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31 Days of Seven Soldiers, Day 30 – Frankenstein #4

You never thought I would get this far, did you?  Admit it!  You thought I would pull my hair out and run naked through the streets until they had to tackle me and drag me away to a small room with no sharp implements!  Well, how do you know they haven’t done that and this is being written by my precocious 18-month-old daughter, pretending to be her daddy?  Such is the nature of the Internet, where you can never know for sure!!!!!

Norah would like to point out that there are SPOILERS in this post.  Because that’s how we roll around here, with SPOILERS galore!

12-31-2006 05;58;24PM.JPG 

Last issue, Frankenstein told Father Time he would walk to Tibet.  And here he is!  He’s pretty fast, too, because not too much time could have elapsed between issues.  He is here to fight Neh-buh-loh, because that crazy universe is just out of control!  The narration summarizes the Sheeda for us: they are from the future, they prey on the past civilizations, they’re ruled by a parasite queen.  Okay.  Check.  Frankenstein shows up by what looks like an altar, which is quite probably the Tomb of Wing, the Unknown Soldier of Victory, whose identity was revealed in JLA #100-102.  At this altar is Neh-buh-loh, munching on winged horse – it tastes like chicken!  Neh-buh-loh asks Frankenstein, “What malformed thing have they sent to judge me in my exile?”  This is a strange question.  The last time we saw our favorite evil universe, he was absconding with the Undry Cauldron from Don Vincenzo’s mansion.  Well, chronologically that was the last time we saw him!  The winged horses are one of the Seven Treasures of Camelot, which are important to the Sheeda, so why is Neh-buh-loh just sitting around eating them?  Why, exactly, has he been “exiled” to the Himalayas?  How has he fallen out of favor with the Sheeda?  Is it because he allowed Misty to escape once more?  Does Gloriana Tenebrae even know that Misty is still alive?  These are important questions, damn it!!!!

Neh-buh-loh, interestingly enough, tells Frankenstein that he, Neh-buh-loh, will confess his sins before tearing Frankenstein apart.  He is still haunted by the guilt of letting Misty escape – twice.  He tells Frankenstein that he is 3 billion years old, and he might have grown huge enough to replace the universe, but there’s a flaw in him that keeps him small.  Frankenstein doesn’t care, and blows a hole in him with his locomotive gun.  Neh-buh-loh tells him that he failed to kill the daughter of the Sheeda king, and that why he is being punished.  The annotations speculate that “Errrhiahchnnon” and “Mhwuuiiielmethhh” are the Sheeda names of Rhiannon (Misty) and Melmoth.  Maybe.  I always thought that since Neh-buh-loh had a giant sucking chest wound, he couldn’t pronounce their names correctly.  But it really doesn’t matter.  He says that he was moved by beauty and preserved life instead of ending it, which is the flaw.  He tells Frankenstein that “confused galaxies collide” inside him.  In Misty, he saw “harmony, symmetry and beauty.”  Frankenstein, unmoved, shoots him in the face.  This is why Frankenstein is the perfect soldier to send after Neh-buh-loh: he has no soul.  Now, that’s not to say he’s not a swell guy, but in essence, he is just a weapon, like the water creature in issue #3.  We saw that Zatanna and Misty were frozen by the mere presence of Neh-buh-loh, but Frankenstein doesn’t hesitate.  He does what has to be done.

