Supreme Blue Rose by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay

How much you enjoy this series (completed and fully collected in this graphic novel) really comes down to patience: author Ellis is going for his most inscrutable and the artwork is pretty (if trippy) enough to almost distract from the story. So it is a title into which you need to invest time either rereading, reading slowly, researching the world, or digesting the concepts. Because what we have is a ditty based in a world (Supreme) published over a decade ago, containing a lot of time manipulation and enough metaphysical hooey to induce a headache.

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Story: Although based upon The Supreme series created by Liefeld in the 1990s – and then added onto by Alan Moore and Erik Larsen later – this takes familiar characters such as Probe and Ethan Crane and focuses on the metaphysical aspects of time needing to be revised periodically or it gets messed up. So while those new to the Supreme world won’t know the characters and may get lost, those invested in the series may wonder why the focus shifted from a Superman-like story to a nebulous, stream-of-consciousness free-for-all in which characters appear and disappear as time ‘revises’.

The lure here isn’t so much Ellis’ inscrutable story as Tula Lotay’s appropriately trippy artwork. The women are beautiful in a Varga pin-up kind of way and suitably conflicted. Where the men are very Superman-stolid, the women provide the heart and emotion of the story. The hard tech of sci fi balanced by the pathos of the women finding their roles/paths in a slippery present. Layers of textures overlaying the artwork provide a suitably dreamy milieu in which for the women to interact.

If you’re unsure about whether to pick up Supreme: Blue Rose, read the blurb/synopsis again. If it intrigues you, you’ll love the series. If you think it says nothing and want to ask, ‘where’s the summary and what’s it about?’, then likely you’ll be frustrated with how little is actually laid out in a straightforward manner in the story.

For me, honestly, this is a true 5-star book, intelligently written and beautifully illustrated but I can only give 3 stars. I was very unaffected by the story and too often found myself drifting or checking to see how many pages were left. I chose Supreme: Blue Rose on the strength of how much I’ve enjoyed Ellis’ previous works; I wanted to read it despite (or perhaps in spite) of the uninformative description blurb. So, although I read it through, it’s not something I want to invest that much time into exploring as it needs/deserves. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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