Friday, November 1, 2013

An Uber-cool comic: Kieron Gillen & Caanan White's UBER

Uber Vol. 1 Enhanced Edition (Avatar US $34.99) 366 pages

The idea of superhumans during wartime is nothing new. Captain America is living testament to that idea and various creative teams have played with that through the years. There was also the Justice Society of America and the Invaders to name a few others.

So what makes Uber different? Well, it is not a superhero story. It’s a war story with superhumans. Uber is set during the last days of World War II with real characters like Adolf Hitler; German general Heinz Guderian, the architect tank warfare; British Prime Minister Winston Churchill; and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

With the Russians advancing towards Berlin and German resistance crumbling, the “Panzermensch” are deployed to devastating effect. With the Russians pushed back and Romania “liberated” from the communists, it looks like the war will go on as opposed to ending.

One of the scientists working on the uber project is actually a British spy. The spy sabotages the uber testing grounds and escapes to the west where with her stolen chemicals is able to create Allied super soldiers. And you can imagine what kind of explosive encounter that will turn out to be when the German and Allied forces collide.

But don’t think that these super soldiers are indestructible. They have their weak points too and it would be interesting to see how this plays out in the end and where this “technology” will take the post-World War II world of Kieron Gillen and Caanan White.

As a war buff who has read, watched, and collected a variety of material on all things military, I had to get this. With scripts by Gillen (Phonogram, Thor, X-Men) and artwork by new find White, Uber is a further testament to the adage that “war is hell”. If you like the Japanese cyberpunk film Akira then the energy bolts thrown about by Battleship Sieglinde will remind you of energy waves that were used by Tetsuo to devastating effect in that anime classic.

There are three “Battleship” class German super soldiers – Siegfried, Siegmund, and Sieglinde. Of the three, I find Sieglinde fascinating. It’s this Wonder Woman gone wrong feel about Sieglinde who not only strikes a statuesque pose but also looks every bit as dangerous. Just when you think that they are nothing more than monsters with an appetite for destruction, during one moment of downtime, it is almost as if Siegfried and Sieglinde have reverted to the people they once more. But only the short exchange that borders on the psychopathic when they discuss where their next offensives are. Clearly, whatever has transformed them from human to post-human has also made them demented. And that opens up the story to more interesting sub-plots (the authors have said that Uber will last up to 60 issues and to date there have been six not counting the zero issue).

White’s art has this raw feel to it that with all the blood, gore, and the body parts and entrails (yes, I have to mention that) spilling all over the place, I wonder if he is auditioning for The Walking Dead should Charlie Adlard decide to give up the penciling chores.

The Enhanced Collection includes issues #0-5 and are essentially the stories from the Western front (beginning issue #6, the story moves to the Pacific Theater). Also included are several interviews with the book’s creators, notes, sketches, and all the various cover art and promotional material used for Uber.

There are only 5,000 copies of this Enhanced edition (the softcover trades will be out in 2014). If you haven’t read this and aren’t into indie stuff then this is a perfect jumping on point.

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