Crossed: Volume 14 – Kieron Gillen

Crossed 14This is certainly different from the sophisticated, emotion-rich drama that Gillen usually delivers. There are two intertwined stories that reveal much about the human condition. But then comes a significant rug-pull that renders much of what you have read inert. This might have worked in an elevator pitch but having just read 160 odd pages it leaves you a little hollow, almost cheated. You don’t take away the insight into the flaws of everyday people or the primordial evils of our species but the fact it was all a dream.

The art is distinctive, lacking the finer detail of many Crossed regulars. The prehistoric setting and culture is well designed and conveyed. The issue breaks from four different artists are thematically linked but really bizarre, and not in the usual Crossed way.

This is definitely a hard one to call. Putting aside the massive “twist” it is a thumbs up!

Uber: Volume 5 – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume Five

Uber works best when it surprises you rather than slavishly detailing the minutia of history. A bold step in an unexpected direction captures your interest as seen with Hitler and Churchill. This is another excellent volume for that very reason.

Plot that has been building comes to fruition and the excellent characterisation continues, albeit in small chunks. We also return to the Pacific front, possibly because Gillen doesn’t want to be accused of ignoring it rather than it adding anything at all to the story.

The art is superb as always and a black page with a single caption strikes terror, or at least trepidation, into the heart of every Uber fan.

Thumbs Up!

Uber: Volume 4 – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume FourThis is an excellent volume. It gives screen time to all the previous characters and most of the theatres of war. It does so intelligently and is paced well with common themes tying all the narratives together. The last part, however, is three separate backstories for the three German battleships.

Everything is running perfectly from historical events, to espionage, to character development. The problem of the last volume was it felt too impersonal. Dehumanisation is an important facet of the war story but decharacterisation is a storykiller. This volume is much more engaging.

New Uber-powers are unveiled adding an extra dimension to the conflict and getting around the nuclear problem. These revelations are done so intelligently making you actually think and ask questions rather than being spoon-fed.

There are four artists plus colourists working on this volume. The style remains the same but you don’t have to look too closely to see it change and some of the characters soften slightly from their original looks. There is nothing jarring but it is a shame that Caanan White hasn’t been able to stay with us.

Thumbs up and more please!

Uber: Volume 3 – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume ThreeWithout the, arguably necessary, jump to the Pacific theatre of previous volume this has a much more centred and logical feel. But without the shocks of the last book this maybe feels a little too safe. Even the big eye opener doesn’t have as much impact as it should and we will have to wait till volume four to learn more of what that revelation holds.

Gillen does an excellent job of being authentic and well researched and, although minimised, the textbook-style piles on the weight of semi-realism. But we are in danger of getting too bogged down in dates and model numbers. Without the novelty of the initial volume or the diversity of the second here is where the hard work begins to sustain the juggernaut that is Uber. When your characters are entire nations and the whole world is quite literally your stage things either get too detailed and slow to a crawl or feel too cursory.

The art is great with the light from halos and explosions being a colourist’s best friend. The covers in particular are always dramatic in terms of design or spectacle.

Gillen had bitten off an awful lot with this project. But it’s still a Thumbs Up!

Uber: Volume 2 – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume TwoThis volume initially moves to the Pacific Front and we get to see what is happening in Japan. But after all to brief an interlude it switches back to our European characters. This coupled with Russia and Stalin is certainly a broad canvas which slows things down a bit. In fact, ensured of the book’s continuation, Gillen relaxes and allows things to decompress a little.

The book still has you hooked and sticks with the faux documentary style you either love or hate. Characters grow and you get to see each nation’s take on the creation of Ubers. The bodycount and gore is still there but is used intelligently. You do need the violence on-screen as a world war is a bloody conflict and taking it to the next level means ratcheting up the horror.

The art is great and the shift from rainy Europe to tropical South Pacific means a much lighter and more pleasing palette. Now that the pace has slowed a little there are more mute panels and more visual storytelling as well as the huge splash pages for dramatic effect.

The story does move in an interesting direction that is sure to take you by surprise and leaves you wondering what will happen in book three. Definitely a Thumbs Up!

Uber: Volume One – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume OneIn the final hours of World War 2 the Germans develop super powered soldiers and then everything changes. This is an exciting idea for an alternative history executed in an unusual way.

This book mixes real time character action with past tense narration akin to a history book. This is a bold step and it can take a while for your head to process this. The start also cuts very rapidly between scenes so you find yourself flipping backwards as lots of people and places are introduced.

It does settle down and the hook is so strong that you daren’t put it down. The history book style adds an air of authenticity backed up by real people and events. Hitler, Churchill and other notable figures all have speaking parts and they both look and feel as you think they should (or possibly as they actually were).

The art is good solid stuff. There are plenty of unusual and cinematic angles. The colouring is also strong. There is a lot of blood and guts as people are torn limb from limb so this definitely isn’t your Father’s war comic.

With a world war there are plenty of stories that can be told without the need for super heroes. This doesn’t skimp on the politics and definitely doesn’t glorify or simplify war however. Even with super powers the German’s aren’t reduced to cartoon characters and the whole idea feels very grounded with super-men become the new tanks and battleships.

There is quite a surprise toward the end of the book as Gillen shows you that the ‘good guys’ probably aren’t going to win and things won’t all turn out for the best.

Thumbs Up!