REVIEW: Supreme #63

by

Or – “Turn And Face The Strange…”

When the first issue of Supreme came out nearly two decades ago, I never expected that the character would end up featuring in some of the most entertaining comics I’ve ever read…

Enter Alan Moore.

SUPREME #63
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist(s): Erik Larsen/Cory Hamscher
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Supreme:  Created as, essentially “Superman who kills”, Rob Liefeld’s Supreme transcended his own pedestrian origins under the pen of Alan Moore, who saw him as less ‘Superman Knockoff’ than ‘Superman archetype.’  Moore created an entire rogue’s gallery of villains, a supporting cast and hero pals for Supreme, allowing for stories that hearkened back to the best tropes of the Golden and Silver Age comics where Superman thrived.  Having traveled to limbo, Supreme found an entire planet of Supremes, each of whom had been replaced/retconned away when the next version arrived, as well as gaining a villainous counterpart in his childhood friend Darius Dax (who also found a planet full of himself hiding in limbo.)  It has been over a decade since the last issue of Supreme came out, with rumors of this final script and what it might contain swirling the whole time…

SO, WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ERIK LARSEN?

When the Moore-penned Supreme run was in its heyday, the art was primarily by Moore’s ‘Tom Strong’ collaborator Chris Sprouse, and had a similar muscular leanness to it.  I’ve always equated Erik Larsen’s art with the top-heavy Hulk musculature that he’s been doing forever in Savage Dragon, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him dialing the anatomy back for this issue.  In his human identity, Supreme is Ethan Crane, the artist of a character called Omni-Man, who is himself somewhat of a Captain Ersatz version of Supreme, who is himself sorta Superman…  It all gets very meta, and I laughed out loud when a couple of kids in a comic shop start discussing how the Ethan-drawn Omni-Man comic book they’re reading is “sorta talking about itself.”  The issue of in question also piques the interest of Darius Dax, arch-rival and nemesis of Supreme, who finds an interesting correlation between story and reality, leading him to return to the lost land of Daxia to consult with his past incarnations. Daxia and The Supremacy are among the most fascinating concepts that Moore has ever come up with, entire worlds populated by redacted and retconned versions of the characters, the most logical extension of “all the stories you used to love still exist, somehwere” I’ve ever read. (New 52 detractors might take note…)

SILVER AGE WITH MODERN SENSIBILITIES…

The best parts of Supreme, for my money, are the awkward pauses that come when characters such as Suprema speak or act like a Silver Age comic book character, only to have someone respond the way you would if someone acted in that manner:  Staring as if at a lunatic.  Supreme is busy having dinner with his new love interest (and writer of Omni-Man, not coincidentally) while Darius puts together the reality of the situation.  Supreme knows the writer of Omni-Man.  The writer of Omni-Man seems to know about Daxia.  There’s no way that she could know about Daxia.  Thus, the writer of Omni-Man probably learned from Supreme about a similar realm, perhaps one inhabited by all the revised versions of Supreme.  The meta statement turns in on itself, and things get weird all at once.  As always, Moore manages to take Steps A and B and use them to extrapolate where Step X will be down the alphabet, and the issue ends with a lovely parallel as Supreme and Diana consummate their budding relationship, while the Daxes gird their loins for all-out war!

THE VERDICT: SATISFACTORY.  HURM…

The loooong wait between issues doesn’t necessarily kill the buzz in this one, although my repeated re-reading of the Supreme trade paperbacks that collect the earlier stories probably doesn’t hurt.  Erik Larsen’s portion of the book integrates well with Hamscher’s, and Cory synthesizes a pretty good Chris Sprouse experience without slavishly aping his style.  There’s a nagging worry in my mind, though, that this story sets up an epic battle throughout dimensions, one that could easily devolve into standard-issue fighty-fighty.  It would be very disappointing to see this resolved in a linear punching fashion after so many extraordinary issues.  Oddly enough, I find the fact that Erik Larsen is involved in the project very comforting, as his work on Savage Dragon over the last few years has shown him capable of epic, long-form storytelling which can still surprise a jaded old comics fan like myself.  Supreme #63 seems like the start of a bright, new era, and makes me think that there’s still gas in the Ivory Icon’s tank, earning a nicely done 4 out of 5 stars overall.  This issue’s biggest weakness is probably going to be a lack of notoriety of the excellent issues that preceded it, which might leave some readers out in the cold (or worried that the character is still just Wolver-Superman.)

Rating: ★★★★☆