Thursday, June 21, 2007

Everybody wants you to be special . . .

Okay, a confession, I haven't actually reread the first six issues of newuniversal. I reread the first five issues whenever issue five came out, but I got issue six yesterday at a 7-11 and really don't feel like rereading it all today. That doesn't speak to its quality, it's just that I reread the first five issues a short while ago and read the sixth issue yesterday. I don't NEED to reread it all.

newuniversal is interesting as it provides us with Warren Ellis' take on "What if superhumans popped up in the real world?" Now, he's done a few projects similar to this in one way or another (oh, Ruins, Stormwatch/Authority, Planetary and the newly-begun Black Summer--I'm probably forgetting something, but fuck it--and they all do this, just in different ways and with different ideas of realism and starting points). This is the first one he's done (I believe) that begins with no superhumans, though, so we get to see how things progress from the get-go.

Now, the world Ellis uses isn't the real world (aka our world). It's one where John Lennon is still alive and it appears Hillary Clinton is president. It's also a world where superhumans have existed, but don't anymore. Mostly because they were killed.

Most of these six issues is set-up. Hell, all of it is set-up, really. There's a "White Event" where the sky all over the world goes white. After, four people have superpowers and are in charge of helping the Earth fit in to some cosmic "highway" . . . sort of. Most of what we see is their reactions to what's happened and some limited background on the times this happened in Earth's history already.

These issues move both fast and slow. Slow in terms of actual plot momentum, but fast in the sheer number of ideas and characters thrown at the reader.

The best issue, in my opinion, is actually issue six, because it is the most focused. There are, basically, six scenes: two of the superhumans in an odd "getting to know you" scene; two scenes that connect about the US government's response to the problem; a scene where "Justice," the superhuman who believes he's dead and in hell, kills a street full of people because he can see all of their sins and they deserve to die--before walking up a bunch of steps he created; a brief TV recap of the slaughter that spins it; and a scene with Jennifer Swan, who is one of the superhumans and works for the man who's just been put in charge of killing the superhumans . . . with a HEXsuit she just got working. The issue builds on previous plot elements and has some great scenes.

What I particularly like is how Ellis handles the "Justice" character and Phil Voight (the aforementioned superhuman killer). Justice is a cop who was shot and lay in a coma and, as said, believes himself dead and in hell. He kills people because, fuck it, they've done wrong and what does it matter if he's in hell? There's a real sense of a tortured soul in the character. I look forward to seeing how Ellis integrates him with the others.

Phil Voight is interesting, because he's an old man (maybe late 50s, early 60s I'd guess--perhaps older) and he's the only person alive who has killed superhumans. He did it before and he knows how to handle it. And we can understand WHY he wants to kill them. Ellis does an excellent job of setting up these two opposing sides and making us empathise with both.

The slow moving nature of the story is a problem, but, hopefully, future issues fix that. This series does seem to require a slower set-up since it is expansive.

Oh, and Salvador Larroca's art is pretty good.