Über, vol. 1

Synopsis: April 24, 1945. The world holds its collective breath as the war is only days away from ending. Russian troops move through Germany to the final objective…Hitler himself. As those around the mad dictator crumble, the much ridiculed threats of the “Wunderwafen” materialize. A new weapon is delivered, one with unstoppable power — a weapon like no other and with a madman pulling the trigger. The Ubers change the direction of World War II, providing a dark and uncompromising alternative history in a way that you’ve never seen.

Kieron Gillen and Caanan White deliver one of the best new series of 2013 with Uber Volume 1, collecting issues #0-5 the startling first chapter of this new horror series that reimagines the super soldier in a stark, new, bloody vision.

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Über, vol. 1, by Kieron Gillen and Caanan White 7.75

It’s April 30, 1945, and, in the Führerbunker, Adolf Hitler is about to commit suicide. But, at the last second, he’s interrupted by one of his strategists, who tells him that they’ve made a laboratory breakthrough: they’ve developed the first übermensch battalion and will be able to push back Soviet and Allied forces with a simple sweep of the hand.

The tide of the war is about to turn.

Such is the basic conceit of ‘Über’, an ongoing series by Kieron Gillen. Being the genius behind ‘Phonogram‘, I was very much curious to read more of his works. And while ‘Über’ doesn’t strike a chord with me in the same way as the other series does, music being much closer to my heart than WWII, it’s nonetheless an intriguing premise.

We already wonder what would have happened if Germany had had the bomb first. But imagine if they had developed semi-indestructible metahumans (known here as übermensch and panzermensch) that could devastate cities and eliminate hundreds of thousands of forces in mere minutes? What would the Allies have done to counter this?

Well Gillen has a few novel ideas…

Unfortunately, this trade paperback is a perfect example of how sometimes less is more. On top of collecting the first five volumes of ‘Über’, it also tacks on a prologue at the beginning. The problem is that this “Issue 0”, though it may satisfy the curiosity of already-established fans, also spoils the surprises and mystery of this opening five-part volley.

Without that prologue, we’re left hanging in the first couple of books, knowing that the Germans have found a devastating way out of their predicament, but not initially realizing that the so-called Battleships are actually more than mere machine. This reveal is quite essential to the appreciation of Gillen’s concept – which should take readers by surprise.

Really, “Issue 0” should have been a special bonus at the back of the book, not a prologue; in this format, the story takes a while to build and offers no surprises at all.

Just pages upon pages of grotesquery.

‘Über’ is an extremely violent and gory book: since we’re dealing with metas in a world of simple humans, they literally tear people apart. It makes sense contextually, but one gets the impression that Caanan White was chosen strictly for his ability -and willingness- to depict this carnage; the rest of the art lacks precision and the storytelling is poor.

Add to this some sloppy text editing and this first volume of ‘Über’ feels like a b-lister – though it has the potential to be so much more; the concept is strong and so far the direction it’s taking is decidedly epic, deserving of a higher level delivery. Unfortunately, Avatar Press has managed to make it seem like far less than it could -and should- have been.

And that’s a damned shame.

But I’ll keep reading anyway: in ‘Über’, Gillen presents an interesting scenario and his script is solid; I am curious to see where it leads to next. I just hope that Avatar can clean up its act in the subsequent volumes: though I love Gillen’s idea thus far, if they continue to muff this one up, it might squander any goodwill that I have towards the book.

À voir.

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