6.13.2007

Warren Ellis Is Back In Black

Black Summer #0 (Avatar Press): Ok, he never really went anywhere. But, I say "back" because I think Warren Ellis revisits here what he does best - and it's not the subject matter, it's the process he imposes onto the subject matter. He knows that you can get gripping science fiction by asking a series of plausible "what if?" type questions. By asking these logical questions, he's exposing how the superhero mindset is extremely subjective. We trust them to do "what's right." But, what's right? Doesn't everyone's definition differ? If they're supposed to fight evil, where does that stop? Does it? If you have an all powerful superhero figure... and you make him aware of evil... and the expectation is he will vanquish evil... are we supposed to flinch away from the inevitable outcome no matter where that leads? Wouldn't that be hypocritical of us? Ellis takes this to a logical conclusion here by placing the evil and corruption squarely inside the US Government, with its most prominent figure, POTUS - The President of the United States. By doing so, he makes the traditional superhero paradigm seem quite silly by comparison. Black Summer actually ends up being much more realistic than any of the relatively bound-by-conventional-wisdom offerings of the Big 2. Black Summer isn't necessarily shocking in the statements it makes (essentially that Bush lied to get us into Iraq as a staging point for Middle East conquest, elections were rigged, the American public largely turned a deaf ear to it all since they felt no method to air their grievances given the closed process, etc.). Yeah, all that's basically "true" to anyone whose been paying attention and has even a mild liberal, left wing streak in them. His true innovation here is that he then applies the superhero paradigm on top of that. If that was the backdrop, what would an all powerful Superman/Batman/Mister Terrific hybrid (and his extended associates) do about that? What would the government do in response to their initial actions? That would be fucking scary as hell. And I think it might look exactly like this issue looks so far. Black Summer proclaims "Yes, I will burn this village in order to save it." I can't wait to see what happens next. Throw in Juan Jose Ryp's art, which is perfectly suited to the task. Here it boasts some Frank Quitely influence in the level of detail and thin line facial expressions, looking brilliant in color. And all for .99 cents! This is the deal of the decade. Whether you're even a casual superhero fan amid the hoi polloi who just wants some big bang spectacle, or if you want a little more high-brow commentary and consider yourself part of the comic book congnoscenti, this is most definitely for you. Grade A+.

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