Saturday, April 19, 2014

Comic Review: Uber Volume 1

    I am a sucker for alternate timelines/histories.  No, I couldn’t really get into the Turtledove or Webber books, but still… Anyway, when I saw the Uber trade hit the store shelf, I was intrigued.  It proposes a world where, in the final moments of the World War II, just before the fall of Berlin, German scientists developed a super-soldier serum, creating giant, super-powered Nazi soldiers who turned the tide back upon the Allies, destroying a massive chunk of the Soviet army and no few Americans and Brits.  In the wake of this disaster, an Ally spy manages to smuggle out a sample of the serum, giving the Allies a fighting chance against these new Ubermensch.  I love all of that.  Yes.  ‘This comic is going to be great,’ was my thought.

    Well, my brain was wrong, and it didn’t take me long to realize it.  Let me start at the good points.  The ideas presented are really, really cool.  I like the hints of what the serum is, where it came from, and what it might do.  I like the twists on the history, and the people involved.  And I like the plot progression and where the story seems to be going.  That stuff is all great.  Now the bad; and here I’m going to start with the least offensive.  The artwork by Caanan White is inconsistent, to say the least.  Some images are beautiful or terrible, appropriately.  But others are muddied and jumbled.  Many of the characters become difficult to distinguish, especially the women, who seem to be almost universally blonde, with the same face.  At one point in the series, one becomes a redhead, and I’m guessing it was in response to readers not knowing who was the German super-soldier and who was the British spy.  And it seems like entirely too much time was devoted to drawing blood and gore.  The silly amounts of blood and guts flying around various pages started making the whole thing look like something a teenager would draw in an attempt to be ‘shocking.’  It's certainly not so bad that I wouldn't have forgiven it, had it been accompanied by good writing.  Which then brings me to the worst part of the book, the writing.  While the plot progression is fine, the nitty-gritty of dialog and captions seems to have been written by a rank amateur.  That, along with the art, made the whole thing look and sound like something you’d maybe (I stress maybe) pick up in an artists’ ally at a comic convention, where you’re more likely to be somewhat forgiving of a lack of polish, because it’s all self-published and often doesn’t have the benefit of a proper editor.  This book does not have that excuse, and author Kieron Gillen isn’t some 17 year old kid who shows some promise.  He’s a professional journalist, and has more than a decade of comic writing experience behind him.   He has no excuse.

    To sum up, Uber is a great idea for a comic series (and would make a solid background for a tabletop roleplaying game).  Sadly, this is not that comic series.  The ideas are strong, but the book is…well, it’s crap.  It’s serious crap.  It was actually kind of difficult to slog through, because the writing is that bad.  I’ve now read two samples of Gillen’s work (I suffered through a couple issues of Invincible Iron Man), and have to say his name is going on my ‘to avoid’ list of writers, right next to Chris Claremont.  While I don't love Caanan White's art in this book, he's certainly got skill, and I'll be curious to see where his career takes him.  Hopefully to working with better writers.

Uber Volume 1
Author: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Caanan White
Publisher: Avatar
ISBN: 978-1-5929-1218-6

-Matthew J. Constantine

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