattering view of Carla, and she doesn’t act that way the other times we see her. But it’s a thought. The real point of this conversation, interestingly, is to set up a situation where Carla needs to be rescued by Jake – I’m not going into gender roles here, but maybe I will at another point - and if Jake had been the same kind of person before he took the job, he wouldn’t be able to do it. Another thing to ponder is if Carla is angry that Jake got his self-esteem back from something external to their relationship – she was unable to break him out of his funk, but the job was. Jake defines himself by his new job as Manhattan Guardian, and Carla fears that she won’t be enough for him anymore.
The fighting in the theme park continues, as Hanna explains to Jake that she “may” have caused the disaster by calling her husband “a pitiful bag of dead meat” that morning. Gee, you think, Hanna? Here we have a contrast to the Jake/Carla situation, as Jorge and Hanna are also having problems in their relationship. Jorge “solves” his self-esteem problems by reprogramming the robots to go berserk, while Jake becomes a superhero. Both men are spurred on by a need for approval from their women.
Hanna blasts some robots, Jake bashes some others, and the Newsboy Army parachutes out of the sky to lend some support. Jake flashes back again to his argument with Carla, as they stand on the street in the rain and Carla finally lashes out, telling Jake that he could have saved Larry’s life. She knocks Jake’s engagement ring onto a grate and walks away as Jake says, “But I had to save yours. Carla.” This is a poignant line, because Carla doesn’t know that Larry pleaded with Jake to save her, and she doesn’t realize that her father was, in fact, a kid superhero who knew the meaning of heroism. Larry didn’t need to live on, Carla did, and Carla is now experiencing what Jake did – guilt, this time over surviving when Larry did not. It shows us, once again, what people need to go through in order to grow up. We’re not sure if Jake is completely over his self-doubt, but now Carla has spun down into it. Note the taxi in the background when Carla walks away from Jake. Isn’t Klarion in there?
Jake defeats all the robots (yay!) and then we’re in the control room, and Jorge is trying to convince the police that terrorists took over the park. It’s interesting that he says the terrorists were “speaking in … in tongues.” It’s strange religious terminology to describe a terrorist. Hanna, however, is having none of it, and says there “was only ever a jealous, homicidal madman who thought I loved the lawnmower more than I could ever love him.” Jorge says that she has sex with the machines and laughs at his humanity. This makes Hanna angry, as she doesn’t want the news to get out, and threatens to sue the Guardian for damages because Jake led her to believe he was a policeman. Obviously, Jake did no such thing, but she’s a bit upset. Jorge gets his final line, “I made you, Hanna Control!” and this, combined with the other things he says on this page, leads us to believe that Hanna is a robot. Over at the annotations there is speculation about whether she’s a robot or not, but I don’t think there’s much doubt, is there? We’ll discuss this more below.
Jake returns to the Guardian, where he tells Ed that he’s quitting. Ed tells him that he has a story that might change his mind, and reveals his true self to him: Ed is a small man, almost like a baby, with a large, deformed head. He is hooked up to an IV machine and sitting in a large cushioned chair that looks like half of an egg. He tells Jake he’s going to tell him the secret history of the original Newsboy Army. Well, this should be interesting!
As I mentioned, this isn’t the greatest issue of the mini-series, but it does bring in a theme that runs through the saga, and that is of control. What does it mean to control something? Is it a good thing or not? What are the consequences when we lose control? Morrison has been dealing with this subtly (and not so subtly) throughout, and here it becomes the focal point. We have various control relationships in this issue: Carla wants to control Jake, possibly because of grief, possibly because of love (she wants Jake to quit not because she’s angry at him, but because she fears he too will die). Jake wants to control his guilt and fears. Ed wants to control Jake to convince him that he’s a hero who will fight the Sheeda. Jorge wants to control Hanna, Hanna wants to control public perception, they both want to control the robots. All of these relationships get highlighted in this issue, which is why, despite it being disappointing, it’s still interesting to examine in the context of the larger saga.
