Monday, October 3, 2011

The Seven Soldiers of Victory - Part 7 (Bulleteer)

The Bulleteer is a re-invention of an old and not terribly successful character called Bulletman. Essentially it's a super-hero with a bullet-shaped helmet that allowed him to fly and deflect bullets. He partnered up with his girlfriend and later wife, Bulletgirl. Yes, this probably is indeed the stupidest hero ever conceived, even for the 1940s - but he's notable for coming from Fawcett Comics, the same company that created Captain Marvel - a rival comic publisher of DC. Fawcett Comics was eventually put out of business by DC, with their stable of characters being bought by the company. (It was all because Captain Marvel, for while, was outselling Superman - so DC started suing, claiming Captain Marvel was similar to Superman.) So Bulletman became part of the Fawcett-based line of characters DC tried to integrate into their comics -- Captain Marvel really being the only valuable asset from that legal battle. The character hasn't been used very often, but appeared in the likes of Captain Marvel Comics from DC.


The Bulleteer is a completely different character, using the 1940s Bulletman as a mere footnote of inspiration.

The series begins with a husband and wife who seem normal at first, but have a lot of serious issues lurking in their marriage. The husband is a scientist working on an incredible invention - a kind of liquid metal that can be bonded to the skin, making that person incredibly strong and impervious to harm. Their test subject, a mouse dubbed "Metal Mickey", is displaying incredible strength with few side effects to his health.

The husband, though, is obsessed with Super Heroes. Taking the idea of Comic Fandom and exploring it in a fictional universe where Super-heroes supposedly exist - the idea of people wanting to develop super-powers in real life is a pretty heady concept, but natural when exploring different facets of Super-Heroes.

The husband wants to use his metal formula not for selling to military contractors - but to turn himself into an ultra-powerful superhero. His wife, Alix Harrower, doesn't have any interest in this, and ignores it - thinking it's just a silly dream of her husbands. She comes home one night, though, to find her husband has taken the leap to exposing himself to the compound. He's completely covered in metal, but he immediately knows something is wrong. His wife goes to help him and gets some of the metal on her face - where it spreads and starts to encompass her body. A trip to the hospital leads to the husband's unfortunate death - as the metal coating did not work well on him, leaving him unable to breath - where he subsequently died. His wife was luckier, suffering no side effects besides having metal skin.

Alix life is ruined. Her husband is dead, and she doesn't know what to do with herself in this new form. She cannot continue her job, working with autistic kids, because there's no way to make them understand that she not been transformed into some kind of robot. Things get even worse when she finds out what is on her husband's computer; he apparently was very active and addicted to super-hero pornography. Her husband had been in contact with a teen super-hero porn actress called Sally Sonic - who the husband really wanted to be partners with, once he gave himself super-powers.

Her life is in shambles and utterly distraught Alix tries to kill herself - but quickly finds out that she cannot even do that, because the metal skin makes her invincible. After crashing into the street from her apartment window she continues to run through the streets, not knowing what to do. Down the block she suddenly arrives to see a raging fire. People are trapped inside, and when people see her, they assume she's a super hero here to save people. Alix never wanted to do anything like this - but with people in danger she proceeds to go into the fire and help them to safety.

It wasn't her wish - but Alix Harrower reluctantly took the only course that seemed afforded to her - to be a super hero. She made a costume in similar fashion to the original Bulletman.

To try and keep up and make the rent Alix takes in a young British girl as room-mate, while she begins to take odd jobs in the super hero field. Small time, lame, and low paying jobs; not every super hero gets to be as popular or as useful as Superman.

Alix is eventually contacted by the FBI. A woman FBI Agent is handling a case that involves Miss Harrower. This is the same FBI woman from Shining Knight, who's a specialist in Meta-Human cases. The case involves the previous, lamer, Seven Soldiers of Victory - gathered together by Greg Sanders. They don't know how it happened, but most of the people from that group where all killed. Alix is involved because she was the missing 7th member who was suppose to be with them. She had signed up to go initially, but had second thoughts at the last second. (Being a super-hero, and joining a team or group, was still new to her.) The FBI has a lead to talk to, and suggests that Miss Harrower might be able to help.

Dressed up in her Bulleteer outfit the two go to a federal prison, where they sit down to interview The Hand - also known as the Iron Hand, the villain who originally summoned Neh-Buh-Loh to defeat the original Seven Soldiers of Victory. Bulleteer is there to help intimidate him into talking - hoping he might be able to shed some light on the case. The Hand tells of how he had originally used a powerful horn to summon Neh-Buh-Loh, and that Boy Blue was his nephew, having infultrated onto Sander's team to summon Neh-Buh-Loh again. The Hand tells them something at the end of the interview; about an experience he had earlier last night. He tells how Sanders had appeared in his dreams - had pointed a gun at him - and had shot his soul. This seems like a joke, but the Hand reaches into his shirt and brings out his hand covered in blood, after which he falls down and dies.

The revelations in this issue where most welcome - as up until now there hadn't been much connection to the prelude of the series. Though it explained a lot about the over-all series, and where it stood right now, it felt a bit like a distraction to the Bulleteer's own story line.

The next issue shows the Bulleteer having taken an even crappier job as a bodyguard to a mermaid who's starring in movies. They where at a super hero convention, with the mermaid in a large fish-tank, talking about the prejudices mermaids face in Hollywood. It's all quite silly and stupid - but that was the whole point. Alix was at rock-bottom of the Super-Hero experience. It was a similar case for most super heroes attending the convention. People who had super-powers, but where lame and couldn't get their heroic carriers going anywhere. A lot of the same people from Zatanna's Super Hero Self-help group where here. One person, Mind-Grabber Kid, was able to talk with Alix - who still didn't know whether this was what she was suppose to be doing. There's a lot of discussion about how they where all essentially selling themselves out, taking a high-point in their life and inevitably seeing it wash away.

While at the convention, across the street on the roof of another building I, Spyder was busy carving and preparing an arrow. I, Spyder was under the control of the Sheeda Queen, and was here to eliminate a potential threat: the Bulleteer. The arrow is fitted with a diamond tip - and was aiming to hit Alix right in the in her ear and into her brain. With I, Spyder's ability of Perfect Aim, there should have been nothing to save Alix.

While talking near the window Mind-Grabber Kid suddenly shoves Alix out of the way, with the arrow missing her. I, Spyder doesn't understand - the shot should have hit; unless he hadn't wanted it to. Suddenly, behind him, the ghost of Greg Sanders appeared. Sanders says he remembered recruited Spyder for his team first - and points his gun at the bow wielder.

After the convention Alix returns home. She's surprised to find the young British roommate she was living with suddenly blow a whistle, and transformed into Sally Sonic. The next and final issue explains a lot about the origins of Sally Sonic. It seems she was given this magic whistle that transformed her into a super hero, making her impervious and giving her the power of flight. She used her abilities for good at first, but soon found out the problem with these abilities -- she wasn't aging anymore. Years and decades would pass, and always Sally Sonic would remain a teenager. Sally tried to be law abiding, even though everything seemed to be going wrong with her life. She was put in an orphanage after her parents had died, and despite her protests of her real age - she was always treated like a teenager. Eventually, trying to run away from the world, she was recruited by a super-hero, a guy who told her that she could team up with him and they could be heroes together. Sally went with him, but being incredibly lame super-heroes didn't pay the bills. So eventually her supposed boyfriend was talking her into doing porn shoots. Teenage Super-Hero Porn was a very lucrative business, and this is how Sally Sonic's path towards villainy began.

So here she is today, fighting the Bulleteer. Apparently Sally Sonic had come to meet Mr. Harrower, but became angry when she found out he was dead and decided to pretend being a roommate to get revenge on Alix. Their battle is pretty routine - trashing the entire building, beating the living daylight out of each other. They where even managing to hurt each other, as they had equal strength. Sally kept going on and on about how stupid Alix's husband had been, and mocking how desperate he had wanted to be super-hero with her. Sally kept saying that this is what super-heroes and super-villains do; the fight becoming more and more vicious, being so emotionally fueled.

This really is the crux of the whole Bulleteer series -- an examination of Super-Heroics, in a world where Super Heroes supposedly exists. Sex, money, fame, and envy being repeating themes - all of which, while being portrayed in the weirdest and silliest of manners, have roots and messages for real life. This isn't you're average Super-Heroes story - but it's not meant to be. The Seven Soldier series has been suggested by people to be another comic examining and deconstructing the concept of Super Heroes. There are a lot of series that do that very, very well - like Watchmen, or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The Bulleteer chapters matches those kind of ideas the best - but if you interpret the series in such a narrow fashion, you're going to be missing a lot of the real meaning.

Alix finally manages to defeat Sally Sonic - crashing an entire engine block on top of her. Sally is really hurt and fears that she might die.

Just then the ghost of the Vigilante appears again. He has a message for Alix - asking her to come with him, to save the world. He says it's her destiny - that without her the world will be destroyed. Alix doesn't want to hear anything like that. She's had enough of Super-Heroes, and vows to leave it all behind. Even though she had hurt her in so many incalculable ways, Alix doesn't want to see Sally die - so she puts her in her car to drive her to the hospital. The story ends here, to be continued in the final chapter of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

After the Seven Soldiers...

The Bulleteer, as far as fan reaction goes, probably was more successful for the sex-appeal than for being a proper hero. Despite Alix's decision to leave Super-Heroics behind, though, the character became a favorite to put into Super-Hero crowd scenes. In the weekly series 52, Alix showed up as a hero in a lame and VERY short lived revival of the Justice League of America -- which confused many fans, who pointed out that joining a super hero team is the last thing the character would have done. To make matters worse, Grant Morrison was one of several co-writers on 52; that lame Justice League moment probably not having been written by him; Bulleteer simply fits the bill whenever editors are looking for a lame character to put into a scene.

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