Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Black Summer

Go To
For the record, they're the Seven Guns, not Black Summer.

Black Summer is an eight-issue (#0-#7, May, 2007-July, 2008) comic miniseries written by Warren Ellis & drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, and published by Avatar Press. On July 3, 2006, the president of the United States is assassinated by John Horus, the most powerful member of a superhero group called The Seven Guns. After claiming that the president and his advisers had all been criminals, and that they were just being brought to justice, John Horus then orders the nation to go about re-electing new leaders, while making it clear that he won't tolerate anyone coming after him.

This sets off a chain of events that makes the government start hunting down the remaining members of The Seven Guns, including Tom Noir, one of the original Guns who disappeared after another member and lover, Laura, was killed in a bombing. Making matters worse is that one of the people hunting them is Frank Blacksmith, an unofficial "eighth" member of the team who had been thought dead. With the whole U.S. military after them, Tom and the other Guns must figure out how to survive, and what to do about John Horus.

Unrelated to the 2019 Netflix spin-off from Syfy Z Nation.

Tropes present in this work:

  • An Aesop: No matter how much you may hate your government, assassination is a shallow and ultimately pointless political tool that will create more problems than it solves...even assuming that it solves any problems at all.
  • Anti-Hero: The Guns are of the Pragmatic Hero and Unscrupulous Hero variety.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: The Guns' guns shoot incredibly powerful bullets. When Tom gets his in his flashback, it's said to be capable of shooting through a tank.
  • Berserker Tears: Dominic is shedding them on page 5 of issue 4.
  • Beware the Superman: When John goes bad, he proves himself completely invulnerable to conventional military weapons, up to and including nuclear strikes. The remaining Seven Guns also manage to hold off military attacks, although no attempt is made to nuke them. Flashbacks reveal that Frank Blacksmith (and to an extent, Tom Noir) was explicitly concerned about this trope when the Seven Guns were developing their abilities.
  • Bottomless Magazines: A "respawning function" in the Guns' guns apparently makes it possible for them to keep running on a single magazine unless they use so much ammo so fast that it doesn't have time to replenish itself.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Justified in the case of Dominic Atlas Hyde's corpse, considering the extent of their body armor. Bullets enter the corpse, but apparently don't exit.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: The Seven Guns use spoken code words to activate their implants, although only four are ever revealed (Tom's is "Bakerstreet", Angel's is "Daedalus", Dominic's is "Herakles", and Kathryn's is "Miyamoto".)
  • City with No Name: The city the Seven Guns are from.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Zoe claims this is what happened to the rest of the Seven Guns, since they "don't ever switch their enhancements off". However, given the flashbacks seen during the story, one really has to wonder whether maybe they were going already...
  • Cyborg: The Seven Guns get all of their superpowers through cybernetics. Based on the explanations of Angel-One's flight systems, and the "ninja cripple tricks" we see Tom Noir display among many other powers, the Seven Guns apparently have extremely extensive body-modifications.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: John Horus does this in issue 2.
  • Dumb Muscle: Downplayed example with Dominic. He is by no means stupid, but the others tend to regard him as not a very deep thinker, and any tactical sense he might have had goes out the window once Tom is shot down.
  • Expy: The Seven Guns are a walking cavalcade of Expies:
    • John Horus- Apollo, Superman, and personality wise a mix of Hawkman and Mr. A
    • Tom Noir- Midnighter, Batman, and a helping of Daredevil (particularly in his extensive guilt and superiority complex)
    • Dominic Hyde- The Incredible Hulk by way of Hercules and with the aesthetic trappings of Maximus
    • Katheryn Artemis- The Punisher (especially evident in her flashback monologue) mixed with Wolverine(particularly in her preference for Japanese history) and wearing the outfit of the Power Rangers. Her suit even resembles a female version of GaoRed
    • Angel One- Siryn/Banshee and Polaris in how her powers stem from manipulating magnetic fields. Her character design also resembles the Howling Banshees, particularly in her facemask with long flowing hair
    • Zoe Jump- Her goggles, jacket, and heavy emphasis on red call to mind Kid Flash II in particular, and Judy Garrick with how her "costume" is basically just street clothes with red accents.
  • Evil Knockoffs: Frank has a squad of similarly-enhanced soldiers, called the Tactical Stream, prepared to take down the Guns.
  • Faceless Eye: John Horus's Gun enhancement is a fleet of levitating eyes.
  • Faceless Goons: The Evil Knockoffs all wear helmets that completely obscure their faces. Discussed by Kathryn Artemis.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Both all Seven Guns (barring Kathryn Artemis who is more street smart) and Frank Blacksmith are, given that they all had a heavy hand in designing their guns and have a great understanding of their principles on how it works.
  • Genius Cripple: Tom Noir, before he gets his prosthesis. He's also a Handicapped Badass.
  • The Ghost: Laura Torch. She's been dead for years at the start of the book, and her death was a major turning point for several characters, but the flashbacks never reveal what she looked like, nor do we hear her speak. All we know is that she and Tom Noir were a couple, and that her Gun was terrifyingly powerful in an undefined way.
  • Godwin's Law: When Kathryn and Dominic argue about what John did, she compares The Government to Nazi Germany.
    Dominic: That's a bullshit argument!
