Monday, 16 February 2015

Supreme: The Return

Alan Moore & about a million others Supreme: The Return (2000)
I'm not sure there's much I can say about this collection that I haven't already said about its predecessor, but anyway...

Supreme is the creation of Rob Liefeld, the man who effectively drove me away from caped escapades in the early nineties, either with the mighty colonic force of his scratchy art, or else its unfortunate and baleful influence on everyone else. Supreme was Liefeld's version of Superman with the serial numbers filed off, publication enabled by his own Image Comics imprint when whoever was paying his wage at Marvel refused to cave in to the demands of an artist who always made Wolverine look like he was in the middle of doing a poo, and a pretty fucking tough poo at that. I presume Liefeld recruited Alan Moore because of his ability to do word stuff good just as Moore received a hefty phone bill or something, but whatever the case, this was the result. Moore did what he could, at least managing to produce something which reads as though he enjoyed writing it, but if Sexton Ming has taught us anything it is that you can't polish a turd.

The stories are fine such as they are, and the heavily stylised flashbacks to a supposed prehistory of Supreme in the style of Simon, Kirby and others are ruthlessly well-observed, and the jokes are funny, particularly the running gag of how close our boy comes to realising that he's a character in a comic book; but at heart it's still Taco Bell regardless of how it's served, and it fails to nourish in the same way as Alan Moore's work usually does. The pastiche flashbacks to golden age Supreme worked well enough in the first collection, and even seemed to have purpose beyond nostalgic chuckles, but here they were starting to get on my tits.

Yes - a dog wearing a cape; we get it, for fuck's sake...

Funnily enough, I picked up a copy of the Supreme comic from Liefeld's original run at some flea market a few months ago, mainly out of curiosity and because despite being a near mint foil-stamped collector's edition published over two decades earlier, it cost just twenty-five cents. It's about as horrible as I imagined it would be - page after page of caped sides o' beef grimacing at each other with faces made of hernias and ruptured sphincters, frowning generals muttering darkly about imperatives and national security, and the emotional complexity of one of the more retarded Kiss albums. Oddly though, I can see the appeal, and even being an el Camino driving po' mullet-having uncle to Moore's more sophisticated version, the crappier Supreme seems more honest. Liefeld may be a terrible artist, but his art is immediately recognisable and is absolutely consistent. It's a guy trying his best, regardless of his best being pure shite, as opposed to Alan Moore and Rick Veitch slumming it so as to pay off a few bills. More oddly, this means the Liefeld version has a quality which is lost in Moore's mish-mash of genres and in-jokes, much as I would rather read the latter than the former.

I wouldn't say The Return is actually crap so much as that somehow it just ain't right. It's certainly worth a look, but the publisher's suggestion that it rivals Moore's own Watchmen for fresh perspective on the genre strongly suggests that of those responsible, only the bearded one had the first fucking clue about what he was actually doing here.

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