“And then it all changed.”
Writer: Warren Ellis | Artist: Tula Lotay
Supreme Blue Rose #1 opens with a man in a wheelchair explaining the newness of the universe to a woman. From where they sit, they see a man who appears to be wearing a helmet walking along the shore of a lake. His name is Enigma and he tells the man and woman of an encounter with a princess of Saturn who came from the future. The man in the wheelchair asks the woman her name. She is Diana Dane. He then warns Diana not to trust Darius Dax. Diana then wakes up in her New York City apartment. She takes a taxi ride to an appointment and spots someone who looks like Enigma along the way. Her destination is the National Praxinoscope Company. She meets the head of the company, Darius Dax. He offers Diana a large sum of money for a job investigating an incident in which something crashed into a small town. Dax has a large golden arch in his office with the word SUPREME emblazoned on it. He claims that it was one of the things that fell on the town. He then shows Diana a video taken at the scene that shows a man named Ethan Thomas Crane who fades away, leaving an after image of someone different. A red triangle lingers in the air where his chest was. This is what Darius wants Diana to investigate. If she finds nothing, she keeps the money he paid her up front. If she finds evidence of anything that has connections to the golden arch, he will pay her an even larger sum of money. Diana then meets with Reuben, her shadow. He has been sent by Darius Dax to protect her. His face is obscured by a “birth defect” that seems like a cloud of soot or a type of electronic distortion. He is surprised that Diana can see it. As he prepares to leave the meeting, he tells Diana that the next time she sees him, it will be because she is in danger. Diana then meets with a friend of hers to discuss the sanity of taking such an unusual job. Her friend encourages her to look at it as an adventure.
Well… this is a strange book. Strangeness is not altogether unexpected in a Warren Ellis book, though. In fact, it’s part of the reason I like his stories. In and of itself, this book isn’t really that far out there I suppose. Ellis creates some interesting story elements. There’s obviously a question of what is real and what is not. The dream that Diana has at the beginning of the book could be just that, but I feel like it is a glimpse at a greater universe. The dialogue in the book is also fascinating at times. During the dream sequence, Enigma explains to Diana, “I feel like a story that the universe didn’t finish writing.” As a receptionist leads Diana into Darius Dax’s office, she comments, “Everything important is in here. Everything outside is just spinning pictures.” Upon meeting Darius Dax, he invites Diana to fight crime with him.
I’ve never heard of Tula Lotay, but it’s not a name I will soon forget. Her art on Supreme Blue Rose fits the odd tone of the story. It almost reminds me of Mike Allred’s art, only less pop culture-y and flat. Lotay’s art tends to be very detailed and is equally suited to depicting two friends talking on a New York fire escape, or the bizarre journey through the fun house offices of Darius Dax. She also uses an interesting technique, that I assume is specific to this book: a pervasive series of random blue lines on almost every page. It looks like someone let a kid loose with a blue crayon, but not in a bad way. Most of the time the lines are almost a background element, but sometimes they are front and center, on a character’s face. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it kind of adds to my feeling that not everything is as real as it seems.
And then I found out that these are not original characters. Supreme was created for Image by Rob Liefeld. The book was redefined at one point by Alan Moore. After doing some research it appears that there were several reboots and Supreme’s origins have changed multiple times over the years. Attempts have been made to make all the different versions make sense together, but I’m not sure what is considered canon at this point. I’m not sure at this point how Ellis’s take on the character will incorporate any of the extant history, aside from reusing the characters. Fortunately, the debut issue didn’t lean too heavily on the past, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Hopefully the rest of the series will be like that.