Uber #0 is Kieron Gillen and Canaan White’s latest offering for Avatar Press. Can this story about Nazi supersoldiers in the waning days of the Third Reich live up to one critic’s expectations?
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Pencils: Canaan White
Inks: Keith Williams
Propaganda Cover & Color: Michael Dipascale
All Other Covers: Canaan White
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Kurt Hathaway
Publisher: Avatar Press
Kieron Gillen is perhaps currently best known for his work with well-regarded Marvel properties such as Uncanny X-Men, Journey Into Mystery and ongoing titles like Iron Man and Young Avengers. When I first heard about this project, I was excited. It was unlike anything I had seen Gillen write before. As far as I know, he’s never written any historical war fiction and most of his work is about earnest young people dealing with extra-natural responsibilities. Uber is Kieron Gillen’s depiction of the last days of the Third Reich, with the twist that Hitler’s wunderwaffen aren’t just rockets, but literal, superhuman ubermenschen.
Uber is published by Avatar Press. Avatar publishes a lot of great stuff in varying genres – but without question, the most disturbing comics I have ever read (Crossed, Neonomicon, Caligula) are Avatar books. These have been some challenging and interesting comics, even while I am still profoundly disturbed by their contents. So my big question when approaching Uber #0 was how would these two seemingly contrary elements blend? Would Gillen be writing a big, bloody gorefest more in line with what I might expect from an Ennis or Lapham book?
And indeed, Uber has its share of nasty moments. This is not a story of high adventure set amongst the backdrop of comicdom’s favorite war. This is an issue about the last days of an evil regime at its most desperate. Any student of the Second World War knows about what went on in the concentration camps as liberation approached. Or the devastation wrecked by advancing Russian soldiers amongst the German populace, in return for atrocities visited upon the Russian people during Germany’s initial invasion. All of that ugliness is depicted in on the page in full color, with little to sweeten it; there is sexual violence, mutilated corpses, bodies torn asunder as all the horrors of war are on display.
In a two page essay at the issue’s close, Gillen writes about how he wants this series to be about humans and their relationship to power. His script is a great study in how to write war fiction – things like troop movements and field equipment modifications are handled interestingly and organically, without forgetting the human element. The problem is that the main topic Gillen wants to explore isn’t really addressed in this issue. The only deeper point in Uber #0 seems to be that war is hell, but we had General Sherman to tell us that back in the 1800s. The ubers do come across as horrifyingly powerful forces of nature, but right now there’s no difference between them and a 500lb bomb dropped from a Stuka. For this to be more than an exercise in bloodiness, Gillen needs to get to the core issue better than he does here. He is, of course, totally capable of doing that.
On the art front, Canaan White was very good, on the whole. The page backgrounds are done up like bullet-riddled walls, which is an inventive touch. The action is lovingly detailed, with a few horrifying splash pages driving the nastiness home. I do have one big concern with how he draws faces. It was very hard to tell one character from the next. Trying to figure out who was talking or doing what was very difficult – a little bit of variety in the character designs would make the art mostly unassailable.
BOTTOM LINE: A BLOODY GOOD START
In all honesty, Uber #0 is somewhat exhausting to read on the first go around. There is maybe one sympathetic character amongst the many presented in this issue (and that is being generous). The issue also suffers from a lack of distinctiveness on the part of the creators, both visually and narrative-wise. It’s hard to tell one German soldier from another, even when it’s Heinz Guderian addressing his staff – and having all the supersoldiers share similar codenames like Siegfried, Siegmund and Sieglunde is confusing. The pacing was a little clipped, with a new scene and characters every three pages or so. But then, this is a zero issue so perhaps these things are established better in future issues. And for $3.99, you get a ton of pages with no intervening ads – there’s a lot of bang for your buck, which is nice when many #0 issues are treated like throwaways. When I read it a second time, the pieces fit together a bit better, giving me a more favorable opinion. I liked Uber, but I’m hoping it can fully explore its potential. I have every hope it will. Uber #0 earns three and-a-half out of five stars. Check it out.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!