Let it be known that I love Warren Ellis. The man knows how to write fantastically good comics and just seeing his name on a project is enough to get me interested. That said, the man is wildly, gloriously, hilariously, brilliantly insane. The line between insanity and genius is a thin one and Ellis uses the line as a jump rope. Because of this trait, he is able to write really weird, far-fetched, speculative comics that are still comprehensible (more or less) and accessible to anyone who may deign to pick them up. He wrote the Extremis storyline for Iron Man, which is currently being turned into the third Iron Man movie. He wrote all of Transmetropolitan, which was basically Hunter S. Thompson in the future. And he did Nextwave, which is, in his own words, “An absolute distillation of the superhero genre. No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It’s people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode.” That brings me to Supergod, which basically asks the question: What if superhumans were so far removed from humanity that human ideas and morals cannot be ascribed to them? It should come as no surprise that the answer is very bad things.
The basic story of the book is not new. The world has ended (or near enough) and one of the few remaining humans is telling the tale of how it happened. This is fairly simple. Humanity, in its arms race, decided to create superhumans. Because it’s an arms race, every country did its level best to create the most powerful superhuman it could. Which is to say, they basically aimed to create weaponized gods. The problem is, of course, that something that far removed from being human will not act human. For example, India’s superhuman, Krishna, has the sole directive to “Protect India.” He starts this by protecting India from its greatest threat, overpopulation, murdering 90% of all Indian citizens before starting to rebuild. The U.K.’s superhuman is three dead astronauts fused with alien mushrooms.
All of the superhumans have superhuman powers. China’s superhuman, Maitreya, can manipulate organics. So when he goes to fight Krishna, he merges every person in China into a giant, fleshy replica of Cthulu. He does this for reasons beyond human understanding. Basically superhumans fight, causing increasingly large numbers of casualties until there are few superhumans left. One of the final ones decides that this is too boring, detonates his powercore, taking the remaining superhumans along with him, as well as all of continental Eurasia. At this point there’s basically no one left in the world, and those who do remain aren’t likely to last very long.
While on a very base level this is a simple premise, any tiny scratch at that façade shows how deep the story really is. It raises several questions, many centered around humanity’s need for religion. It implies that humans created the idea of god, so that they could work together as a social species back in caveman times. The problem arises when we have both a religion-focused world and the technology to create our own gods. Indeed, one of the godly superhumans, while musing on how religious belief excites the production of chemicals in the brain, utters the memorable line, “I am your stash.” It’s an interesting series that can be read on a bunch of levels and is well worth a look.
The art is great. It captures the escalating horror and inhumanity of these superhumans and their effect on the environment. It really manages to show how utterly alien these beings are and how much they are anathema to human life. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is one of the best I’ve seen.
This book is firmly 18 and over. Between body horror, non-explicit sex scenes, full frontal nudity, gore, and blatant uses of drugs and alcohol, this is very much written only for adults.
This was a vastly enjoyable comic that left me thinking for days on end. If you want speculation on the nature of humanity, it’s got that. And if you want superhumans fighting in big, bombastic battles, it’s got that also. If you’re of the appropriate age and have any interest in comics, this is worth reading.
by Warren Ellis
Art by Garrie Gastonny
Avatar Press, 2011