Review by Frank Plowright
Supreme was created as a generic Superman knock-off by Rob Liefeld in 1993. To this day his earliest appearances have never been issued as collections, which tells you all you need to know about the quality. At the end of the 1990s Supreme was reworked by Alan Moore to tell the type of nonsense stories Superman starred in during the early 1960s, but with a considerable injection of knowing conceptual imagination. He then disappeared back into limbo until this 2015 revival under Warren Ellis. Blue Rose is like one of those 1990s 12” singles where a DJ was hired to remix a pop song for greater appeal to a dance audience. The essence of the original tune is buried somewhere in the background, while the remixer latches on to one aspect.
What Ellis does well right from the beginning is considerably distance Supreme from the Superman comparison, although hooks on to two of the previous supporting cast. Investigative journalist Diane Dane is hired by businessman Darius Dax to investigate what was passed off to the world as a plane crashing into the rural town of Littlehaven. He believes there’s something more, and a video capture shows someone identified as Thomas Ethan Crane. An unsettling sense of unreality prevails also, instituted by a teasing opening scene, and by Tula Lotay’s evocative art being slightly out of register, the pages washed over with patches of pale colour and light blue streaks. It gives the impression of seeing through a filter that doesn’t quite reveal everything.
That’s heightened by the way Ellis rolls the plot out. It’s heavy on mystifying experience and scientific theory, but heads too far in those directions. When readers still haven’t got a clue about what’s going on after four chapters while scientific gobbledygook is at a premium, it’s showing off rather than telling a story. Ellis has always been a very self-aware writer, and on occasions, the sample art being one, that spills out into dialogue that’s supposed to be clever, but instead generates an intense dislike of the smug individuals involved.
Enough references are made to the reforming of reality and how people have slipped through cracks, and at the end it seems as if Ellis had taken seven chapters to belabour via allegory the obvious point that creative teams on superhero comics change. It’s not enough. Credit is due for not just taking the obvious route in rebooting Supreme, but Blue Rose is so convoluted it’s dull, and it’s ultimately unsatisfying apart from Lotay’s art, which is gorgeous.