We get a quick look at the Bride and Father Time, flying over what appears to be Hurricane Gloria.  The Bride has read Helen Helligan’s report, which shows the patterns behind the Sheeda attack.  She jumps out of the helicopter to join the fray.  Meanwhile, back in Tibet, Frankenstein has used his Internet access to find out everything about Neh-buh-loh.  It’s a nice reference to the various comic book web sites, like the annotations I link to in every post, where all the information is categorized.  He discovers Neh-buh-loh’s history, including the fact that his infant form is still on Pluto in the JLA remote lab and that the Ultramarines were injected into him to stop Black Death.  This makes it all the more weird that DC has not included JLA Classified #1-3 as part of the Seven Soldiers trade paperbacks, because it’s such a crucial part of the saga.  Frankenstein tells Neh-buh-loh, who’s now missing most of his face, that the supermen who invaded him gave him medicine to hasten his end.  The flaw is the “presence of death.”  The annotations have some speculation on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which Frankenstein says is causing Neh-buh-loh to lose heat, but it’s interesting that Neh-buh-loh himself thinks the flaw causes him to feel compassion, while Frankenstein says it’s the actuality of death.  It seems that because Neh-buh-loh himself knows what death is, he is able to feel compassion for things that don’t necessarily deserve death, like Misty.  Frankenstein quotes Paradise Lost again as he takes advantage of this flaw and shoves Neh-buh-loh’s spear through him, killing him.  I dug Neh-buh-loh, as you know, but it feels like he never got to be a truly epic supervillain, despite the impressive number of victims on his résumé.  This is something I’ll get back to with regard to the Sheeda themselves.

Frankenstein calls Father Time, who tells him that he needs to head for Miracle Mesa in Arizona, where the Sheeda are up to something big.  The coordinates Father Time gives – 33 North 110 West – put the mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, east of Globe in Graham County.  Pepper City, I should point out, doesn’t exist.  We flip to Arizona, where Frankenstein watches as Gloriana Tenebrae, last seen in Los Angeles biting Agent Helligan, raises the cauldron toward Castle Revolving to take it to Summer’s End.  You’ll notice Sir Justina has stowed away on one of the Sheeda’s helicopters and will follow the Queen into the future.

So we go one billion years into the future, where “the ransacked planet Earth tumbles on slow, wounded spirals towards a blistering, undead sun.”  You’ll notice that the sun, like Frankenstein, is “undead.”  The Sheeda, the “creeple people,” cling to a “spectacular half-life, in a gross and claustrophobic imitation of culture at the end of all things.”  The black flowers of Slaughter Swamp, just like the Terrible Time Tailor and Misty predicted, have covered the planet.  Gloriana Tenebrae returns, and “at her command, six gigantic, world-wrecking harvester dreadnoughts commence rotation in the senile, filthy twilight.”  Six?  Boy, we know that means evil!  Frankenstein, we see, is killing his way through the Sheeda as Gloriana Tenebrae talks about how the time of the harvesting is here, blah blah blah.  She’s about to take a dip in the cauldron and get the mystical equivalent of some botox injections when Frankenstein shows up.  She thinks that he’s Melmoth’s emissary, but he tells her that her husband is dead.  Frankenstein tells her he has “vowed to protect humankind from evils” like her, and she makes the very good point that they are just examples of survival of the fittest.  She asks him, “Are we not human?”  (Kind of live Devo.)  Don’t they have a right to exist?  She eats an apple, just like she did in Shining Knight #1, linking the entire series together and reminding us of the evil stepmother once again.  This is an interesting speech, because Frankenstein has no response to it, much like he doesn’t respond to the curse Melmoth laid on him.  He is the perfect warrior to battle the Sheeda, because he simply does not care about their motivations.  He is there to stop them, and not even necessarily because he has “vowed to protect humankind.”  Sure, there’s that, but he is also stopping them because he killed Melmoth, who claimed that only he could stop the Sheeda.  Frankenstein has taken Melmoth’s burden upon himself, and therefore he must destroy the Queen.  Plus, he has that vow to protect humankind, too.

Just like Ozymandias would do, Frankenstein has not visited Castle Revolving first.  As the Queen prepares for a throwdown, he simply blows up her six dreadnoughts.  Gloriana, naturally, does not take kindly to that, and in true Queen of Hearts fashion, hisses “Off with his head!” as Frankenstein runs for it.  He kills the steersman of the castle as he sends an e-mail back through time to S.H.A.D.E., and tells Gloriana that she needs to return to his time for trial.  Gloriana is unimpressed and is still preparing to go into the cauldron as Frankenstein takes the wheel.  And there it ends!

