Sovereign Seven: “12th Night”

Chris Claremont is most prominently known for his extensive association with the X-Men franchise of comic books published by Marvel.  However, the prolific writer has worked on numerous characters and titles throughout the decades.  This was especially true in the 1990s.  After his 17 year run on Uncanny X-Men unfortunately came to an end due to disagreements with editor Bob Harras, in the succeeding decade Claremont was involved in a variety of projects.  Among these was Sovereign Seven, a title published by DC Comics that ran for 36 issues between 1995 and 1998.

Sovereign Seven 9 cover

Sovereign Seven was a bit of an odd specimen.  It was apparently set within the DC universe, and featured guest appearances by numerous established characters.  But the main cast who were co-created by Claremont & artist Dwayne Turner were copyrighted to Claremont.  In a way Sovereign Seven was off in its own sub-continuity, although occasionally some of the characters would pop up in books written by other creators, such as Mister Miracle and Genesis.  And the wrap-up in the final issue basically had Claremont ambiguously saying “Maybe all of this really did happen, and maybe it was all just a made-up story.”

Considering how notoriously mutable DC’s continuity has been over the past few decades, I’m content enough to regard Claremont’s Sovereign Seven stories as having been real events that took place in some corner or another of the vast multiverse.  Well, as “real” as fiction can get.  As Alan Moore famously observed, “This is an imaginary story… Aren’t they all?”

I’ve been meaning to do some sort of write-up on Sovereign Seven for some time now.  Despite its occasional uneven quality, as well as an abundance of Claremont’s dialogue ticks and favorite tropes (mind control, physical transformation, BDSM), it was on the whole an interesting, entertaining series.  I’d definitely love to pen an exploration of the complex, adversarial relationship between Rhian Douglas aka Cascade and her mother Maitresse.  But in the meantime, since it’s the holiday season, here is a look at Sovereign Seven #9, “12th Night” by Claremont, Turner & inker Chris Ivy.

Sovereign Seven 9 pg 2 & 3

One of the brilliant qualities of Claremont’s work on the X-Men titles was that he wrote characters from diverse cultures & societies, examining how they interacted with each another and strove to understand their differences while finding common ground.  He took that to the next level in Sovereign Seven, as his cast members each came from different worlds, different dimensions.

Thrust together in their flight from the mysterious, insidious threat of “The Rapture,” these seven rulers & aristocrats found refuge on Earth.  Their new home was the Crossroads Coffee Bar, an inn & restaurant located in rural New England run by the enigmatic sisters Violet and Pansy.  The seven exiles had to learn about one another, as well as their new home world.  They also had to adjust from being heads of state & monarchs to assisting the two sisters with the much more mundane tasks of the day-to-day running of the inn.

Another aspect of Claremont’s X-Men writing is that in between major story arcs he would take an issue or two to tell more personal tales, or show the team during “downtime.”  That is also a technique that Claremont utilized in Sovereign Seven.  “12th Night” has the team between crises, helping out at Crossroads in preparation for the holiday celebrations, and having fun engaging in a snowball fight.  Claremont also utilizes this issue to touch upon Reflex’s religion.  The world, the culture, he comes from had its own version of Christmas, and he takes this opportunity to observe his faith.

Sovereign Seven 9 pg 16

The most intense, isolated member of the team was undoubtedly Finale.  As the series unfolded, we learned of her tragic backstory, of the deep price the conflict with The Rapture enacted from her.  Claremont therefore uses “12th Night” to place her in more lighthearted circumstances.  Originating from a tropical water world, Fatale has never seen snow before.  Upon witnessing snowfall at Crossroads, an alarmed Fatale declares “The sky is falling!”  Claremont also allows her to briefly let down her guard.  Touched by a gift given to her by a new acquaintance, she allows herself to indulge in a movement of dance.  As Claremont describes it, “It is truly a sight of wonder and rare beauty to behold.”

As the holiday festivities unfold, Cascade cannot help but compare this to her past, the highly regimented existence she was forced to lead at the behest of Maitresse.  “We did nothing like this at home.”  Rhian, who is so used to living at the whim of her mother’s demands, is struggling find her own unique identity.  Also ever-present in her mind is the worry that her mother will find a way to follow her trail, escaping her other-dimensional prison.  Indeed, we see Maitresse attempting to enact just such a plan.

After an ominous encounter in the woods with an entity calling itself Triage, a being who promises to bring great strife to the Sovereigns, Cascade returns to Crossroads.  There she is pleasantly surprised to find a holiday party thrown in her honor.  At long last, however briefly, Rhian allows herself to relax and enjoy herself in the company of friends.

Sovereign Seven 9 pg 22

“12th Night” is a lovely tale.  Claremont very effectively utilizes the holiday season as a vehicle for exploring his large ensemble.  His florid prose is well-suited to generating a seasonal mood, and to delving into the inner workings of his creations. The artwork by Turner & Ivy very much captures the festive, spiritual atmosphere of the Crossroads community.  In particular, their two page spread at the beginning of the issue is beautifully rendered.

Sovereign Seven was an enjoyable title.  Claremont told some interesting stories working with several very talented artistic collaborators.  He did excellent work developing a unique cast of characters.  It has been at least a couple of years since I’ve read the series in its entirety.  I’m looking forward to revisiting it in the near future and offering up some commentary on this blog.

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3 thoughts on “Sovereign Seven: “12th Night”

  1. I never read this book but I do remember reading about it at the time. It was a big deal because it was a creator-owned title but was set within mainstream DC continuity, something that hadn’t been done before (or since, I think, except maybe John Byrne’s Lab Rats but I’m not sure because I didn’t read that either). That’s probably why it still seemed divorced from the rest of the DCU as you say, since if the characters were to crossover with and show up in other DC books, then Claremont would be owed royalties whenever those other titles were reprinted. Whereas with the the Sovereign Seven title they wouldn’t necessarily need to ever reprint it (and I don’t think they have). I remember Claremont said in an interview that he intended to use the team to explore the DCU from the point of view of outsiders who were discovering it for the first time. That sounded interesting in theory, but the characters just looked kinda generic to me. Like some second-rate Image Comics superteam of which where there were dozens at the time. Maybe if Claremont had just created a single-character and based the title on that, instead of creating a whole team, I might have been more likely to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, J.R. I agree that perhaps Claremont was overly ambitious with this Sovereign Seven. I know that Claremont very much enjoys writing the interactions between characters, exploring their relationships. I think he just did not have enough room to adequately develop seven lead characters and their large supporting cast, all of whom were completely brand new.

      In regards to Dwayne Turner’s penciling, yes, he does have a very 1990s Image Comics-type style (and he actually did work on some Image titles) but I think that unlike some of those artists he had a very solid grasp of storytelling and could draw normal people and settings. But, yes, if someone was a reader at the comic shop in 1995, I expect that at first glance there wasn’t anything especially unique about Sovereign Seven to jump out at that person, especially with the massive flood of comic books competing for their attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: New York Comic Con 2015 | In My Not So Humble Opinion

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