In “Supreme: Blue Rose” #1 by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay, Diana Dane lands the biggest story she’s ever seen for a potential paycheck beyond her wildest dreams. The catch? No one knows anything about her employer and the public won’t ever see the published story.
This debut issue is a daring reworking and expansion of the old “Supreme” material, to the point that it’s not recognizable as the same universe. However, a reader who is familiar with the old mythos can pick out characters’ names and see the skeleton of the same world.
Ellis begins the story with a cinematic dream sequence, which he just barely pulls off with sheer chutzpah and help from Lotay. Diana’s dream is difficult to decipher, with dialogue like “this is most real place you’ve ever been” and references to events that take place on Saturn’s moons. The lack of information dumps is good, but the lack of concrete information isn’t — especially for new readers who won’t be able to make anything of the Supremeverse references and have no reason to care about the metaphysics of this world this far in. Ellis drops the reader straight into the deep end, with no guidance, but the dream is short enough for the reader to hang on until Ellis brings them into the safer shores of Diana’s awakening. The rest of “Supreme: Blue Rose” occurs in the relatively more comforting setting of New York City.
Lotay’s art is gorgeous from the opening panel to the last, and she tackles both the surreal and the concrete in Ellis’ script with confidence. There’s a wealth of rich background detail in her pastel-like patterns of color and light. The action flows as smoothly as the ribbon-like tendrils of Diana and Noor’s hair swirling in the windy snow as they talk on the balcony outside their apartment. Her elegant linework sets a mood of restlessness and contemplation.
Ellis gives Darius Dax an elevated, somewhat rhythmic speech pattern that feels both self-important and ominous. Darius has too many zingers roll off his tongue for the conversation to be believable, and so does Diana, but this makes for a fun read. Ellis has a love of words and his felicity for dialogue bumps his comics up a level. His diction is surprising, vivid and sharp, like his sense of humor. The most killer quip in the comic belongs to Noor, Diana’s ex-model friend, as she muses about the “unpleasantly strange” things she’s seen in her career.
In the middle of “Supreme: Blue Rose” #1, there is an abrupt segue into two-page interlude which looks like the first of a series, “Professor Night: The Longest-running Adventure Serial in the World.” It’s a chain of Absurdist statements that seem to tell a story. The grammatical structures are sound but the nouns and meanings don’t compute in the Mad Libs-like sentences like “Evening Primrose is the wife of my Id.” It’s nonsensical, but hilarious and a pleasant enough diversion from the main plot.
In the next two pages, one of Darius Dax’s henchmen makes his entrance. In addition to the unexplained appearance of the Enigma character in NYC, Reuben’s birth defect is the second instance of the supernatural in the real world. Lotay’s smudgy, semi-Cubist rendering does justice to Ellis’ imagination. Also, Ellis loves genre fiction and embraces the various conventions and trappings of whatever form he is working in: superheroes, suspense, etc., but he also has a strong sense of irony. He often mocks the conventions while using them.
Here, he employs the plot device of a shadow or tail, but Reuben’s self-introduction is neither visually inconspicuous nor subtle. The whole sequence is clever and funny, and the plot device still works for its original function. Reuben gets a fantastic entrance and he can play his role of a good henchman.
The exposition in ” Supreme: Blue Rose” #1 is gracefully executed with inventive twists, but the action doesn’t go quite far enough into Diana’s assignment. However, despite the traditional plot structure and looseness of the hook, Lotay’s art and Ellis’ prose and comic twists are more than are enough reason to pick up ” Supreme: Blue Rose” #1 and to be excited for what’s coming in issues to come.