Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
This is another weird issue in the weirdest of the mini-series, isn’t it?Â It’s a fun, pulpy read, but it’s just a strange little tale in the grand scheme of the Seven Soldiers Saga.Â And we get to see the four-armed Bride!Â How can you go wrong????
There just might be SPOILERS in this post.Â I won’t guarantee it, but there have been SPOILERS in every other post so far, so why wouldn’t I put SPOILERS in this post?
Is that a seal on the cover?Â Where did that come from?
Remember the theme that has been running through each mini-series?Â The one about transformation?Â Well, as Frankenstein himself appears to have no need of such psychological navel-gazing, in this series Morrison has been exploring the dark side of transformations.Â In issue #1, we got Uglyhead and the teens’ transformation into their “secret selves.”Â In this issue, which is a bit too thematically similar to issue #1 (but still enjoyable), we get the townspeople (and the fauna, too) of Salvation Valley turning into ravenous zombies.Â Don’t drink the water, people!Â It’s a fun issue, but like some others in the series, feels a bit disjointed, as if Morrison wanted to tell a fun story with some of his favorite things and decided to just drop it into the Seven Soldiers epic.Â He ties events tangentially into the grander story, but it still doesn’t seem to fit all that much.
However, we do get the Bride, which leads back to the notion of whether or not Frankenstein needs to change.Â The Bride was “made” to be Frankenstein’s “companion,” but she, ultra-modern as ever, says he wasn’t her type.Â The pathos of existence that Frankenstein experiences is brought to the fore when he destroys the water creature, giving it “oblivion.”Â Should Frankenstein change?Â Does he have to?Â We have seen so far that he is a hero in that he does what is necessary and doesn’t worry about the consequences.Â Now, after killing Melmoth, he is under a curse – at least he believes he is.Â Another reason why this is a strange issue after the resolution of issue #2 is because Frankenstein doesn’t seem to do anything to atone for his “sin” of killing Melmoth.Â This issue does introduce the method by which he makes up for it – S.H.A.D.E. and their high-tech gadgets – but it seems like he could have found Gloriana in the Arizonan desert without their help.Â So although it’s an enjoyable issue, it’s odd.
So what is going on in Salvation Valley, and what’s in the water?Â Frankenstein shows up there, inexplicably, and sees cute little woodland creatures attacking humans and Army commandoes wetting their pants.Â He is attacked by those woodland creatures and is rescued by the Bride, who shows up with wacky boots on and two extra arms.Â The Bride, of course, is based on the movie The Bride of Frankenstein, which was directed by Ian McKellen.Â She and Frankenstein escape, and then she shoots him in the head with a tranquilizer dart.Â When he wakes up he is shackled in a secret headquarters somewhereÂ (Essex Airbase, although wherever that is remains a mystery).Â He’s a prisoner of S.H.A.D.E.: the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive.Â The head of S.H.A.D.E., Father Time, tells him that they could execute him because he “transformed a well-regarded southwestern high school into a crematorium.”Â I emphasized the two words because of the choice of verb, which is interesting, and the fact that in issue #1, we’re told specifically that Jefferson High is in the Northwest.Â A minor continuity glitch by Morrison, I assume.Â Father Time tells him that S.H.A.D.E. cleans up the crap no one else will touch, and he wants to hire Frankenstein.Â One of his agents tells him that Hurricane Gloria is tearing up the East Coast “on what appears to be a … a pre-programmed path,” which, as we know, it is.Â Father Time says “the whole world’s in crisis,” which might be a reference to Infinite Crisis and also explain why no superheroes seem to notice the Sheeda invasion in Seven Soldiers #1.Â Maybe.Â Father Time tells Frankenstein that they develop and test experimental super-weapons at Essex, and three days previously, one of them got out and went to Salvation Valley.Â He says that a 3 billion-dollar superhuman is loose in the town, and he wants them to get him out before they nuke the place.Â Sounds easy!
Who is Father Time?Â According to the Bride, he’s a man who “has seen it all before.”Â According to a comment in my last post, he’s Captain 7, who was pushed into Ali Ka-Zoom’s cabinet for possibly molesting Chop Suzi.Â There’s absolutely no evidence of this, beyond the fact that they’re both black.Â I would like it to be true, but can anyone tell me why they are the same person?Â Any clues you pick up on?
