The original concept for Supreme was expressed as “What if Superman was a reprehensible, murderous bastard?” It wasn’t until Alan Moore that anyone thought to play with what an ersatz Superman’s adventures could actually mean… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Supreme #41 awaits!
Writer: Alan Moore
Penciler: Joe Bennett/Keith Giffen
Inker: Norm Rapmund/Al Gordon
Colorist: Reuben Rude
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00/$16.00
Previously in Supreme: From his earliest appearances in ‘Youngblood’, the story of Supreme varied wildly. The only real constant was that he was the most powerful person in the Liefeld-iverse and that he was a $#@*.
The biggest $&#* in the whole Image Universe (which, and this is only partially my bias talking, is saying something), to the point where it was hard to pick a side when he ended up going head-to-head with the evil Norse god Loki, who altered reality to mess with his head. When he returned to Earth from his cosmic Loki-smashin’, Supreme found the planet in a strange flickery state, fluctuating as if it were two worlds in one…
As he attempts to investigate, Supreme realizes that it’s not just Earth that’s strange, as he finds himself dealing with memory gaps (which are all based on the previous Supreme stories, full of alternate realities, altered continuities and overt contradictions, including a run where he said he was an angel) and suddenly aware of new powers that apparently slipped his mind. As he tries to come to terms with the flickering world around him, he realizes that he’s not alone…
Having just come from an alternate Earth with an alternate Supreme, our hero responds the only way he knows how: With swift and blinding violence! He takes out all three alternate versions of himself before getting laid low by the fists of Squeak, The Supremouse, a powerful magic funny animal version of himself. Stunned by getting punched out by a cartoon, Supreme pauses long enough to listen to his alternates, who tell him it’s time to get clear until the worlds settle down. As they open a portal, Supreme follows his caped counterparts through to the world known as… The Supremacy!
A floating golden city in the sky, The Supremacy is populated entirely by Supreme (or at least, avatars of Supreme.) Stunned by the realization that he’s not the only Supreme, The White Wonder is the picture of bewilderment, leading his counters to take him to the king of the lad, The Supreme Supreme!
Here’s where the meta gets deep, as Supreme Supreme is clearly modeled after Silver Age Superman, right down to his barrel chest and Curt Swan features. Joe Bennett even renders the various Supremes slightly differently, emulating the art of previous comic eras (and their inconsistent comic printing techniques.) Original Supreme tells his origin and how, one day, he found himself retconned out of existence, trapped in an endless white void, the first revision of his history. As more revisions happened, more Supremes arrived, and a new avatar was left in “the real world” to continue. As the latest avatar, Supreme technically shouldn’t even be in The Supremacy, and his predecessors want to celebrate their newest brother…
The whole thing seems crazy, but Supreme soon finds that his friends (or, as they’re known in the Supremacy, “his secondaries”) have been revised as well…
Lady Supreme’s costume is actually drawn a little bit more conservatively in these pages, by the way. Seeing his “real” friends brings home the fact that this is all real: His world is being actively rewritten, and he is only one in a long line of shifting alternate Supremes. The Supreme Supreme reveals the truth, he has the option to stay in the Supremacy and retire forever, spending eternity with other selves and echoes of friends in a perfect golden city. In what may be the first truly traditionally heroic moment of his superheroic career, Supreme realizes that he has to return to his world and earn the name they all share…
Back on Earth, he finds himself as everyday Ethan Crane, an artist for Dazzle Comics, working with Diana Dane and Lucas Tate (two characters he has never met before, but whose previous iterations he saw in The Supremacy as his eternal friends.)
As this issue ends, Ethan discovers a picture of him with people who might be his parents in a town called “Littlehaven,” which is totally not Smallville. This issue leads the Pearl Paragon on a Silver Age-flavored saga through his life and history, which always parallels that of Superman, taking the character’s origins as pseudo-Superman and running as far as possible with it. Multiple cancellations and restarts also ensued, making this story incredibly hard to follow. In recent years, Erik Larsen relaunched Supreme’s title by undermining most of the fun stuff here and reinstating the cruel, $#&@head Supreme, but while it lasted it was glorious, leaving Supreme #41 with an utterly surprising 4 out of 5 stars overall. If nothing else, it’s a perfect example of how no concept, no character, no story is too goofy, derivative or dull to turn into something remarkable in the right hands…