  • Good with Numbers: Zoe Jump has to visualize a set of quantum equations in order to engage her abilities.
  • Gorn: Scenery or otherwise, it's a Juan Jose Ryp trademark.
  • Groin Attack: Tom combines this with Grievous Bottley Harm when fighting the super-mook sent to kill him.
  • I Call It "Vera": Tom calls his gun Inquiry.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Said by John Horus, naturally.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Arguably, something all the Guns feel, but it's very much Dominic's motivation.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Seven Guns are basically Warren Ellis' Justice League of America.
    • John Horus: Superman - The Paragon Flying Brick with a sun motif, unquestionably the most powerful member of the team.
    • Tom Noir: Batman - Crazy-Prepared Detective (his voice-activation phrase for his powers was "Bakerstreet"), with a night motif, considered by everyone to be the one person who could handle John, in spite of John being so much more powerful than Tom.
    • Laura Torch: Green Lantern - her powers (the scope of which we can only imagine) even get used by other characters, echoing how a GL power ring might change hands.
    • Zoe Jump: The Flash - Super-Speed
    • Dominic Atlas Hyde: Martian Manhunter - Super-Strength, shapeshifter, alternate leader.
      • You could also make a case for going outside DC and thinking of Dominic as The Incredible Hulk — his powers activation looks a lot like Hulking Out and he's a straight-up brawler.
    • Angel One: Hawkgirl - Flight
    • Kathryn Artemis: Wonder Woman - Greek name, kind of straightforward role supplying basic firepower with few gimmicks or surprises. She's also the most militant member of the team and the most comfortable with the application of lethal violence in pursuit of her causes; her character-establishing flashback doesn't deal with her particular tech at all, but rather with her worldview. This isn't the most common take on Wonder Woman, but it is a take that exists, particularly around the time of Infinite Crisis.
  • The Lost Lenore: Tom Noir still isn't over the death of Laura.
  • Meaningful Name: Abundant.
    • John Horus- Horus judges the sins of the dead. He is also the child of Ra, the sun god
    • Laura Torch- The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. She is by far the most powerful of the guns, so much so that she demanded no one else be allowed to wield her gun, but she was also the first of the Guns to die by a significant margin. Notably she was also the light of the Guns, heavily implied to be their Morality Chain and their guiding light
    • Dom Hyde- Dominic is the one who undergoes the most significant physical transformation as part of his augments, and notably becomes more aggressive and enraged upon doing so. The simplicity and common understanding of his name also belies how he is the one with the least depth and who most abides by the laws of society; he values simple descriptors that communicate his intentions clearly. Notably he is the first to speak publicly after John kills the president, and is as transparent as he can be.
    • Katheryn Artemis- Her name has a lot of subtle layers: Katheryn is a greek name meaning "purity", and Artemis was famously the goddess of the hunt and of wild and untamed nature. Kathy herself is the purest of the Guns and is largely both The Unfettered while avoiding A God Am I. She simply wants to help people and has no compunctions about killing for the sake of saving lives. She is a wild animal, but in the Reformed, but Not Tamed sense, she has pure survival instincts and lives by her own rules
    • Angel One- she provides perhaps the best example of the Body Horror that went into the Guns enhancements in her flashback, covered in horrific scars travelling all the way up her legs, calling to mind the biblical description of angels. She also is one of only two Guns who flies, and is implied to be the only one who does so under her own power, with "wings" made of her internal enhancements in contrast to John who is carried by his Eyes
    • Tom Noir- He fancies himself the detective of the group, operates in the shadows using subterfuge, and is conspicuously the point of view character on an unfurling conspiracy that begins when a friend he thought long-dead knocks on his "office" door. He's also the most cynical of the group and the only one with a permanent nonlethal injury, the same way many noir detectives emphasize their human frailty.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Every male Gun is dead by the end of the story. Of the four women, the only one who died did so long before the comic's start.
  • Mirror Character: John Horus and Kathryn Artemis seem to operate on similar logic when attempting to change the world in a way they see as better. They both are militant in their belief that they should take the law into their own hands when it does not solve problems sufficiently and Kathryn even resolved to take over in the same way John tried to except limiting her control to the city.
  • Mook Horror Show: The Guns generally hand these out to opponents that are not equally super-powered. They turned the military forces sent against them into red bloody paste and mangled bodies.
  • More Dakka: Frank never could figure out any clever way to take out John's eyes. The best he came up with is to lay on the firepower hard and fast enough that the eyes will eventually burn out from deflecting it all.
  • Most Common Superpower: Kathryn Artemis, Angel-One, and Zoe. Ryp likes to draw his women busty and braless.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: John's "eye" devices. He was adamant about keeping info on how they work secret from everybody, even the guy who built the components that went into them.
  • Not Quite Dead: Frank Blacksmith. Then later, Tom Noir.
  • Obliviously Evil: According to Tom, Horus is so convinced of his own Incorruptible Pure Pureness that he simply doesn't realize how his actions can be considered wrong, to the point that he's accused by Tom in the end of being a Tautological Templar. The other Guns save Tom (Blacksmith included) suffer from this as well to a lesser degree.
