Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Seven Soldiers of Victory - Part 5 (Klarion)

Klarion the Witch Boy is a creation of Jack Kirby, introduced as a protagonist against Jason Blood, aka the Demon. Klarion would swerve between an innocent young prankster, and a cruel and wicked boy - wielding incredible magical abilities

The way he was first introduced in The Demon series was Klarion mysteriously showed up in Jason Blood's life - being an annoyance and hindrance. Klarion's knowledge of magic made him quite the problem for Jason Blood. It was eventually revealed that Klarion was on the run from his people - having learned knowledge only the adults where suppose to possess. Outside of the Demon series Klarion wasn't used much in comics - the most notable use being when Peter David, as the writer of Young Justice, began a story line where Klarion reversed the ages of all the heroes and teen side kicks. For example, suddenly Robin was an adult, and Batman was suddenly a child.


The series begins with a strikingly dark and disturbing idea. A zombified corpse has risen out of his grave. His appearance is very much like Solomon Grundy, a zombie Hulk-like villain. This is not grundy, though - this was an innocent man being raised from the grave - and then tied by the neck with a rope and dragged out of his grave by his own son. The son is angry that his dead father is protesting and struggling - saying that this is how it has always been, every man who dies is invariably raised from the grave to become a "Grundy" - and to be worked like a slave until they crumble to dust. This is the fate for all the men in Limbo Town; the son does this to his own father, and he expects his son to do the same to him after he is dead.

That is the striking and fearful introduction the reader is given to Limbo Town - a puritan village based far underground. All the people dress similar to pilgrims - except their have the distinction of having blue skin, shadowed eyes, and pointy ears. Klarion is a young boy thoroughly unhappy with the world he lives in. Klarion is quite rebellious with this world, and desperately wants to run away. His sister Beulah makes fun of him for wanting to leave, and not conforming to way things are.

See, Limbo Town is a closed community. Housed within a labyrinth cavern, the people of Limbo Town have lived in this same place since the days of the pilgrims - who they where descended from. No one knew anything of the top-side world, called "Blue Rafters" -except for the fully fledged elder Witch Men.

Keeping order and discipline are the Submissionaries. The town congregates around the arrival of Submissionary Judah, who has come to brand the newly raised Grundy - and make him submissive to their will, so he will behave like an obedient zombie-slave. Using a Witch-Brand the Grundy is forced under control - and goes to join all the other Grundies that Limbo Town uses for slave labor - to mine ore and stones. It's through trade with certain people above in Blue Rafters that Limbo Town survives - yet I think trading with the surface had ended a long time ago - and the continued servitude of the Grundies is simply to continue with tradition.

We see the dreary existence of Limbo Town, where church and faith dominate everyone's actions. The people believe in a god they called Croatoan; always they are chanting "Croatoan Abides!"

All of the people in Limbo Town posses Familiars - pets that they share a deep personal connection with. These familiars are called Draaga; some have lizards, some have owls, and many have cats. Klarion possesses a orange feline familiar named Teekl. Klarion is quite good with communing with Teekl - as the furry feline is able to go all about the town, while Klarion is able to close his eyes and see what Teekl sees. On a subconscious level the two are even show to be able to talk to one another. All Familiars are quite good at hunting Sheeda -- the Sheeda being a fearful menace to the town. One of the cats in the town catches a mosquito spine-rider Sheeda in it's mouth - which Judah discovers and fears.

Submissionary Judah gives a violent and abusive sermon - advocating a closure of the Wicket Gate - the the path out of Limbo Town and up into Blue Rafters. This is horrible news for Klarion, who wishes for nothing else than to see what is beyond Limbo Town.

So Klarion sneaks out at night to the Wicket Gate before it is closed, seeking to escape. Judah and the other Submissionaries learn of this, and won't stand for it. They perform a powerful ritual - where a Witch Man merges with it's familiar - becoming a monstrous creature called a Horigal. To become even more powerful the three Submissionaries all combine into one incredible monstrosity - chanting "Horigal Hunt!"

Klarion gets past the Wicket Gate and into the tunnels where the Grundies are forced to toil. The Horigal is soon on his tail, with the intent on killing anyone who would dare leave Limbo Town. Klarion is cleaver and is able to grab a Witch Brand. The Horigal says they cannot be controlled like the Grundies; Klarion knows this, and instead orders the Grundies in the cave to kill the Horigal. This only saves Klarion a little time - but it allows him to get farther and farther above into Blue Rafters. Klarion finds himself in more subterranean caverns, which is all new and exciting to Klarion; but familiar to the reader - it's the secret subway tunnels that the pirates travel in the Manhattan Guardian issues.

Klarion runs into a man, calling himself Ebeneezer Badde. Badde asks what a Witch Boy was doing for far away from Limbo Town. He looks at the boy, and confirms his suspicion that he's from Limbo Town, saying he has the Sheeda characteristics on his face. Badde is also from Limbo Town, dressed in pilgrim clothing - but he was obviously one of the Witch Men who knew Blue Rafters, and proceeded to show Klarion all there was to know about being a Witch Man.

Taking a boat onto a stretch of water sewers Klarion is shown a special place that all Witch Men are shown, when they are given the unbearable burden of knowledge. For us readers we're seen this location before - it's the room where the pirates had found the six sided die on an alter in the middle of the watery room. (I don't know wether because of their biology, or the fact they where smart enough to be in a boat and not wade through the water, that the radioactivity did not harm them like it did the pirates.) Here Badde shows Klarion what Witch Men know -- that this six sided die is their god, Croatoan; that Croatoan is a absent God. Klarion is astonished...

