Comic Book Review: Newuniversal: Shockfront #2

The Revolution thoroughly enjoyed Newuniversal: Shockfront #1. Ellis managed to completely hook me into this story with the last issue. I find this title to present one of the more intriguing stories on the market. I fully expect Ellis to turn in another strong read with Newuniversal: Shockfront #2. Let’s go ahead and do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Steve Kurth
Inks: Andrew Hennessy

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Dr. Jennifer Swan arriving at her home in Fort Meade, Maryland. She finishes her phone call with Phil Voight. Jennifer tells Phil that she has made the breakthroughs she needed, but that Phil will not be getting the HEXsuits fast. Jenny hangs up her cell phone and orders the supercomputer that runs her house to switch to record mode, full security, and auto time/date stamps. Jenny has no desire for the National Security Agency to check out what she is doing at her house.

We see Jenny go down into her basement that has been converted into a huge lab with tons of computer equipment Frankensteined together. Jenny then fires up her “Jenny’s eye” to see if she can track Ken Connell’s location via his mark that is emitting terahertz radiation.

We see a map of America on her computer screen. We see a red dot in New York City. Then another two red dots in the Bay area. Then a blue dot appears in the Bay area. Jenny is stunned and wonders if it is a false positive as the blue dot disappears. Jenny has Jenny’s eye query the value of the most recent ping. We then see blue dots appear all across America with the most recent being in Vancouver. (That must be guy who is able to teleport that we saw in the last issue.) Jenny then comments to herself that she needs a drink.

We cut to NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade. We see two women sitting in a room with a giant wall full of television screens. They talk about different TV shows. One of them likes Ms. Marvel from Law and Order. They talk about the “Baxter Building” which is a show about disaster experts that is hosted by Mary Jane. They mention how a gossip newspaper has reported that Mary Jane had a deformed baby with eight eyes like a spider.

The two ladies talk about their job at the NSA has ruined television for them. Suddenly, a breaking newsflash cuts across all of the television screens with a report about the football player that was killed by Magniconte during a game. One of the ladies tells the other to get the director, Phil Voight, immediately.

We shift to San Francisco where Izzy and Ken are sitting at a coffee house. Izzy admits to Ken that she went into his head to make sure he was going to be okay. That she didn’t read his mind or anything. That Izzy just watched his dreams for a while.

Izzy then mentions that Ken’s girl, Maddie, was pretty. Izzy mentions that Ken’s dreams were really whack. That Ken met himself from the future. And Ken met two people from other Earths. Izzy says that the dream really freaked Station out. Station is the robot space station from the other side of the universe that Izzy talks to.

Ken tells Izzy to swear that she will never get inside of his head again. Ken says that his dreams are all he has left. Izzy promises never to do it again. Ken then says that they don’t have to worry about the guy who teleported out of the area that caused the explosion since he is now gone and nobody knows where he went.

The news report of Magniconte killing the other football player during the game comes on the television in the coffee house. Ken mentions that he used to be a quarterback and wanted to be just like Magniconte. Izzy cracks that she knew Ken was a jock. Ken fires back that Izzy probably lived in the library or was a member of the AV club.

The two then see the footage of Magniconte killing the other football player. They are both stunned. Izzy grabs Ken’s arm and says that they have to get out of here immediately. The two then teleport away from the coffee house.

We slide back to NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade. Phil Voight has decided to personally handle the mission to deal with Magniconte. Phil is handed a special briefcase and his cover identification. A high ranking aide for the President doesn’t like the idea of sending Phil into the field. He tells Phil to immediately bail the hell out at the first sign of danger and a wet team will be sent in instead. Phil tells the man not to worry about him. Phil says that he has killed them before.

We cut to One Police Plaza in New York City. Flint, Jean, Manolis and Misty are all watching the news report about Magniconte. The cops then resume examining security pictures taken of John Tensen killing some people. Flint mentions that they now live in a world where a teenager blow up buildings and John Tensen thinks about killing people and presto they are magically stabbed to death. Flint says that both of which started the day after the White Event. Flint says that catching Tensen is going to get one or all of them killed.

