Supreme Blue Rose #6 encapsulates perfectly everything I’ve enjoyed so much about this series from day one, while at the same time being some of the best slow-burn meta-fiction I’ve read in the past decade. This book is basically Warren Ellis doing a Morrison’s Animal Man-style treatment of an analogous Captain Marvel (Shazam) family of characters; or, if you like, it’s Ellis at his most Ellis. And it’s pretty fucking great. I don’t want to talk too much about plot here, as I think it would do the story a disservice. But suffice it to say, the Supreme character’s past casts are converging, and actively discovering their reality as comic book characters. In this issue alone, there are characters from a story within the story bleeding back into the story proper. Confused yet?
Essentially, they are mice trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of their cage, or an ensemble cast of amnesiacs waking up on the set of a crossover movie, attempting to figure out who they are and how they got there. Ellis takes that character and universe-building tactic and folds it around layers, making it a fascinating read, albeit discombobulating.
And, okay, that’s the thing with Supreme Blue Rose: the learning curve is pretty goddamn steep. It isn’t a book you can just jump into all willy-nilly, foot loose and fancy free. It requires some time, effort, contemplation and not a small pinch of patience. But honestly, it’s nothing an afternoon of intermediate Wikipedia reading and light Google searching couldn’t clear up. That may sound like a bit more than the average comic book reader is willing to go through for the enjoyment of his or her book, but its doing makes the SBR experience all the more rewarding.
I compared this to Animal Man earlier, and dammit, I meant it! And not just because this issue features a superhero limbo. I also don’t mean it in an entirely complimentary way. Some of the exposition here comes off a bit heavy-handed, which I’ll admit has been one of Ellis’ issues in the past. The rest of it, though - from the intimate dialogue to the villainous grandstanding to the dreamily vague foreshadowing - is just so terribly endearing, I can’t seem to get enough of it. And I haven’t even started on the art yet.
Tula Lotay’s work here makes me think of everything I like about Ming Doyle’s style, but with none of the latter’s weaknesses, and sieved through a Riley Rossmo-esque filter of visual chaos. It’s thick and poppy, soft and phosphorescent. Normally I’m a stickler for backgrounds, but I think the slight, blueprint-like quality Lotay takes to them here is expertly mindful of the story Ellis is trying to tell.
She reserves the bulk of her articulation for the passengers as they go through their semi-formed journey. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but the gist I’m going for is that, for this story, her art is perfect. And yes, ugh, I know I sound like a broken record here, but even when compared to the others I mentioned, this art is unlike anything I’ve seen in comics, and is one of the downright sexiest books on the shelves today. This book should be celebrated much more vocally than it is, if for no other reason than pushing the boundaries of modern comic book visual storytelling.
As much as I loved Supreme Blue Rose #6, this is where I check out from reviewing the series. That’s not to say I won’t continue loyally reading it every month, but I’m not sure there is much more to say. I recently gave it my vote for 2014’s best new reboot, but after a few years, I think we’ll look back on it as something much, much more important to the medium. I don’t think I could give it much higher praise than that.
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Tula Lotay Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 1/14/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital