Saturday, February 16, 2008

newuniversal: Everything went White

newuniversal: Everything went White

by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larocca

Marvel Comics $19.99

I was thirteen years old in 1986, when Marvel Comics decided to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary by creating an entire new Universe. Seriously, that’s what they called it, The New Universe, and it was designed to be the world outside you window. But a world that suddenly, had people developing super-powers (not necessarily outside your window, but you get the point). Sound like a familiar concept? It’s almost the exact concept of the tv series heroes, done twenty years (and, some would say, more creatively successfully) earlier. The New Universe was not destined for long-termed success. The first batch of titles was cancelled a year in. The rest made it another year and a half, but most people agreed there were some damn good stories in their, told by creators at the top of their game. And it was a world, refreshingly, with no reset button. When the most actual “super-heroic” of the characters accidentally blew up his home town of Pittsburg (not to mention himself), no one came along and fixed it. Instead, the event propelled the New Univers into a war between governments using civilian, super-powered, pawns. It really did see the situation to a believable (if not a very satisfying) conclusion.
So, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this event, in 2006 Marvel assigned brilliant, gonzo writer of conceptual and super-heroic science fiction, Warren Ellis, to reboot the property. To assist, they gave him the services of fan favorite artist Salvador LaRocca. Instead of an entire line of inter-related titles, the New Universe was reborn as one book, newuniversal, and the entire story will be told in one title. The first story arc has been collected as the hardcover Everything Went White.

Story: As he usually does, Warren Ellis has delivered in rethinking the concept of the New Universe. In the original version, there was an explosion in the sky of white light, which gave a couple of hundred people world-wide super-powers. In this new version, Ellis has re-thought what that “white event” was and come up with an explanation that has real implications for the future of the planet, tying it in with quantum mechanics and multiple-worlds theories. Ellis loves his gonzo science (as do I) and this provides a layer to the story that was absent in the original. He also culls the cast down a bit too. There are four super-humans the white event has awakened, and each has his or her own specific purpose.

As usual, Ellis creates interesting, believable characters and writes dialogue that accomplishes expositional tasks but also sounds like something that people would actually say, peppered with humor and pathos throughout. He avoids using some of his stock characters (no chain-smoking, sarcastic, bitter Brit investigator here. yet.) This first volume doesn’t delve as deeply into character as some would like, but this is clearly a story working off of the EVENT structure, and that takes precedence. There are some nice bits, though.

This is but the first volume, and as such, the ending is a little weak. It does not so much end as it does stop. This would not be so alarming except that Ellis and Marvel been coy about when and where the story will continue. It has been announced that the series will return early in 2008, but so far it has not yet appeared. I am invested enough in the story at this point that I almost want to seek out the actual issues as they come out. (Don’t worry honey, I know that’s how it all starts …)

Art: Salvador Larroca’s work is gorgeous here. In some places it is almost photo-realistic. It succeeds in being both a fantastic place and “the world outside your window.” His character work is particularly strong. But there is one thing about the piece that some people will find distracting, at that’s his obvious modeling of certain characters on famous people, at least in their appearance. Basically, we have Josh Hollaway (Sawyer from Lost) as Oklahoma football player Ken Connell; A red-haired, green-eyed Angelina Jolie as robotics expert Jenny Swann; Johnyy Depp (circa his Ninth Gate days) as historian Len Carson; James Cromwell as government agent Phillip Voight; and, bizarrely, some weird hybrid of Hillary Clinton and Dr. Laura as the president. This practice of “spot the reference” can distract a little from the story. Some people like it, others don’t. I’m on the fence.

Bottom line: A promising start to a great story. I just hope it continues. It certainly does more with the concept than Heroes ever thought of doing.

No comments: