Writing any story – be it in novel, film, or comic form – about time, parallel universes, or anything similar is always difficult. How do write about such a complex idea without getting lost in the science and craziness? How do you keep the story moving and characters at the forefront? If you want to know, the answer is clearly to ask Warren Ellis. Cause the man’s got that shit nailed.
If you aren’t already familiar with Ellis’s work I have to ask where the hell you’ve been. Not only is he one of my favourite comic book writers (Transmetropolitan is his Hunter S. Thompson and Terry Gilliam love child in comic book form that everyone on Earth needs to read), he writes brilliant prose fiction (I recommend you check out Gun Machine), he is also generally a brilliant observer of life (his non-fiction musings can be read with Cunning Plans or just sign up to his email newsletter, you won’t regret it). I admit that for me, the man can do no wrong. So maybe you want to take this glowing review with a pinch of salt since this reviewer thinks Ellis’s ass shits diamonds. But if you like weird and wonderful science fiction, this is definitely the next comic book read for you.
And then it all changed
Supreme: Blue Rose dumps the reader bang smack in the middle of things. Like the protagonist Diana Dane, the reader has absolutely no idea what’s going on, we find it all out along with Diana.
Unemployed and on the brink of starvation, Diana is presented with an opportunity she can’t refuse. Darius Dax wants her to investigate a strange occurrence in the small town of Littlehaven. Things get weirder from there. Diana finds herself caught up in a bizarre series of events linked to the very fabric of the universe.
Diana’s world has only recently been born. The rules of the world are constantly being rewritten, revised, the events we experience have happened before in thousands of slightly different variations. But there’s a problem with the latest revision, the future is unstable. Everything is at stake.
It just sounds unpleasantly strange. And I’ve seen Karl Lagerfield wearing nothing but a vicuna-wool penis sheath, so I know whereof I speak.
A long dark whisky bar a lifetime long
My mind is still reeling from reading Supreme: Blue Rose. Not from confusion related to the content but from questions of how I’m not confused. The story is so epic and potentially confusing that by all rights I should be completely lost. Reading this collection should feel like trying to wade through the stickiest, heaviest liquid known to man, and yet it was more like a luxurious bath in the bluest, freshest water of a secret lagoon. How did Ellis manage to tell a story so complex in a way that I not only could follow but enjoyed?
Unsurprisingly, with a premise this complicated, with as many circuitous loops of potential incomprehension, Ellis relies on character archetypes. Not only that, there are overt references to the superhero comics he is ripping off with the characters. The alliterative names themselves poke fun at Stan Lee’s obsession with the naff tradition, while explicitly making references to Superman and his costume change. Superman is probably the closest to this story, with an investigative journalist getting into trouble trying to track down the truth and a ruthless billionaire pulling the strings behind the scenes. Yep, it’s Lois Lane and Lex Luther in a bizarre, time-fluid, rewritten world. And I am on board with this 100%.
Time itself dies screaming
Really, Supreme: Blue Rose is about potential. The potential for this world to be anything we want it to be and to write out own stories within it. What appears at first to be the scribblings of a toddler ghosting each page eventually becomes clear as a kind of representation of previous paths and potential future ones. Paths of what? Everything. Time. People. You. Me. The characters in Ellis’s bizarre world.
But while it tries to tell us that the options are limitless, it curtails this freedom of the future at the same time. The future is already written; it is existing in tandem to the present. And it is constantly rewritten as well. Stable or not, the given reality will be fleeting – existing only until the next rewrite. We are both entirely free to form new and different worlds while still being slaves to the whims of the ‘Supreme’. Perhaps a conflicted look at belief in free will within a paradigm of religion? There are so many metaphors one could draw from this comic, questions to ask. This is the onioniest onion of all and I loved it.
Read it. Wonder at it. Ask questions. And come out the other end both utterly confused and enlightened.
Verdict: Brilliantly bizarre scifi epic about the fluidity of time and free will. Well worth reading if you love Ellis, though not for readers who prefer straight forward, shallow comics. Bring your thinking cap before tackling this one.