"If this is what Which-Men know, I'll stay a boy forever! HAHAHAHAHAH"

Taking the die with him Klarion and Badde move on - but Klarion does not realize the danger he is being lead to - because Ebeneezer Badde has a job down here near the surface of Blue Rafters - he's suppose to capture children, lost or otherwise, and deliver them to these two men who capture them for some sinister purpose. Supposedly it's usually homeless and disenfranchised children he helps to kidnap - but Badde has been given special orders to be on the lookout for any unusual children - and Klarion fits that bill perfectly. Klarion, though, is able to escape and make it out of the tunnels.

Klarion climbs and climbs - and eventually reaches steps leading to Blue Rafters. Klarion comes out of the subway gate and finds himself in an entirely different world - that of Times Square in Manhattan.

Taking his new die Klarion rolls it on the ground, exclaiming to Teekl what adventure they could go towards.

Klarion is greeted by a bizarre but initially kindly man, adorned in garish pink and purple clothing - saying he can help the lad. His name is Mister Melmoth, and he takes Klarion on a mind-bending tour of every indulgence a fresh-faced innocent young boy could ever ask for.

Mister Melmoth, though, is not kind at all. He runs a very expensive operation with a group of disenfranchised children, called the Deviants, who he had made into a prosperous criminal enterprising gang. This is where the kidnapped children where taken. At first they live the good life - doing small jobs for Mister Melmoth. Klarion is sent on a mission with the kids to the local Super Hero Historical Museum. The kids use childish tricks to gain entry into the place, and find what they where ordered to obtain - a super powered underground drilling vehicle used during WWII. The kids get into the machine and are able to burrow under ground and come back to the surface into the waiting hands of Mister Melmoth.

One of the children, the leader of the Deviant kids, was quite distressed about is upcoming 16th birthday. He knew that once kids in the gang reached age 16, they where put on another team for the older boys. During the night this boy sneaks around and discovers a glowing portal in the room where the older boys go. One of the older boys comes through the portal, wearing construction gear, is a mess, and acting terrified of what he had just come out of. It seems growing up in this gang doesn't lead to a more prosperous position as the young kids where always lead to believe. The exact time of this young boy's birthday had hit, making him officially 16 -- and Mister Melmoth and the older boy proceeded to shove him into the gate to who knows what. Klarion sees this encounter through the eyes of Teekl - and further learned what the drill was for; to burrow down into the underground caverns of Limbo Town.

Teekl warns Klarion that evil is coming to Limbo Town. Despite Klarion's desire to still remain on the surface, he feels an obligation to his family - and goes back to the subways tunnels to return to Limbo Town and warn his people.

Things do not go as Klarion had hoped - as upon his return to Limbo Town found him tied at the stake - with the entire village calling to burn the Witch Boy. They do not believe Klarion's warnings - and since he had defied all their laws they where going to burn him at the stake! Somewhat luckily the powerful drilling machine burst into the town, just as Klarion had been warning.

Mister Melmoth had a small army of armed guards taking the entire town hostage. It seems Melmoth had been looking for Limbo Town for quite some time. It's revealed that Melmoth is in fact the Sheeda King; though currently deposed by his wife centuries ago. Melmoth has had to endure the centuries is real-time, instead of having access to time travel through Castle Revolving - so he has slightly different plans when his wife returns for the Harrowing of Man. He plans to regain his crown and take over the world himself - though he promises to protect Limbo Town. It seems Melmoth has a horrible past with this town. Centuries ago he had apparently impregnated several young girls of the Roanoke Colony - and described how they had fled underground because of their awful sins to give birth to his spider-spawn. This is how Limbo Town is descended from both the Sheeda and the Pilgrims. It's even revealed that the Submissionaries where actually robots - put in place to pacify and control the population of the town, should the Sheeda ever return.

The town being in great danger Klarion is shown more secrets of the Witch Men, and shown how to perform the Horigal transformation. An incredible sight of Klarion combining himself with Teekl allows him to fight back against Melmoth's forces - though Melmoth warns that if they had submitted to him he would have protected and preserved the town; but instead they where going to die along with everyone else when the Harrowing came.

Witch Brands are also used to command the legion of Grundy to defend the town. Melmoth's forces are pushed back and captured -- though defeated Melmoth is able to escape back to the surface.

Klarion is freed from the Horigal transformation by his mother, who he wishes well, despite her being at the lead to burn him at the stake earlier. Another burning is done - that of the defeated guards who are all burned at the stake. Now knowing that the Sheeda invasion is coming, Klarion proceeded to take the tunnel-driller and go back to the surface. The story ends here and is concluded in the final issue of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

After the Seven Soldiers...

Klarion proved somewhat popular after his revival in the Seven Soldiers series - making several guest appearances in issues of Countdown, Robin, and Batgirl. Though Morrison remarked in later interviews that he didn't particularly recognize the rebellious Klarion he had developed - as other writers simply wrote Klarion as the mischievous and evil portrayal he previous was depicted as. Still - I think it at least raised the profile of the character, and I'm not positive, but I think other writers, like Batgirl, and Halloween Special, tried more to write Klarion as the adventurous and naive rebel from Limbo Town.

The appearance and look of Klarion during Seven Soldiers, though, has remained. Frazer Irving gave the people of Limbo Town a wonderful extreme goth look - the likes of Submissionary Judah looked similar to Marlin Manson - but it fit the creepy and haunting atmosphere Morrison created. The art was simply incredible, mixing the horrific with the cartoony - perfectly capturing the youthful rebellion of Klarion against the nightmarish world he was trying to escape from.

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