A better reviewer might either understand what is going on in Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay’s “Supreme Blue Rose” or at least manage to trick you into thinking they do, but I am not such a reviewer. “Supreme Blue Rose” #4 is only slightly less intractable than the previous issues, and yet, there’s something here that is both interesting and ambitious, not to mention magnificently beautiful.
Ellis’ extremely new take on “Supreme” a property from the ’90s heyday feels like it could not be further away from the source material — the connection between the two books is tenuous at best — sometimes it feels like only the name unites them. But this is not a bad thing. There was nothing new about “Supreme” twenty years ago and there would be nothing new about it now, but this is most definitely new.
A time travel story that does not care whether readers know what’s going –and in fact seems determined to make sure readers do not know what’s going on — “Supreme Blue Rose” is ambitious to a fault. This issue actually does spend some time explaining some concepts and puts a few events from the previous issues into a context that makes sense, but the story as a whole is still largely unmanageable. However, the poetry of the words are beautiful and their meanings important, and the ideas that you can suss into a rather loose fitting narrative are fascinating. If Ellis is indeed able to gather all these strings together by the end into something that makes sense and either resonates emotionally or levels up to say something truly important than he may well have something wonderful here. For right now though, he has something really really confusing with stunningly beautiful artwork.
Lotay’s art is simply spectacular. Simultaneously tight and loose at once, easily defined and specific in its details and yet never fully exposing itself, the art is less an enigma than the writing but clearly working in tight concert to keep readers dazzled and dazed. Lotay draws some of the most powerfully beguiling women I’ve ever seen and her color palette — at once soft and yet also electrified — spotted with the most vibrant of colors — is downright hypnotic.
Lotay’s storytelling is precise without feeling controlled and she’s meticulous in her expressions which somehow feel incredibly human, despite the wild, unchecked supernatural-ness of the story itself. This issue has Lotay stretching herself with some truly bold world building and even more “special effects” than usual. Like the story itself, it doesn’t all make sense, but it’s damned beautiful to look at.
At this point in the series, I have to admit that the savvy reader, especially one with a tight budget, might be better advised to read “Supreme Blue Rose” in trade. It’s clear that Ellis and Lotay are doing something special here — and the book may well turn out to be utterly magnificent — but right now, the intractable story makes it hard to justify reading monthly.