Technology allows us to control nature. The Sheeda want to control that technology and, by extension, control the way we evolve. As we saw in Shining Knight #3, the knights of Avalon tried to control nature, and it backfired on them. But most of human nature is about control – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. So in this book we see the dark side of technology – the robots rebel against their overlords, because they don’t want to be controlled anymore. Technology draws the Sheeda to us, but it also allows the humans to fight back. What is Jake, after all, but a product of technology? What about Shilo Norman, Alix Harrower, and Frankenstein? All products of technology. These heroes must find the balance between controlling technology and being controlled by it. We see the Sheeda as ultimate controllers of technology, but they are also so dependent upon it that they can’t move forward as a culture. They have reached a dead end of evolution because they are so dependent on their tech.
The idea of control in relationships is not new, but still worth looking at. Did Jorge build himself a woman? The clues say yes, but just like the robots in the park, she too rebelled against him. Jorge is a visionary, despite his rather skewed outlook on life, so it’s not hard to believe that he would create a woman for himself. Hanna, whether she’s a robot or not, also wants control – of Jorge, most intimately, but also of the situation at the park. She doesn’t want negative publicity, and threatens to sue the Guardian in order to keep things quiet. In her personal life, she has emasculated Jorge (which must gall him even more if, in fact, he built her) and, you could say, driven him to this point. We shouldn’t let Jorge off the hook, but at the same time, we can understand his actions. Theirs is a wildly unhealthy relationship, and it stems from an unwillingness by either of them to let go of control.
Jake and Carla mirror Jorge and Hanna, but we have reason to believe theirs is a more healthy relationship. Jake does not appear to want to control Carla, and even though Carla has some control issues, she doesn’t insult Jake, like Hanna did to Jorge, and she attempts to discuss her fears with him. In these two relationships, we see the dark side of control and a more benign side. Carla wants to control Jake, sure, but she is full of grief over her father’s death, which might cloud her judgment, and she is worried about him because she loves him. Her love blinds her to the fact that she was NOT happy when Jake was tortured by guilt, and that this Jake is much better for her than that Jake was, but it’s still love. Her attempts at control are attempts, not to dominate the relationship, but to make sense of a life that has suddenly spun out of control. The only thing that makes sense to her now is the life she used to share with Jake after he reached his nadir. That, at least, she could understand, even though she was unhappy. She has lost some of the control in her life, and, as anyone can tell you, that’s an upsetting feeling. So she grasps at straws to keep from sinking.
Finally, there’s Ed, who has been controlling the situation from the beginning. We’ll get more insight into his character in issue #4, but it’s interesting that we finally see his true body in this issue, because it lets us know that he is another person who has no control over a part of life that we think we can easily control – our body – and so therefore he has created a world where he can control everything but that one thing. Even his creation of the golems can be seen as an extension of this desire to dominate – he creates perfect bodies to offset the problems he has with his own. He has tried to manipulate Jake into fighting the Sheeda, but in the end, he realizes the only way to truly manipulate Jake – and get him to do what he wants – is to relinquish some of that control and let Jake in on the secret. Ed has learned a belated lesson, and his new knowledge shows the way for someone like Carla, who must relinquish some of her own desire for control in order to deal with the new paradigm of her relationship with Jake. Jake, in his own way, must give up some of his desire for control and trust that Ed will tell him the truth and that it is very important to fight the Sheeda. So they all must move forward and learn, once again, what it means to be a hero – and by that, I mean accepting responsibility and being a grown-up. Only then, Morrison seems to be implying throughout these series, can the Seven Soldiers have a hope of defeating the Sheeda.
The annotations for this issue are, not surprisingly, somewhat thin, as it is mostly fighting. But they’re good for a look, anyway.
Next: Zatanna meets Ali Ka-Zoom! What fun! I will try to get back on schedule. We’ll see. I am undaunted!