  • Paint the Town Red: Or rather the Oval Office, on the cover of Issue #0. Later done by the Guns right in the middle of the city.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Kathyrn Artemis operates according to this logic and is a vocal supporter of the death penalty. She specifically mentions Clarence Ray Allen, a convicted murderer who attempted to have all the witnesses of his crimes killed - when she states that some people will refuse to change, and such people should die before they hurt anyone else.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: All of the Guns, especially John Horus.
  • Posthumous Character: Laura Torch died before the events of the story.
  • Private Military Contractors: One of the reasons for the formation of the Seven Guns was that PMCs were being used in their city.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tom Noir gives one to John Horus during their final confrontation, and he holds nothing back.
    Tom Noir: You want to change the nature of justice in America and you kill a President? What did you think that made you? Two-fisted Super-Jesus for the American Way? It made you Lee Harvey Oswald, you prick. You know what? Lots of people hated John F. Kennedy. He barely got elected. But Lee Harvey Oswald isn't remembered as an American hero. Just a prick with a gun who killed the President. That's you now, John. This incredible fucking thing we did to ourselves, these abilities beyond evolutionary capacity — and you use them on a hit? You couldn't think of another way to do it? I bet you've even decided that only the bad guys think you're a bad guy, you simple assclown.
    • He also has some very bitter words to say to Frank Blacksmith:
      Tom Noir: And you, you lying sack of shit. What was your answer? Swallowing the cock of authority? Planning the death of your friends as a positive act of creation?
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Kathryn Artemis on one of the covers to issue #2.
  • Shout-Out: Zoe Jump activates her super-speed in the same way Johnny Quick does, describing it as a Millis Bias field activated by mentally completing an equation.
  • Spikes of Villainy: One of the Evil Knockoffs sent after the Guns has spikes on her boots, and the one that tries to kill Tom early in the story has retractable spikes in his forearm.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Ellis himself contrasted Black Summer with Mark Millar's Civil War (2006), saying that latter is the Lighter and Softer vision of a conflict between superheroes and government, and the former is what would really happen.
    Ellis: ...masked adventurers on the run are not going to be pursued, tricked and trapped by their estranged colleagues. Every last one of them is going to be hunted by the combined forces of the US military structure. It is, to my mind, what would always happen — the streets of America would be secured by soldiers and gun emplacements and helicopters against the threat of the flying superhuman. And for those who think I’m being anti-American, consider this: in Britain, we’d just have the SAS kill them in their beds. You people are young, and have not yet learned how to do business.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: John Horus says this when he arrives to speak to some army folks, after getting their attention by dropping a fighter jet in front of their base.
  • Taking You with Me: How Tom Noir kills John and Frank.
  • Villain Has a Point: The general tasked with killing the Guns admits this In-Universe; he agrees with Horus' condemnation of the wars in the Middle East, that the POTUS Horus assassinated was a criminal, and that the actions taken against the Guns are just as lacking in planning and foresight as those wars. He even points out that it's hypocritical for military personnel to condemn enforcing one's will through force of arms, as that's as good a definition as any for the basic purpose of a military. He also states (very politely, mind you) to Horus' face that Cutting the Knot-style actions like assassinating the leader of a global superpower is something that requires planning and foresight, subtly implying that Horus has not done so.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: John Horus. Frank Blacksmith too; too bad both extremists are at odds.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Lampshaded by Kathryn Artemis when she mused about how much easier it was to simply kill any police officer or security guard wearing riot helmets and write them off as "faceless guys" instead of killing people she actually knows.
  • What Were You Thinking?: John gets this from a number of people because of what he did, but none more explicitly than Tom at the end:
    Tom Noir: You could not think of a smarter way to change how this country does business than just killing the villain? You can watch the world like God and build palaces out of mud with those damned eyes of yours and that was the smartest idea you had? You fucking sicken me.
  • Women Are Wiser: The living female members of the Guns (Zoe, Kathryn, Angela) do manage to avoid having their Berserk Buttons pushed compared to the men— and it's the very-willing-to-kill Kathryn Artemis (just read her flashback in issue 6) who says "We also have a responsibility to this city, and we haven't done right by that. We've been crazy for too long, girls." This may be why they all survive. (It's hinted in flashbacks that Laura Torch may have also been the most grounded member of the entire Seven.)
    Kathryn Artemis: Dominic wanted to be big, Tom wanted to know everything, and (John Horus) wanted everyone to be good. Me, Angel and Zoe really just wanted to help people.
  • Wretched Hive: The city where the Seven Guns got their start was an incredibly corrupt near-police-state before they cleaned it up.
  • X-Ray Vision: Tom has this, though instead of actual x-rays, it "provides real-time sonar imaging on a sliding level. You'll be able to see directly into any target with surgical precision: outer layers of clothing, weapons, devices, internal organs, bones." When he's using it to look at a super-mook's nervous system, it resembles Vein-o-Vision.
  • You're Insane!: Said by John Horus, when called out on their stupidity by Kathy Artemis.