Anyway, as Frankenstein and the Bride head back into town, we get a rare glimpse at Frankenstein’s soul.Â He doesn’t regret his life, really, but he does yearn for something else, perhaps a “normal” relationship with a four-armed undead woman with tall hair.Â There isn’t much of this in the series, but it gives Frankenstein more humanity, and it’s a nice touch.Â But soon there are carnivorous cows to kill, and giant water monsters to destroy.Â You’ll notice that when the Red Swami brainwashed the Bride and passed her off as a reincarnated assassin goddess (like Kali) it took seven S.H.A.D.E. agents to subdue her.Â They are confronted by a large creature that appears to be made out of water.Â The Bride says it’s the target – “it runs on some kind of toxic fuel” and it’s a “wetform A.I. based on a prototype by Professor Ramsay Norton.”Â RamsEy Norton created Chemo, who was recently dropped on BlÃ¼dhaven during Infinite Crisis.Â The water creature also reminds me of Glob of the Ultramarines, who is hanging out inside Neh-buh-loh during this epic.Â That’s not their target, though.Â Their target is “Pilot Zbigniew X, leader of the X-Hawks.”Â You can read a lot more about him and the X-Hawks at the annotations.Â Pilot Z-X shows up, quite mad (inÂ both ways), and he tells the Bride that he drank the water and tried to communicate with this new form of life, and he knows now that he is supposed to “nurture these alien forms of intelligence, so that they can inherit the earth from solid matter.”Â He notices that the creature is spewing toxic waste all over Frankenstein, and he says that they’re the same.Â Frankenstein agrees, and therefore grants the creature oblivion, which is denied him.Â The Bride tells Pilot Z-X that the water is causing his cells to turn cancerous, and she cuts off his head in order to take it back to S.H.A.D.E.Â Nice move by the Bride!
When Father Time moves in, heÂ asks Frankenstein if he’d like to hunt down “a time monster in Tibet.”Â This is a reference to Neh-buh-loh, who is searching for theÂ city of Gorias and the tribe of winged horses.Â S.H.A.D.E. needs him, becauseÂ “a lot of the superheroes are dead” and there’s some sort of “planetary crisis alert.”Â Good to see MorrisonÂ doing some advertising for the other big event comic from DC!Â Father Time tells him that Salvation Valley is going to be wiped out by nukes, and then he tells him aboutÂ Masaru Emoto and theÂ memory of water, which is an experiment whereÂ if a beaker is labelled with a certain phrase or emotion, the water crystals reflect that emotion.Â Here’s his website.Â You can read more about the experiment here.Â Of course, if you’re a cynic like me, you just think it’s all bullshit.Â But it fits in well to a comic book!Â Father Time tells Frankenstein that they tried to make water into a weapon, and the water fought back.Â Frankenstein can relate.Â He leaves Salvation Valley and walks to Tibet.Â He’s damned speedy, is Frankenstein!
So that’s the issue, and it remains an odd little sidebar to the main epic, even though we get a little bit of information.Â For me, the most intriguing thing in the issue is when Frankenstein actually tastes the water.Â “It’s only water,” he says.Â This is really not expanded upon, but it implies to me that the people of Salvation Valley went nuts for an entirely different reason, and the water is a convenient scapegoat.Â We see no Sheeda in this issue, but the way the creatures in Salvation Valley run amok reminds me of Mo Colley, killing cops in Nowhere Square.Â In Seven Soldiers #1, the Sheeda cause riots in the streets of New York.Â Why do the people in Salvation Valley go crazy?Â The other explanation is that Morrison is simply showing people giving into their deepest desires, thanks to the millennarian fever that is in the air.Â The whole saga has an apocalyptic feel to it (which every good superhero epic should have) and as this epic seems more in the public eye than say, Infinite Crisis, it’s possible that the people of Salvation Valley have simply freaked out on their own.Â That doesn’t explain the animals, sure, but if Hitchcock didn’t have to explain why The Birds went crazy, why should Morrison?Â The hints that the water is NOT responsible for the insanity is fascinating, but unfortunately goes nowhere.Â Too bad!
The other intriguing part of the issue is Frankenstein’s character, which is developed slightly more than in the first two issues.Â We have seen in issue #2 that he has a soft spot for children – this is an evocation of the movie, where he chucks the girl into the lake (you know what I mean – he’s playing!) – and in this issue, he pines for the Bride.Â Frankenstein is comfortable with who he is (the hero), but like Alix Harrower and unlike the other Seven Soldiers, he does not necessarily want a “heroic” life.Â He has gotten his vengeance on Melmoth and now he simply wants peace.Â Since he cannot find it himself, he gives it to the water creature.Â We could argue that Neh-buh-loh needs peace as much as the water creature, and Frankenstein grants that too, next issue.Â Frankenstein, who is more fully developed as a hero than any other Soldier, must develop as a “human” – that is his transformation.Â He makes sure Melmoth dies horribly.Â He makes sure that the water creature does not.Â Would he have been so nice to the water creature if he hadn’t killed Melmoth in such a fashion and received a curse in return?Â One wonders.
The issue is certainly interesting, if a bit disappointing for its place in the whole.Â As a brief story, it’s pretty cool.Â And why does Rachel have a picture of a really freaky clown on her wall?Â That’s just weird.Â Check out the annotations if you must!
Next: Man, it’s just too weird to talk about.
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