After tackling Shining Knight yesterday, Seven Soldiers Week continues today with Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s Manhattan Gaudian. While not my favorite Morrison work, this book still has a lot to offer in terms of craft and big ideas.
Title: Seven Soldiers – Manhattan Guardian
Storytellers: Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of Publication: 2005
Page Count: 88
After the accidental shooting of a child that resulted in his handing over his badge, ex-cop Jim Harper tries to get his life in gear by applying for the job of The Guardian after spending more than a year dealing with personal demons. But Jim quickly learns to be careful what he wishes for, as the new Guardian finds himself in a pitched battle with Subway Pirates! Will he survive the ride of his life through the unknown subterranean world of New York?
SPOILERS FOR SEVEN SOLDIERS – MANHATTAN GUARDIAN BELOW
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing
If I’m being honest, I did not love this book, which is about par for the course when it comes to Morrison for me. The protagonist and the core concept of the series (a crime-fighting journalism corps) just didn’t click for me. That’s not to say the book was a failure, though. This story told by (probably) anyone else would have failed. But because Grant Morrison is Grant Morrison, he was able to infuse this book with enough cool ideas and interesting world-building that it was worth the read. Subway pirates. Genius infants. Child Adventurers and their legacies. Manhattan Gaudian is a book of ideas, and when your name is Grant Morrison, that name can carry a book. There is a lesson to be learned here about taking chances and trying new things, though. Morrison, regardless of whether he pulls it off (and he usually does), is always trying new things. He’s constantly pushing himself as a storyteller, and that’s an incredibly powerful mindset to be in.
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art
Cameron Stewart draws his comics fairly traditionally, sticking to the grid, not breaking too many panel borders, and aiming to just tell a clear story. In the final issue of this series, though, Morrison writes a scene that cuts back and forth between the present and flashback. Cameron draws the flashback portions with a bit of haze to them, to suggest that they’re taking place in the past—standard flashback scene execution. Two things were particularly interesting, though. This may have been on the script side or on the art side, but rather than have the pages work as units for past or present, there are two different standards for pages in this scene. Stewart either draws a page completely in flashback OR with one panel set in the present. It has the effect of anchoring the scene in the present, reinforcing that this is a story being told by one character to another even though the reader is seeing it play out visually. Stewart reminds the reader ever page or so that their reading about someone telling someone else a story. It’s interestingly meta. But the real lesson is that it’s okay to break convention. Most comics would have this scene play out in flashback with a voiceover, rather than cutting back and forth, especially in the way Stewart does. Stewart, being the pro that he is, knows that it’s okay to play with your work.
Recommendation: B (Entertaining, Worth a Read)
Check back tomorrow when I tackle Seven Soldiers – Klarion the Witchboy.
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