We hop over to Las Vegas to the apartment of a girl named Charlotte Beck. She is standing in her underwear in an empty room. She has pens in her hands and has been drawing images and symbols on all the walls in the room. Charlotte talks about how Nixon was elected President in 1960 and screws up the Bay of Pigs and then mishandles the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then a Russian missile misfires and detonates on its launcher and nukes a hole in Cuba that sends a fallout cloud along the Florida coast.

That Khrushchev is unseated for the disastrous piece of Russian adventurism and everything in the Soviet Union turns to crap as the army suddenly realizes it is based around nuclear devises that don’t work properly and could explode in their silos.

Riots then take down the Berlin Wall in Germany. The eastern European countries revolt. JFK gets elected in 1964 and pulls the troops out of Vietnam and America reverts to a pre-WW II isolationist stance. With reduced borders, Russia then does the same. Without the Russian relationship, China reverts to an even earlier isolationist stance returning to the time in its past where even international sea travel was banned.

There was no need to kill a JFK who doesn’t mess with Cuba. JFK serves for two terms and keeps Hoover off the Mafia’s backs. Robert Kennedy’s career is killed by Marilyn Monroe’s suicide in 1966 and the revelation that Bobby was having sexual relations with her. Like Teddy Kennedy, Robert becomes a footnote in U.S. History.

The U.S. pace program also becomes a footnote as there is no one to compete against. The first man on the moon lands in 1982 and he is from China. Charlotte then drops her pens and steps back from the wall. Charlotte wonders where it went wrong. Charlotte asks where the point of divergence is. The breakpoint between real history and this history. Charlotte says that she has now known for two weeks that she is not living in the real world.

We shift to the bowels of the football stadium where Magniconte is being held in a conference room. The head coach is there and doesn’t know what to do next. Phil Voight arrives on the scene and introduces himself as Philip Chamberlain, NFL senior lawyer. Voight then goes into the conference room to talk to Magniconte.

Voight tells Magniconte that he will make all of this go away. Magniconte is distraught and says that he has never taken any type of steroid or other drug. Voight asks Magniconte if he has felt anything strange over the last few weeks. Magniconte says no. Voight asks him where he was during the White Event. Magniconte answers that he was asleep and slept through the whole thing.

Voight then says that he forgot his cell phone and is going to go to his car and get it. Then they will go over Magniconte’s story once more before they bring in the police. Voight tells Magniconte that he will make all of this go away. That Magniconte will not go to prison. Voight exits the room, but leaves his briefcase behind on the table.

We see Voight outside of the football stadium getting into his car and telling the driver to get out of here fast. We see Magniconte back in the conference room looking at the briefcase. We then see a massive explosion from the football stadium. End of issue.

The Good: Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 was another incredible read. Ellis is really impressing me with some extraordinary writing on this title. Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 was a nicely paced issue. Ellis continues to progress this story in a very controlled manner. I have no problems with this pacing since it is an excellent match for the mood and tone of his story. Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 is a mysterious cerebral read that lends itself to this type of measured pace.

There is not much action in this issue. But, this issue does not need it. Ellis is able to use the unfolding mysteries that populate this story in order to build tension in the reader and to keep the story flowing nicely. Ellis manages to suck the reader into this story using well crafted plotlines rather than flashy fight scenes.

Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 is well plotted. Ellis has created such a rich and detailed world in this title. Ellis has masterfully weaved numerous intriguing and complex plotlines that all interconnect in some puzzling fashion. There is no doubt that Ellis has a point and purpose with this title and it will be an enjoyable journey as Ellis reveals the answers to the various mysteries in this story.

Ellis fashions some excellent dialogue. There is such a natural and realistic flow to the dialogue that makes Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 a pleasure to read. Ellis continues to perform some impressive character work in this issue. The various characters are beginning to evolve into more textured and intriguing characters.

One of the weaknesses of Newuniversal: Shockfront #1 was the noticeable lack of chemistry between the various characters. That is corrected in Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 as Ellis is able to generate some nice chemistry between the various characters. Particularly well done was the chemistry between Ken and Izzy.