This, the penultimate issue of the epic, is rather weird.  Why?  Well, it appears to make Seven Soldiers #1 superfluous.  In this issue, Frankenstein kills the Celestial Huntsman, who was a pretty formidable foe, and destroys the ships the Sheeda were going to use to “harvest” our time.  I mean, the Queen is still alive, and there are Sheeda infesting the Earth, but they have been reduced to just another bunch of beatable villains, right?  As we will see, Seven Soldiers #1 indeed suffers from a feeling of anti-climax (no, it doesn’t want to cuddle or, conversely, roll over and fall asleep, but that feeling is still there), and it’s mostly because the Seven Soldiers themselves don’t have a lot to do.  Frankenstein has done their work for them.  As I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what they were going to do in the big finale.  As it turns out, Morrison didn’t know either.  Ostensibly, this epic is about Seven Soldiers fighting an “extinction-level event” without actually forming to make up a team.  Groovy.  As we have seen, many of the mini-series are more about examining what makes these people heroes and how they overcome their own shortcomings and not always external issues.  These are damaged people, and they have to figure out a way to be heroic.  Even Frankenstein, to a far lesser degree than the other six, has to grow up a bit.  As we see even in this issue, he realizes that he has to employ some sneakery if he wants to deal with the Sheeda threat.  Early in the issue, he simply approaches Neh-buh-loh and blows his head off.  That kind of direct approach will not work one billions years in the future.  He has become more of a strategist, which allows him to almost single-handedly defeat the Sheeda.  But what is left for the other six soldiers to do?

As a culmination of his own mini-series, this is a fine issue.  It completes a cycle begun in the first issue, it gives Frankenstein some small measure of character development, and although Mahnke’s art got more rushed, it seemed, over the course of the series, it’s still a stunning-looking title throughout.  His Neh-buh-loh is horrible, actually, and that’s the only misstep in the entire book.  Seriously, Mahnke – what’s up with your rendition of the too-cool-for-school Celestial Huntsman?  Blech.  But as a part of the whole, this issue leaves us with too many questions answered.  Seven Soldiers #1 promises – what?  Perhaps if Frankenstein did these things in that book instead of this one, we’d have something.  But then it would have been twice as long and Morrison would still be writing it, so I guess we take what we can get.

So where are the Seven Soldiers now that the big dust-up is coming?  Justina, we saw in this issue, is on Castle Revolving, ready to take revenge against Gloriana.  Jake is leaving the offices of the Guardian, ready to rescue Carla.  Zatanna has just been accosted by Misty and her flying horse friends.  Klarion is climbing back up toward New York, looking for adventure.  Shilo just popped out a black hole.  Alix is about to drive Sally Sonic to the hospital.  And now Frankenstein, like Cosmo Kramer, is driving the bus!  So there you have it!

And so, once again, I direct you to the annotations, if you are interested.  Jog, eloquent as always, has some thoughts.  Of course, other links are most appreciated.

Next: Holy crap, it’s the final post!  The big enchilada!  Will the Internet ever be the same???????

4 Comments

You have really done a great job with this, so I just wanted to say thanks for all the effort. This had to be a huge pain in your ass but it gave me something to look forward to reading everyday. I did not always agree with your interp but it helped me see the books in a whole new way. Also, you may be interested in knowing that the four armed Bride shows up in this weeks Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (sorry if anyone else has posted this in other comments). Happy New Year and let us all resolve to be a little more like Grant Morrison in 2007…wait, nevermind.

I loved this issue. Those that said Frank got nothing to do in Seven Soldiers #1 and didn’t contribute to the Queen’s defeat really need to go back and take a look at this one.

Just in case those coordinates happen to be exact, this is a site with pictures of the real-life counterpart to Miracle Mesa’s place.

http://www.confluence.org/confluence.php?lat=33&lon=-110

(Just thought you might like to see them)

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