It’s Saturday, the sun is shining, the air is wintry cool, and apparently Warren Ellis continues to frustrate the Doomers. How so? Well, of course, it’s our latest edition of the Books of Doom, in which we all read the same book and share our thoughts. And, it should be noted, invite you to share yours.
This week, the object of Doom is the aforementioned Ellis’ new book, newuniversal #1. For more about it, check out the last Books of Doom post, which has all sorts of nice links that I’m too lazy to post again. I’m going to hold off on my thoughts for the moment, going first to Doom DeLuise, who’s probably waking up right now, trying to figure out just where he is.
I’d never heard of “New Universe,” so it’s a good thing there was a link to stuff about it on Wikipedia. Now I’m all caught up. I don’t know whose idea it was to try to bring this whole thing back, but it’s a pretty stupid one, as far as ideas go. The actual comic isn’t half-bad, as it’s the standard “It’s the first issue, so a bunch of weird stuff needs to happen to grab people’s attention, but don’t worry about it, because we’ll explain it in the second or third issue with big, long, boring scenes of exposition.”
Well, to that, I say, “No, thanks.” Ooh, a stupid chick got a glowing Mike Tyson-esque facial tattoo! Ooh, a guy with a bullet in his head got a big glowing lightning bolt tattoo on his chest! Ooh, some guy playing grab-ass in a field, who looks like Sawyer from “LOST,” got a stupid glowing tattoo on his hand! Ooh, ooh! Shut up. That’s stupid.
Honestly, I don’t really understand everything that happens in this issue. A white-out gives people super-powers, yes? What for? Why? What’re they going to do now? Where’s the threat?
That’s boring and stupid, and I don’t care about it at all.
Well, we’re 0-1. Now, to Jim Doom, who takes a different angle:
I think Warren Ellis is the one writer in the comic world where, if you made me take the Pepsi Challenge, I would
absolutely be able to pick him out. Every single Warren Ellis book reads the same to me. It all comes off like “I just read this interesting science journal article” or “I just had this interesting dream” and then “I will build a comic book story around it!”
This was no different. Every story is built around an event or a discovery or something so sci-fi. This might seem like I have an inherent bias toward sci-fi, but the gimmick just seems to play a much more central role in the stories he writes. The gimmick is almost a character in itself. Maybe since this observation has come to me, I spend more time looking for it and less time just trying to enjoy the story. I’ll accept that’s definitely a possibility. But I didn’t really care for this.
And I also didn’t care for the fact that the paradigm-shifter was a knockoff of Unicron.
And we’re at 0-2. Since Fin Fang Doom hasn’t sent in his review yet (with luck, he’ll post it later), I’ll end with my take, which is somewhere in between those above.
I thought the book had interesting moments, but was too bogged down with needlessly stupid expository dialogue. There’s a book any creative writer should read called Story. It’s by screenwriter Robert McKee. There’s a good chapter on getting into the heads of the characters to write and imagining what such a person would say in the situation you place them into. I think Ellis would be well served by reading that chapter. The dialogue is either hokey, needlessly scientific or irrational, which was what really took me out of newuniversal.
Another book I can’t help but mention is Ray Bradbury’s collection The Illustrated Man. It’s all sci-fi stories, but they’re all fun and engaging. Why? Because they’re good stories first, and sci-fi second. As Jim Doom said, that’s a big part of what hurts Ellis’ work.