Ellis works Jenny into the mix with this issue. I liked the intro scene where the reader got a glimpse of Jenny’s secret computer system hidden in the basement of her home. Jenny is doing her best to fashion her own Cerebro in the form of Jenny’s eye in order to track the new superhumans who appeared after the White Event. Jenny’s eye certainly puts our heroes behind the eight-ball as they will never be able to successfully hide themselves from Jenny. If Jenny’s bosses at the NSA get their hands on Jenny’s eye then I would imagine that our heroes would be in some serious danger.

I liked the scene with the two ladies at the NSA watching the wall of television screens. This scene is important because it is the first time that the reader realizes that the Newuniversal Earth is a multiple Earth. On this Earth, the “Baxter Building” is a show about disaster experts that is hosted by Mary Jane. Our favorite redheaded is reported to have had a deformed baby with eight eyes like a spider. That was a neat little nod to Mary Jane’s relationship with Spider-Man. We also learn that Ms. Marvel is an actress on Law and Order.

I was under the impression that the Newuniversal Earth was totally separate from the 616 universe and that it did not have alternate versions of all the various 616 characters. This neat little wrinkle definitely piqued my interest. I dig that all the characters from the 616 universe are in this Newuniversal Earth but in vastly different roles.

The scene with Ken and Izzy was well done. Ellis turns in a strongly written scene as both characters really begin to play off each other in an enjoyable fashion. I like how Ellis has a little fun contrasting Ken and Izzy against each other with their obvious different backgrounds.

I dig Ken’s character. He is delightfully enigmatic with the mysterious powers that he posses and his bizarre dreams. He is also a tragic character that immediately garners the sympathy of the reader. Izzy is also beginning to interest me with her fascinating powers and the revelation that she “talks” to a robot space station that is on the other side of the universe. I am absolutely looking forward to learning more about this duo.

This scene also furthers the fact that the Newuniversal is a multiple Earth as we learn about Ken’s dream where he meets two people from other Earths. I am an absolute sucker for multiple Earth stories so you know I am in heaven with the direction that Ellis is going with this story.

Of course, the entire multiple Earth plotline comes to a crescendo with the fantastically intriguing scene with Charlotte in her apartment. This was a strange scene where Ellis fills the reader in on some of the history of the Newuniversal Earth. It was enjoyable learning how history took a different course on the Newuniversal Earth compared to our Earth.

The cryptic writing and drawings on Charlotte’s wall were cool. Mixed in with all the various images we see the X-Men symbol, Captain America’s symbol, Spider-Man’s symbol and a figure that appears to be Iron Man in his original grey armor.

Ellis then drops a big bomb on the reader when Charlotte states that she has now known for two weeks that she is not living in the real world. Evidently, there is a point of divergence where the Newuniversal Earth went wrong. That there is a breakpoint between real history and the history of the present day Newuniversal Earth. I am completely intrigued by this stunning plot twist. I dig this plotline and look forward to learning more about the strange history of the Newuniversal Earth.

Ellis introduces the reader to Phil Voight from the NSA. Voight and the NSA certainly make for suitable villains. I dig Voight’s calm demeanor. Ellis does a nice subtle way of getting the reader to take Voight as a serious threat despite his lack of powers. I got a chilling vibe from Voight when he casually mentions in an offhand comment that he has killed superhumans before. Voight is definitely going to prove to be a serious enemy to reckon with for our heroes.

Ellis ended Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 in dramatic fashion with a massive explosion that appears to have killed Magniconte. This was a well paced jolt to end the issue after reading an issue that employs the slow burn method of storytelling. Unless Magniconte also has some invulnerability powers, it appears that the NSA has claimed their first superhuman in this mini-series.

Steve Kurth and Andrew Hennessy provide plenty of excellent artwork. Their style of art is the perfect match for the mood and tone of Ellis’ story. I liked all the different shows that Kurth drew on the various TV screens during the scene at the NSA. I recognized South Park, Monty Python’s Holy Grail, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, Princess Bride, Chris G’s Mini-Marvels and an anime show that looks like Fullmetal Alchemist.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Newuniversal: Shockfront #2 was an excellent read. Ellis treats the reader to such an impressively crafted issue. Newuniversal: Shockfront is certainly one of the better written titles on the market. If you enjoy thick and complex stories that move at a measured pace and challenge the reader to constantly think then you will certainly enjoy Newuniversal: Shockfront #2. If you prefer fun, action packed and easy to read comic books then this is not the title for you.