Friday, 7 March 2014

‘Uber’ Vol.1 – Kieron Gillen, Caanan White (Avatar Press)

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.

I’ve never really been one for alternative histories in genre fiction; I’d much rather see something brand new than a reimagining of something that has already happened. This would explain why I’ve read very little by Harry Turtledove…
If you’re going to do some ‘history reimagining’ though, there isn’t a much better place to do it than the Second World War. A time of great upheaval where events were finely balanced and could go either way; there’s a lot of potential there for history to branch out in all sorts of directions. From a genre point of view, there’s also a lot of potential there to see how the rumoured Nazi occultism and experiments could have affected the outcome of the war.
I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for ‘super soldiers’ (from reading ‘Zenith’ as a kid) so had half an eye on ‘Uber’ anyway (amongst everything else I look out for in Forbidden Planet) but this was the first chance I’d actually had to really get to grips with the plot. I say ‘get to grips’, this first volume of ‘Uber’ ended up getting to grips with me and left me in a traumatised huddle. ‘Brutal’ is a word that I like to use to describe some of the books that I read but ‘Uber’ is the first book I’ve read that actually deserves the title…

Kieron Gillen is clearly of the school that says a Second World War fought by super soldiers will involve buildings falling down almost unnoticed amidst all the super powered violence perpetuated by the Ubers and their Allied counterparts. Gillen doesn’t pull a single punch and is very lucky to have someone like Caanan White along for artwork duties as he doesn’t pull any punches either (and is it any co-incidence that O’Connor looks like Captain America…?) The end result takes your breath away as Gillen and White combine to raise the intensity of super powered combat and leave it covered in the viscera that we’re all expecting. It’s gripping stuff and if you’re anything like me then you won’t be able to take your eyes off the page. ‘Hard hitting’ doesn’t even begin to cover what ‘Uber’ does to the reader.
Reading this far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘Uber’ is just one big ‘super-soldier smack down’ (and to be fair, that’s the bulk of it) but there’s more to it than that. Gillen explores the resonations caused by what the Ubers do (atrocities and lots of them) and you get a real feeling of an alternate history starting to branch out from the stuff that really happened. Questions are raised and they’re good ones; that’s enough for me to make a note to come back and see what happens next. I mean, I know what’s mostly going to happen (bucket loads of wince inducing violence) but I do want to see where the plot goes at the same time.

I know it’s only March but I think I’ve found the best comic book I’m likely to read this year and I cannot wait to see where Gillen takes the plot next. If you were a fan of Ian Tregillis’ ‘Milkweed Triptych’ then you really need to be reading ‘Uber’ as well; that’s all there is to it.

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