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 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.
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.
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.
“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.