By Al Katrina
December 14, 2006 - 13:49
In New Universal, nothing whatsoever is explained. Still, Ellis displays a mastery for creating the kind of confusion that makes the reader yearn for more information, instead of just giving up and reading Spawn instead. A re-vamped version of Marvel’s failed New Universe line of the 80s, the first issue starts much as those books did, with the cosmic White Event, which grants 2 out of every million people special abilities. The Event strikes an alternate Earth so far removed from our own that John Lennon is alive and Paul McCartney is dead. Also, China is a frightening superpower, but that's not too different from our world, except that in New Universal they're building space stations on the moon instead of restaurants in my neighborhood. Regardless, the world of New Universal is one without superheroes and the like, prior to the White Event at least, and therefore the events unfolding seem all the more striking and surreal. After a white flash in the sky, a comatose police officer rises from the dead infused with powers of telepathy, a young woman awakens in a dream world where a giant satellite informs her that her paradigm has been shifted, a landslide unearths a Bronze Age tomb in Latvia, and a young man rises from an alcoholic stupor to find his girlfriend burned to death on a hillside and a glowing tattoo on his palm. Ending with these plot threads dangling tantalizingly for the reader, New Universal promises to be an exciting exploration of Scientific American mixed with The Fortean Times, as per usual for Ellis.
The art, by Salvador Larocca, is quite beautiful. The art here has a dreamy quality that nicely counterpoints the weird science fiction of the story. Oneric pretensions aside, there are some shocking moments in the story that are well served by the art, like a unsettling frame featuring a charred corpse and a beetle. Intelligent and exciting, New Universal promises to be a worthy, and lucid, addition to the Warren Ellis canon, one that requires neither a grounding in quantum physics nor a fistful of magic mushrooms to appreciate.
Rating: 9 /10