It’s been a minute (well, two months worth of minutes) since the last issue of Supreme Blue Rose, and while it’s been a long wait, it turns out that issue five is more than worth it. This series has been an incredible canvas on which Ellis has returned to form, not to mention a showcase for relative newcomer Tula Lotay to shine. In its latest issue, this relaunch has taken on a new turn, one that grounds the narrative in something familiar, while at the same time keeping its so-far trademark esotericism in tact. Supreme Blue Rose #5 feels more like a superhero comic than any issue that preceded it, and that’s a good thing. All the elements were already there, of course, following as it has, reporter Diana Dane, who has been commissioned by swarthy businessman, Lex Luthor-type, Darius Dax, to investigate the strange goings on in the small town of Littlehaven, where a man named Ethan Crane one day burst into light just before a divine archway fell from the sky.
This issue, however, Dane taps into her inner analogue of Lois Lane, leading the reader through what feels like the setup for a debut issue, driving up the intrigue around a god-like character suddenly thrust in the presence of small-town folk. Meanwhile, Dax practices his aim with what looks like a ray gun, most likely as an antagonistic nod of things to come. So for all intents and purposes, this has everything you need for the retelling of a Superman story, which is what Supreme has always been; but of course, as is also true of the title and character, there’s a twist.
While Ellis is clearly the navigator of the ship, Lotay is most definitely at the guns. Her stuff here is extraordinary, and constitutes a large part of the twist I mentioned above. Ellis seems to have a great understanding and respect for the artists he works with, evidenced once again here as he moves out of the way to let Lotay dictate the issue’s flow.
She kicks off SBR #5 in a five-page kaleidoscopic headtrip that is so dreamlike in quality, so fierce in tone and color, it is nothing less than the powerful stampede it more than implies being. It also bleeds, quite literally in many ways, into the book’s secondary plot, in this case exemplified by the coming together of the prophetic Dr. Chelsea Henry and the pretty goddamn lovable tribal astronaut, Doc Rocket.
Throughout it all - as well as the metafictional narrative being told in the mid-issue “Professor Night” bumpers (yet another thread waiting to converge into the quilt), Lotay shows one of the most incredible ranges I’ve seen this year. Whether it’s in the soft, deep expressions of Dane and the cold eyes of the chest-fingering madame in “Professor Night,” or the worn, crumpled paper bag faces of Littlehaven locals sitting against a backdrop of impossible neon garble, Lotay shows a rich command of the different elements of this story, and how to illustrate them best.
She waltzes through both expressionism and impressionism, as well as realism in her alternatingly vague and beautifully fully-rendered backgrounds (depending on what the scene calls for), and vets it all through solid, unobtrusive multi-media elements; her overlay of streaks and stains, for example, continues to add an ephemeral quality that I absolutely love.
Meanwhile, Ellis is building his story to a crescendo, which again, I think will lead to the beginning of the classic superhero story. This series, then, shows the process not necessarily of creation, but of the reboot. It’s the overarching mythos of a popular superhero churning in the new mother’s womb of brainstorming, shifting existing organs around and getting ready to house new life, with all the discomfort and strangeness that entails. Even Lotay’s art looks like it’s shot through the veneer of embryonic chaos, where everything is in a constant state of flux, preparing to be born.
The only thing I wasn’t over the moon about this issue was its ending, which felt like it came prematurely, but that doesn’t stop me from recommending Supreme Blue Rose to anyone looking for a book that actually makes you think, and entertains you so fully and satisfyingly in the process.
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Tula Lotay Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/10/14 Format: Print/Digital