Super-hero nostalgia is publicly executed and buried for the purposes of enriching the Jungian soil.
Various would-be-J. Robert Oppenheimers around the world create superhumanity for the purposes of tactical arms advantages and we, the readers, observe the ensuing car wreck.
The story opens shortly after the earth has been burned down to its skeleton. A British scientist, responsible for the U.K.’s foray into superhumanity, sits on some steps near the Old Bailey and dictates the step-wise end of the world to a counterpart in the U.S. While he drinks alcohol of an appropriately high proof, the story shifts between the various versions of superhumanity created by the different nations of the world. The story is a slowed-down and dissected car-wreck of how humanity created beings whose perception of the universe was so vastly different from ours that they could not care for us.
Does it Work?
Warren Ellis is the master of short-form science fiction in the modern era. The mechanisms of the style are very specific. You establish a concept in the form of a question and then design a plot to explore the world wherein that question is answered. The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone populate televised examples of high quality.
Comic books, however, are largely dominated by Super-Hero stories that endlessly examine conflicts between good and evil inherited from a simplistic Golden-Age morality. Notions of modern complexity inform modern comics only so far as it comes to accounting of the living and the dead.
The Big Two have wisely anchored there newest stories in the realm of zombies where the living and the dead can expeditiously co-mingle. Now they can effortlessly reshuffle their 1950’s morality parable ad infinitum ad nauseum while forcing their accounts cum readers to play the same game, just faster.
Warren Ellis takes those 1950’s concepts of conflict that super-hero readership refuses to mature and extends its antecedent paranoia that is always ignored. That paranoia provides the psychological fuel for an arms race of intelligent weapons that raze cities as reflexively as breathing. Humanity stumbles around flabbergasted as dozens of Hiroshimas and Nagasakis change the landscape into something befitting post-humanity and its weaponized physical tolerance. Warren postulates that post-humans of such an awesome power that they might populate a comic book would have psychologies so alien to our own that we could only observe their actions and comment.
These super-people are clearly rendered. The layouts are exceptionally clean grids. Ellis through his economy of dialogue and Gastonny through his fluency in placing the incredible next to the mundane achieve a documentarian effect: like Ken Burns stripped to the waist, covered in soot and blood, with a necklace of fingers while brandishing his beloved baseball bat.
In all: this comic is delightfully scary.
Issues of Execution:
From Anna Mercury to Black Summer, Ellis has been very consistent with his brief series from Avatar. The overall structure remains to be seen. The first two issues have revealed the mechanisms of the story but not the scope. If you are a plot-oriented reader of mainstream superhero comics consider picking this up in trade format to avoid frustration. If you are well versed in comics outside the mainstream then go ahead and pick this up. It will run for 5 issues.
Note:Future reviews will be less conceptual and I will actually talk about things like art in detail. In light of my introductory splenetic rant I chose to be philosophical for my overdue first review. If you have anything to say about that, remember the screwdriver.