25 April 2015

Supreme: Blue Rose is another great read from Warren Ellis

I knew nothing of the history of Supreme before latching on to Supreme: Blue Rose, though I probably should.

Supreme was an the Extreme Studios/Image Comics/Awesome Comics character created by Rob Liefeld and for whom Alan Moore wrote a run in the mid-1990s, and anything with Moore's name attached I should have picked up on.

The name that made me pick up on the new Supreme: Blue Rose series was that of Warren Ellis, a serious contender for my favourite comics writer and an even more serious one for those still writing comics.

The next part of the story is increasingly familiar; Supreme: Blue Rose was published by Image Comics and I bought it digitally to read on my iPad (which I bought three years ago primarily to read comics on).

Also as is becoming the custom, I binge read the seven part series in one sitting. To be honest, I did read issue #1 when it first came out in July 14 but it was a complex story and I was sure to forget some of it so I left it alone to reread it when I had the whole series.

And that tells you the first thing about the story, this was a single story spread over seven issues. One of the things that I like about Ellis is the way he does both single-issue story comics, e.g. Moon Knight, Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. and Transmetropolitan, and also comics with long story arcs, the best example being FreakAngels.

My lack of knowledge of Supreme before reading this series did not seem to be a problem either, much as having read Moon Knight before did little to enhance my reading of that series. There may well have been references to previous plots, events or characters but I did not pick them up and that did not matter.

The story itself was a little weird, which is what was hardly unexpected for an Ellis story (think Planetary) but was also grounded in the real-world (possibly!) which gave it touch-points into normality.

Adding to the weirdness was the wistful, almost ephemeral, art work by Tula Lotay, a new name to me.

The art was coloured subtly which both matched the mood of the piece and also made it very clear that this was not a superhero comic.

The heart of the story was simple enough in that the world needs to be reset from time-to-time and normally this happens without any of us noticing but this time there was a little problem and it needed to be fixed. Trying to fix it, or trying to stop the fixers, was a large cast of characters who spawned their own little stories and who gave their own perspective on events. Not everything seen or heard could be believed, though the car ride to the Moon was real enough.

Reading the comic was like swimming in some goo made by mixing elements of science and magic and it was that swimming experience that I enjoyed so much rather than the path that I swam along. It was more like reading poetry than prose and it had an unusually high word-count for an Ellis book (despite me choosing to show a page that has no words!). In an action comic often pictures are all you need but in the subtle space of Supreme; Blue Rose it was the words that carry the message and the tone.

I would not claim to have understood every detail of the story, and as I said earlier I am sure that I missed some references, and that did nothing to diminish my enjoyment. This was Warren Ellis doing one of the things that he does very well.

There is much to admire about Ellis and one of them is the way that he will take on fringe books like Supreme: Blue Rose when he has also written for the likes of X-Men and Iron Man. And it is comics like Supreme; Blue Rose, and several other Image titles, that have got me so interested in comics again.

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