Overview

Newuniversal #1

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newuniversal #1

Credits

  • Words: Warren Ellis
  • Art: Salvador Larroca
  • Inks: Salvador Larroca
  • Colors: Jason Keith
  • Story Title: Enter
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Dec 6, 2006

The New Universe is re-imagined in a very big way with Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca at the helm. Superheroes and sci-fi and Ellis – how could this be bad?

The first issue of newuniversal (apparently one word and all lowercase – merely stylized or will it come to mean something more?) is focused upon "The White Event." Much as in the original New Universe books, this is the moment where the first super-powers the world has ever seen (or at least remembers having seen) are bestowed upon a select few individuals. In this new, remade version, The White Event occurs shortly after the alignment of UTC (Universal Time Coordinated), a moment wherein a single clock is started that will give a standard, synchronized time reading for all parts of the world to share. When the next day dawns and the Event is over, a select number of individuals are changed forevermore.

The players: there’s a 98% dead policeman named John Tensen, who inexplicably awakens as the plenipotent Justice, a man who telepathically sees the every sin that others have committed inside his "dead head" (hey, maybe Ellis will go super-obscure and random and call this character Death’s Head, even though he tags his kills with the graffito "Justice"…yeah, probably not. Oh, well…). A Japanese-American girl, Izanami Randall, awakens while still inside her own dream, and there meets a massive alien sentience that seems to be the harbinger of the whole White Event hoopla. In Latvia, a long-hidden tomb is unearthed after a startlingly localized landslide, and in Oklahoma, a teenage boy is about to awaken with a power beyond imagining (can you guess what it is?).

On the plus side, newuniversal looks to be an honest epic, broad-scoped and bizarre, with a myriad of characters, intriguing design, and even more intriguing drama. Much like Ellis’ past comic book works, there’s no lack of plot and concept – in fact, they’re slathered across every panel of every page as if the series might be cancelled at the end of any given scene (and, hey, perhaps it might…). The storytelling is still largely modern and "decompressed;" there’s no sense of actual beginning, middle and end, not even within the individual characters’ milieus, but rather this issue is, as one might expect from a superstar writer’s new comic, nothing but opening salvos, pure inception after inception after inception, though there’s so many of these crammed within its pages that the book manages to be the most satisfying big series launch of recent memory.

On the down(ish) side, this isn’t the next Transmetropolitan that you – okay (I admit it), that we may have been waiting for. There is, as of yet, none of the heady study of character, psychology, or morality found within that elder Ellis ongoing masterpiece. Instead, newuniversal is Ellis doing pulp sci-fi; it’s Planetary on a more mainstream, less deconstructionist scale. There’s all the nonsensical but pseudo-cool comic-book Britishisms such as (when the alien construct in the dreamscape speaks to Izanami): "This is a paradigm shift. Everything you know has changed. Please remain calm." Which simply isn’t the way an elevated super-construct would speak but it’s rhythmic and snarky and very, very Ellis, which readers will either love or loathe though it’s a style which no one will be surprised by. The women are all either attitude-laden, tough-as-nails loners or perfectly even-keeled companions with a sexual quip never far from their tongues. The men, on the other hand, are all in some one-dimensional way pathetic and mewling while in another, equally prevalent facet (their second and only additional dimension, I suppose) they’re focused and unstoppable to the point of emotional nescience. As in most Ellis fiction (with the sole exception of Transmet), never are such stereotypes diverged from or even used in new or unpredictable ways.

There are additionally a few minor logic gaffes – 1) The landslide in Latvia unearths a mountain tomb, which consists of a thin, precariously perched stone mound and a half-dozen rickety wooden bridges, all of which were unfazed by the landslide which toppled half the mountain. 2) The tomb is said to have been constructed to withstand centuries, so that it could later be found by modern day man, which is mentioned to be an impressive, strategizing feat on the part of the now-dead civilization, and yet if it weren’t for the (seemingly chance) landslide, the tomb would never have been found. Ever. How can the placement of a tomb within an area that was so secluded that only a landslide could have unearthed it be "planning for mankind to find it?" 3) The final scene isn’t set up as buyable from a motivational standpoint (no evidence – though I won’t divulge the specifics here), though Ellis goes through with the forced melodrama to give the issue a somewhat (and only somewhat) cliffhanger last page.

As for the art, Larroca and Keith are in top-notch form, though Larroca seems to be channeling Darick Robertson in his figures and faces, and Keith is a tin-type of Richard Isanove a la Origin. The final result is the look of something both new and old, birthing and dying, all at the same time – a perfect design for a far-flung sci-fi fable. It’s emphatically not the Larroca fans are used to, and that may disappoint a few folks, especially since his new style is still in the early stages and redolent of other artists more than it’s its own thing, but overall it suits the subject matter and the attitude of the tale, so as long as it grows into its own it’ll be more than worth it.

So newuniversal is a good book. Not a great book, though it’s a strong start, and should maintain enough momentum (especially with Ellis onboard) to chug right on through until it finds a fitting end. For those who loved the old New Universe, there’s plenty to point at and say "cool!" For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, this is a strong Ellis sci-fi ongoing, and there’s nothing here that’s more caught up with the past than it is with the present re-launch. This is its own, brand new book – a fresh start in a clear and thorough way that most re-launches, due to author nostalgia, never quite manage to reach. So my advice is: don’t hesitate for a moment just because this is a re-imagining; it’s a new thing (if done in a rote way), and it’s a good thing, so have at.

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