Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sovereign Seven #1 (1995)


Sovereign Seven #1 (July, 1995)
"It was a Dark and Stormy Night..."
Writer - Chris Claremont
Artist - Dwayne Turner
Letterer - Tom Orzechowski
Colorist - Gloria Vasquez
Color Separations - Olyoptics
Assistant Editors - Keri Kowalski & Chris Eades
Editor - Rob Simpson
Cover Price: $1.95

This one's a long time coming.

Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time will know that one of my earliest obsessions in comics were the Uncanny X-Men.  While the era that initially hooked me on X-Men was more...

this guy...
than...

this guy...
... the mark Claremont left on Marvel's mutants can never be denied.

In the years that followed, I've made it my mission to one day complete my collection of (Uncanny) X-Men... a feat, might I add... that would have been far more satisfying before Marvel decided to relaunch the damn thing every couple of years at #1... but, that's neither here nor there.

I'm down to about a hundred issues as of this writing, most from the first hundred, natch.  I don't plan on dying anytime soon, so I'm still hopeful that I'll one day finish my set.

I said all of that, so I can say this... I have a lot of experience with Chris Claremont's X-Men work.  I have long been aware of his DC work, including and especially Sovereign Seven.  I have never read this title.  While it was being published, the thought of reading a non-X Chris Claremont book just felt wrong.  Granted, this is teenage-Chris (from the pocket dimension?) wisdom speaking here... so, I guess I can give myself a pass.  The fact that I'm in my mid-thirties, and have been exposed to plenty of non-X Claremont in the interim... I really have no excuse not to check this one out.

Was it worth the wait?  Let's find out...

--

New Book... New Team!  Let's do a roll-call:





Cascade: Team Leader.  Can cascade (turn into bubbles) and teleport




Cruiser: Telekinetic, powered by food.  As a result is always hungry.




Reflex: Despite his enormous size, he is the Sovereign's resident speedster.




Network: Telepath.  When no minds are around to read, she becomes fully illiterate and aphasic.




Indigo: Tactician, can vanish into shadows.  Highly enigmatic.





Finale: Warrior woman, fears water.




Rampart: Can manifest force fields.








--


We open on a dark and stormy ni... Oh!

The Sovereign pop onto the scene, presumably from a boom-tube (if the BOOM sound effect is any indication).  They land knee deep in an altercation between a young man and a group of super powered beasties.  The young man is clutching a golden amulet with a large red stone.


Team leader, Cascade approaches the young man to find out what's going on when the beasts begin to open fire.  Cascade orders the Sovereign into combat and we are given something of a demonstration/exhibition of many of the team members' powers.

They successfully fight off the baddies, and proceed to interrogate the young man who faints at the sight of team member Finale.  While he is out, Network attempts to read his mind.  She comments that his thoughts are completely in chaos, save for the name Merlin.


She reads the minds of the antagonists, and finds it far easier... their minds reveal that they were born and bred to capture this man for a Dark Mistress.

Cascade decides it would be best to head to town to reconnoiter.  At that moment, we observe that Dark Mistress (Maitresse) in an exchange with one of her hand-maids, Morgrin.  She is upset that her daughter is gone, and is planning a way to get her back.  When Mogrin expresses concern over the methods she wishes to employ, she kisses him... which causes his body to turn to ash.


Back on Earth, the Sovereign arrive at Crossroads which is something of an inn/bar.  They burst through the door in search of medical assistance for Merlin.  This is where we meet Pansy Smith and Violet Jones who own the place.


Suddenly the team finds themselves under attack.  It appears the Female Furies (Lashina, Bernadeth, and Artemiz) have also decided to pop into Crossroads.  They are in search of Merlin as well, claiming that the amulet he holds belongs to them.  Further, they claim ownership of the beast-men the Sovereign defeated during the open.


A battle ensues, in which poor Pansy gets swallowed up by Malice Vundabar's shadow-monster Chessure.  Stompa and Mad Harriet join the fracas, and in pure Claremontian tone introduce themselves as they arrive on the scene.

Who did you say you were again?
As the battle rages on, Cascade finds that she is no longer able to perform her "cascade" transformation due to Lashina's whip.  Bernadeth uses this opportunity to plunge her blade straight through Cascade's heart.  Her blade shatters upon hitting Cascade's chest, and in all of the confusion the Sovereign gain the upper hand.


Finale and Network plan at retrieving Pansy from Chessure's gut/void/whatever is inside.  Finale forces the shadow beast's mouth open and Network whips her lariat down its "throat".  Pansy takes hold, and with the help of Cascade, Network is able to successfully pull her out.


Both teams take inventory before rushing back into battle.  Before the two groups can clash again, they are interrupted by the KRAKOW! of a boom tube.  On the scene enters... Darkseid... or is that Joe Fixit?  I always enjoy seeing Darkseid humanized... whether it's lounging in an easy chair, or wearing a hat and trench coat.  Stuff like this is always fun.


Darkseid has come for the amulet, however, Merlin is not too keen on handing it over.  Cascade asks him for the truth.  If the amulet is indeed his, the Sovereign will fight for him... even to the death.  However, if the amulet is not his, he'd best hand it over to its rightful owner.


 Merlin considers his options, and ultimately drops the amulet into Darkseid's massive mitt.


Darkseid indulges in a cup of coffee and alludes to knowing Cascade... and her mother.  Before she can get any more information out of him, Darkseid takes his leave... boom-tubing away.  Once gone, Pansy and Vi start busting the Sovereign's chops about the condition of the inn.  In lieu of paying for damages (which is difficult when you have no money), it is decided that the Sovereign will work off their debt to the Crossroads.


We close by rejoining the Maitresse, and it is revealed that she is in actuality Cascade's mother.


--

This was... alright.

I am mildly interested in coming back for the next chapter.  It's not bad by any stretch, however, there are moments where it feels as though I'm listening to a Chris Claremont tribute band... many of his well-trodden tropes are present.  The strong female lead, pages and pages of folks popping into panel to introduce themselves by name, the overly dramatic story title, ending this issue with "The Beginning" (I swear I was an S & M suit away from getting "bingo")... ehhh, just feels like I've been here before.

Like I said, there's really nothing overtly bad about it.  It was just unfortunately, at parts, something of a chore to "get through".  I'm a huge Chris Claremont fan, I may actually have more comics written by him in my collection than anyone else, and I really wanted to dig this more.  It would have opened up a whole new series for me to discover and enjoy.  Still may check out more, but it's not a priority

The art was about the same.  Nothing outright bad about it, but not a whole lot to draw me in and keep me interested visually... Mr. Darkseid Fixit notwithstanding.  The inking and coloring did the pencils no favors, as there is a very uneven and sometimes muddy feeling throughout this over-sized ad-free issue.

Is Sovereign Seven worth your time?  I have a hard time saying yes... yet, at the same time I have an ever harder time saying no.  It's Chris Claremont.  If you are a fan of his, you owe it to yourself to at least check it out.  If you dislike Claremontian writing, you should probably pass on this one.

--
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1 comment:

  1. I had a similar reaction when I read it at the time. I'm not as big a Claremont fan as you, but I remember Claremont's move to DC being a big thing at the time and I was genuinely intrigued to see what he'd do in the DC Universe.

    Like you, I was a bit underwhelmed by that first issue. And confused. Plenty confused. Now, I'm all for starting stories 'in media res', but you do have to give your reader time to catch up at some point and that never really happened with this issue.

    It's all a bit too frenetic and, while the fact that the Sovereigns already know each other is probably a good thing, it would be nice if we got just a little bit more back story for them. That said, there are some nice moments and, like you, my favourite is probably the Darkseid appearance. Claremont does do a genuinely good job there.

    I'm just not sure about the choice of the Furies for antagonists. On the one hand, it establishes that, yes, this is a title set in the DC universe; on the other hand, Claremont's using a relatively obscure aspect of it to make that point. (The obligatory Batman guest appearance happens a few issues later, iirc.) Mind you, at the time I was a comics fan who had studiously avoided Kirby (I know, I know - what can I say? I was an idiot), so the appearance of the Furies didn't have much impact on me.

    Later issues get better, though, as Claremont settles into the run and he begins revealing a bit more about the characters and the setting of Crossroads - which in itself is a nice idea used relatively well, iirc.

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