Double Fisted Reviews: Warren Ellis 2: Dude hates super people
THE AVATAR TRILOGY
This time in Double Fisted reviews we’re smacking round the Avatar Trilogy. Three thematically linked books concerning the superhuman. Who will come out on top and who will end lying face down in their own blood a disfigured erupted mess? Stay tuned bitches!
Today’s ratings will come in the form of times I would cry on the book out of ten.
“Black Summer was about superhumans who were too human. No Hero was about superhumans who were inhuman. Supergod is about superhumans who are no longer human at all, but something different.”
So there you have it, analysis of the books from the man himself, nothing left for me to say is there? It’s the opposite of Lynch isn’t it? “Don’t analyse my books, I’ll tell you what they are all about. It all comes back to ESSEX!! LEE ON SEEEEEEEEAAAA!!!”
John Horus, the super muck muck, has killed the president! Not just any president, no siree. Not some fictional, apolitical drawn in the likeness of Tommy Lee Jones president stand-in, no siree. This is George W.hen can I invade a country Fuckface? Bush, all smashed up. The man who bathes in illegitimate oil laughing while he watches Modern Family ending up as nothing more than bloodstains on an otherwise pristine white coat, yes siree, a pristine white coat…
“We were supposed to be heroes”
And that’s just issue 0.
The Seven Guns – a team of body enhanced superhero scientists, discover that one of their own has killed the president at the same time as the rest of the country, regardless they find themselves being hunted down like dogs by the entire USArmy…
Ellis is right about these guys being too human, everybody’s always moaning and bickering, like becoming machine enhanced makes you act like a teenager who didn’t get Lady Gaga tickets ALL THE TIME.
(dramatic reconstruction of dialogue in Black Summer)
Old Friend 1: Hi!
Old Friend 2: Fuck you.
The quote from Ellis above is really talking about two things, two things which escalate and move through different stages in each of the books:
- The level of transformation undergone by the ‘Heroes’. For The Seven Guns this is minimal, each of them having enhanced elements of themselves via implants, leaving them mainly human. Having a Chinese hand doesn’t make you Chinese, yeah? So actions and reactions are all based in emotional states. Tom Noir is a prime example of this, after the death of his girlfriend and the loss of his leg, overcome with emotion, he quits the group and turns off his enhancements. The rest of the group keeps going and use their tech more and more leading to them becoming less human and a bit messy in the meatspace: They never switch them off/they’ve lost it.
- Good and evil: The Seven Guns are still inherently trying to do good, albeit in a mad robot with guns for eyes screaming at people in tescos kind of way and most of the major actions in the book stem from that. Horus kills the president because he believes him to be evil, the big fight between the Guns and the army happens because they are trying to save a team-mate and the ending (which I won’t spoil) is the only action that can bring about a ‘good’ resolution.
Ryp’s art is fantastic – reminded me of Darrow instantly, with the hyper violence and the buckets of blood that end up on everything,just check out the covers. The panels are inherently kinetic but the figures are stockier, like a little bit of Quitely was thrown in for good measure.
Verdict: I would cry on this book SIX times!!
How badly do you want to be a superhero? That’s one of the central questions running through No Hero. The other is: what do you do if you’ve named your super team after one of the worst bands in history? The answer to that is, you keep changing it. They just don’t seem to be able to come up with a good one at all. Sad face.
No Hero tells the story of Josh Carver’s entry into supergroup The Levellers or The Front Line or Gas Mask Super Guys or whatever they’re calling themselves this week. With members of the group getting smashed down, blown up and generally taken apart by something menacing with increasing regularity, Carrick Masterson calls for a replacement. What he gets is a straight edge, determined vigilante, a man whose entire purpose is to join a super team and change the world, a man whose utter desperation to join the group is his only discernible trait, that and his shit face.
After being inducted into the group, Josh is turned into a ‘super hero’ via the drug FX7 and then it all gets a little bit weird… Josh’s transformation at the hands of FX7 is one of the major parts of the book. It’s fucking grotesque but it’s rendered in glorious detail by Ryp so you just can’t look away, like when dad starts crying.
But it really serves to emphasize the change that Josh undergoes. There’s no way you can come back from that the same, like being trapped in IKEA overnight with loads of people re-enacting the surgery scenes from Dead Ringers. Which brings us directly back to Ellis’ themes, in comparison to The Guns, The Front Line have changed in more significant ways. Each having taken the drug and having their bodies altered drastically, Ellis shows us again and again that their physiology is non-human and that they are non-human, like when Snoopy bit Charlie Brown allll up. Although they look like us, with the unfortunate exception of Josh, they are not like us. As we begin to find out more and more about the post FX7 humans we can also see this reflected in their emotional state, no longer concerned with being heroes, just in looking like ones. They have lost all connection to the human race. They seem callous, self-serving, cruel and ultimately in some ways evil.
I would cry on this book FIVE times!!!
Supergod tells us the telling of the story of the end of the world. Remember that episode of Friends where Joey tells you about the time all the Friends forgot all the social convention nonsense and all six of them plain rutted for 20 minutes, only breaking so Chandler could scream ‘Orgasm, Smorgasm! Could I BE anymore Mickey Rorke!’?
In a nutshell that is Supergod.
Supergod smashes you in the face with death and destruction right from the word go, as our narrator sits in flame fucked London smoking a doobie and re-counting the events that lead the human race to that one final quiet moment.
It’s the ultimate arms race/religious movement mash-up/fist fight/warm bath as the history of the godrace is recounted. It’s Doctor Strangelove…on bible flavoured acid, but less funny. Each major civilisation on Earth is involved in the race to create its own man-made God weapon first via bad science and outer space thingies, and the book takes us through each origin process on our way to the final confrontation between the Godthings.
As the ender of the trilogy this book rightly ramps up all of the themes we’ve previously seen. As we meet the titular gods we see, from both their images and action, that these are something very very different to us. From the weird sight of Morrigan Lugus the three-headed mushroom space god from England to normal looking Jerry Craven the Christian American fighter pilot who has to be contained in the USArmys approximation of Heaven just to keep him sane. We are shown that these beings are so far beyond human, so fucking un-human that their actions are above any ideas we have about good and evil, right and wrong, left and right. Even Krishna, who ultimately is revealed to be doing what he was programmed to, starts out with a likkle bit o’ genocide…
The change in artist is noticeable here, but Gastonny does some amazing work, rendering truly horrific structures made of humans as the Gods do battle, really really good stuff.
Verdict: I would cry on this book SEVEN times!!
The books really do work as a loose trilogy and I recommend they are read that way. It’s nice to see seedling ideas passed from book to book, as Black Sumer introduces the transformation ideas with small asides, No Hero meditates on it. Likewise with the idea of an international superhero arms race between No Hero and Supergod. But the deconstruction of the single idea here is the real draw, watching Ellis push his thought process out to its ultimate penis waving conclusion really is a treat.
Final Verdict: I would cry on the trilogy EIGHT times!!