Marvel Comics
New Universal #1-5
By Zak Edwards
April 16, 2007 - 23:56

Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Warren Ellis
Penciller(s): Salvador Larroca

Newuniversal #1-5

When Marvel released their Ultimate line seven years ago, people thought things would change.  The problem with this reinterpretation of the 616 Marvel universe is that the Ultimate line was, ultimately, still responsible to 616.  Spider-man had to make wise-cracks, Wolverine still had to be the ultimate graduate from the school of hard knocks.

Enter Newuniversal.  Now I understand that this comic has roots in a forgotten series that printed twenty-one years ago, but Ellis has reinterpreted that old line and brought forth a world that is almost our own.  The universe seems to be caught half-way between here and 616, with some interesting and thought-provoking changes scattered subtly throughout the issues.  The main point, though, is that Newuniversal seems to be able to do whatever it wants, and that’s why it’s exciting.

Artist Salvador Larroca perfectly blends our reality with Ellis’ creation.  There’s no sound effects blocking his realistic and graphic style.  Main characters remind the audience of many celebrities; Eminem, Bruce Willis, and Angelina Jolie are easily recognizable, but for good reason.  Even as the impossible happens around the reader, it is firmly grounded in reality.  Celebrities may be on the page, but they are drawn for adults, not thirteen year-old boys wanting to see impossible body-types.  Larocca is adding another dimension to the story rather than just drawing a script.

One of the best parts of this series seems to be how it draws from the real world.  The characters seem believable, more human than most heroes out their today.  They react to situations in very human ways.  But even more interesting than the characters is the focus on the ramifications of having super-humans in the world.  Ellis seems to be drawing from contemporary philosophy and Bernard Shaw’s classic play “Man and Superman” (this play is not about Clarke Kent, in case your wondering).  This is a very interesting focus to have and I’m excited at the conclusions that will be drawn from this.

Even still, this isn’t Ellis’ best work.  Things are progressing slowly, but if read altogether, it flows nicely.  I fear that if some things are left to stagnate for much longer, they will lose their relevance to the story.  I’m still left pondering many questions I’ve had since issue one.  Five issues in and new characters are popping up while the originals are still not progressing in any significant way.  The exception to this is the Japanese-American, Izanami, who seems to have managed to keep the plot at a tolerable pace.  Fans of Ellis’ Nextwave hoping for action and explosions will be VERY disappointed.

Ellis has managed to keep me intrigued, and Larroca’s art is still impressing me.  I’ll expect to stick with this series for a long time, and fans of super-hero genres that are intelligent and off the beaten track will enjoy this as well.

7/10 But if it doesn’t hurry up, this number’s going down.

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