With “Supreme” #66, we’re a couple of issues into Erik Larsen’s run on the title, having taken over the reins by concluding a never-completed two-part story started by Alan Moore. While there’s no denying that Larsen’s “Supreme” is taking some routes that are quite different than what Moore’s 23 issues involved, one of the two stories here is a compelling follow-up to Moore’s original run.
With Larsen having re-introduced the original Supreme that starred in “Supreme” #1-40, it would be easy to be wary of coming back to this title. The original character of Supreme could best be described as a brutal, raging ass. This was a character that had gone through numerous writers and seemed to have an ongoing series only because few titles had been cancelled in those early days at Image. I think it’s safe to say that very few people were clamoring for this incarnation of Supreme to return.
Fortunately for readers, Larsen hasn’t gone down that route as much as you might think. “Supreme” right now is two titles running side-by-side; half of the book devoted to the original Supreme freed from his imprisonment and running rampant, the other half to Moore’s version of Supreme (Ethan Crane) trying to figure out how he fits into a universe that has literally changed around him.
First, there’s no getting around the fact that the original Supreme is an unpleasant character. I’d be delighted if he got less page time, but I understand that a book titled “Supreme” should actually at some point star a character named Supreme. However, it’s worth noting that Larsen is deliberately making Supreme unpleasant. At this point he’s being held up as a deliberate contrast to Ethan Crane, and in some ways a figurehead of what’s happened to comics over the past couple of decades. His interactions with Suprema this issue underscore that; she’s a character that most readers of Moore’s “Supreme” grew to like, and having them at odds is as blatant a signpost for the side we’re supposed to be on (hint: not Supreme’s) as you can get.
More importantly, Larsen continues the themes from Moore’s “Supreme” run with the idea of a universe being revised around a character. We first got that in Moore’s original “Supreme” issue (#41), but he tackled it several other times as well, from Darius Dax’s own wild ride, to the story about time getting rewritten by a member of the “Supreme” analogue of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Unlike those other stories, this is a much more extended look at what would happen if the universe shifted and you didn’t. The fact that it’s the slightly naÃ¯ve and do-good Ethan Crane finding himself in the modern landscape of comics is all the more fitting. I suspect Moore would whole-heartedly approve of this tactic.
Larsen and Cory Hamscher’s art is fine if nothing out of the ordinary. Larsen’s layouts are strong and traditional, and he’s still able to get that “gray-haired boy scout” look to Ethan Crane that Chris Sprouse perfected on his “Supreme” run. I also had to laugh at how whenever the original Supreme appears; he’s almost perpetually grimacing. It was an expression that got used a lot in those early Extreme Studios books from Image, and it feels rather apt here.
“Supreme” #66 is a pleasant comic; I’d look at it a little more favorably if we had a bit less of the original Supreme (whose story I don’t find that compelling) and more of Ethan Crane, but there’s certainly enough of the latter that I’ll keep reading. For now, I’m entertained.