Supreme Blue Rose is not a comic you may easily enjoy. That’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable book - it damn well is - it’s just not that “easy,” at least in the conventional sense, to understand. And that’s just the way I like it. I am, after all, an unabashed fan of Warren Ellis, whose style is nothing if not complex. So leave it to him, and his artistic cohort in the immensely talented newcomer, Tula Lotay, to take an established character and story already treasured within fandom and give it an extra wrinkle of melt-your-noodle complexity. Like those issues before it, Supreme Blue Rose #3 is not a story about an octogenarian Superman analogue; at least not so transparently. At the moment, it’s essentially about a journalist who has lost herself, not only in attempting to enliven her comatose career, but also in a world currently undergoing an acutely comic book existential crisis. As such, it’s the best thing you’ll read this side of all the Grant Morrison titles out right now, which, while enjoyable in their own right, I hope are not overshadowing this one.
Ellis is most definitely continuing Moore’s metafictional direction with Supreme Blue Rose, and like Dustin said in his review of issue two, I couldn’t be happier about it. Just doing another superhuman story, even one as “postmodern” (for lack of a less pretentious word) would fall flatly, I feel. In making this what I think to be an intricate treatise on the comic book practice of retconning, or as this book refers to it, “revision” and “versioning,” Ellis is able to explore so much more in a much cleverer, if brain-hurting way.
Nothing is clear yet in this book, other than the fact that nothing is clear. We are told often, by people who may not be real, that this world may be only four months old, but that there is also a timeless conceptual bridge in space that simultaneously charts and stretches the length of human perception and existence. We are given layers upon layers of stories, from a popular television program called Professor Night (the point of which remains completely unknown, at least to me), to previously extant dimensions from the Supreme mythos that peek into this one, to alternate histories where Africa led global scientific advancement (a-la Wakanda), a stowaway from which we meet briefly at the finale of this issue. And it’s all unclear and confusing and beautiful; a literary brain freeze after enjoying something refreshing and delicious, it’s the kind of pain that you weirdly enjoy. At least I do.
The “Blue Rose” subtitle-of-sorts also remains a mystery, though things are beginning to blossom on that front. With this and his other Image book Trees, Ellis clearly has a thing for strange-looking plants (read: metaphors) growing where they logically shouldn’t. Sure, it may be a thinly-veiled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-esque symbol, but I kind of doubt it ends there.
Given the context we learned last issue, wherein we witnessed a heady conversation between a Professor Wells and Dr. Chelsea Henry (who is definitely going to be more of a central character than her absence this issue would suggest), this universe could either be a large quantum computer (with the non-coincidental “bloom” of “blue” radiation spikes acting as a way to contact the future and presumably past), or a complete work of fiction created by one of the characters ... or several of them ... or even a love letter from someone beyond their sphere of influence; Ellis, perhaps, or even Moore? The point is, it doesn’t yet matter; for now, all you really have to focus on is getting lost in this deftly-dialogued magician’s shuffle, smelling the oddly intoxicating flowers along the yellow brick road as you do.
Of course, one of the best parts of this great trick are the visuals of Tula Lotay, whose style I continue to fall in love with in each new issue. Simply put, I’m not sure there is anyone better for this story. Her work is ethereal and perpetually in motion, like a neon semi-lucid dream screaming toward its own abrupt awakening, and without meaning to sound anymore hyperbolic than I already have in this review, it’s fucking perfect.
I said it in my review of issue one, but I love how she keeps the blue sketch outlines around each character, how they shift in and out of phase with each dimension of action and thus denote the world’s fictional base, and how they shimmy around the story like one of those floaty things you sometimes get in your eye. Her coloring, too, is so well-chosen for this story: a pop music video cast beneath alternatingly electric sunset hues and overexposed photography. It’s hard to grasp and ephemeral, which is pretty perfect for what this book is doing.
You have to forgive me if I’m brazilian waxing too philosophical in this review, but I tend to go overboard like this when I get excited. I could also - very easily - be getting everything wrong, but with something like Supreme Blue Rose, that’s also half the fun.
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Tula Lotay Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 9/17/14 Format: Print/Digital