No matter how well the individual stories have held up over time, otolaryngologist there’s no denying that Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men revolutionized superhero comics. He did so by tweaking Marvel’s melodramatic spin on the genre while borrowing heavily from the likes of Marion Zimmer Bradley and other pioneering sci-fi and fantasy writers of the time.
The results may have veered into the realm of preciousness (and outright creepiness) at times, injection but they proved to be a massive hit with readers, who propelled the X-Men franchise from an underperforming also-ran into a powerhouse flagship title. The success of Claremont’s X-Men encouraged a bumper crop of imitators seeking to capitalize on the phenomena, and echoes of Claremont’s formula could be found in nearly every mainstream superteam book published during the 1980s — be it The New Defenders, the New Teen Titans, or the “Detroit Era” Justice League.
Claremont’s X-Men eventually succumbed to its own success, mired in increasingly insular subplots and overextended beyond all (except financial) reason through a host of unnecessary spin-off and supporting series. “All new, all different” gave way to the creative stasis associated with reliably profitable performers.
Claremont parted ways with the X-franchise in 1991, after helping launch a new Jim Lee-illustrated X-Men series that, along with Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man and Rob Liefeld’s X-Force, was part of the Unholy Trio of titles that kicked off the Chromium Age of funnybooks.
The ex-X-scribe resurfaced at the Distinguished Competition a few years later, having been granted — along with artist Dwayne Turner in his Todd McFarlane cover act days — the unprecedented privilege by DC to pen a creator-owned, in-continuity superteam series titled Sovereign Seven…
…otherwise known as this week’s Nobody’s Favorite. I can certainly see why DC was willing to make special accommodations in exchange for Claremont’s services. Landing the former X-guru was like a film producer landing Brando, only in this case it was less On the Waterfront and more The Island of Dr. Moreau.
If DC had hopes that Sovereign Seven would turn out to be an X-title of its very own, then those hopes were more than fulfilled…in the worst possible way, with a series that embodied all the irritating quirks of Claremont’s X-Men run yet none of its entertainment value . It amounted to Claremont cribbing from the Image Comics’ talent pool’s cribbing from the writer’s own earlier work, as damning an assessment as they come.
The Sovereign Seven were a group of superhuman exiles from another universe, gathered together by Cascade, the rebellious daughter of said universe’s Evilsexy Matriarch TM. Sporting such archetypal 90′s codenames as “Rampart,” “Finale,” “Network,” and “Boobjob” (okay, that last one was implied rather than actually designated) and enough emotional baggage to hobble a C-130 transport, the Seven arrived on Earth with the purpose of fighting a series of opaque plot points while constantly bitching each other out.
Ever get stuck at a party where all the other guests know each other and speak entirely in coded references and in-jokes just to reinforce the uncomfortable realization that you’re the odd person out? Did you enjoy that experience? If so, then you’d have loved Sovereign Seven.
Just in case readers failed to pick up on S7‘s smug vibe, Claremont chose to gild the lily of insufferability by having the team take up residence at a “quirky” coffeehouse-slash-nexus-of-worlds run by Violet and Pansy, a pair of twins inspired by a geeky folk act and prone to the kind of self-consciously clever banter one normally encounters at any given game or sci-fi bookstore. (Hence the reason why most sane folks tend to avoid spending time at any given game or sci-fi bookstore.)
It wasn’t all smirks and self-satisfaction, however. The Claremont of old did show through on occasion, though it was a very dubious blessing, indeed. I will credit him for holding off on his signature eroticized mind control trope until the second issue of the series, which must have been a herculean effort for the man.
And, like the former high school quarterback who has been reduced to peddling used Subarus at his uncle’s dealership, Claremont also demonstrated a depressing eagerness to reference past glories in his new gig, either through a sly turn of neologism…
…or by a balls-out bit of shameless pandering…
The “in-continuity” aspects of Sovereign Seven didn’t get much play, apart from the appearance of Hipster Darkseid in the first issue…
…along with a later tie-in to the deservedly forgotten “Genesis” event and the addition of Power Girl to the S7 roster (presumably because Claremont was severely jonesing for a another chance to work with a big chested and emotionally troubled gal capable of dropping “Ah’m invulnerable” into casual conversation).
Sovereign Seven lasted an astonishing (or is that “contractually obligated?”) thirty-six issues before ending with the shocking revelation that the series was actually recounting the events of a fictional comic series created by a pair of women. I’m sure there’s a message in that metatextual wank, but all I’m coming up with is “way to shift the blame for your creative decline, Claremont.”
It’s sad enough when a once-respected creator lingers past their creative expiration date on a franchise. Coming back for an encore with substandard analogues is the stuff of pure tragedy, which is why Sovereign Seven has been selected as this week’s Nobody’s Favorite.