Supreme Blue Rose #4

Still swooning for THIS guy:

doc rocket

My review, which appeared today (aka Man-Crush Monday) in the Newsarama Best Shots column.

Supreme Blue Rose #4
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Tula Lotay
Lettering by Richard Starkings
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lilith Wood
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Supreme Blue Rose #4 continues a nebulous, beautiful-looking story full of characters who have a shaky grasp on time and reality. Readers should expect to be confused as writer Warren Ellis keeps his cards close to chest and sends us in wide circles. Tula Lotay’s luminous artwork grants this book a literary quality, but without it Ellis’s script would read like the metaphysical version of business school jargon. This fourth issue does not give the story much additional traction or forward momentum, consigning it to visual poetry for patient aesthetes.

In Supreme Blue Rose #4, protagonist Diana Dane has fully entered a dream world, leaving behind a recognizable reality where people talked about Instagram and Karl Lagerfeld. Now she’s taken a limo ride on a bridge to the moon, which is the long way round to a town called Littlehaven in upstate New York. We have learned that time can get sick and die, and that the world as Diana (and we) know it is actually only four months old. As Diana says at the beginning of this issue, “I am just not even questioning these things anymore.”

Tula Lotay’s illustration is mostly of and for disorientation, with interludes of connection between pairs of people. One of these connections is between Diana and Doc Rocket. Ellis and Lotay give Doc Rocket a different persona than the original Supreme character, making him an older man with a kindly face. Tula Lotay draws this Doc Rocket with a calm warmth that brings out Diana’s own warmth. The two characters generate a chemistry at the beginning of the issue that cuts through some of the story’s relentless confusion.

To convey a warped sense of time and place, Lotay uses wandering lines that look like pastel crayons and black grease pencil. These float above or beneath washes of color. Sometimes the lights of a night-time city scene or the aurora borealis try to force their way through from the back of a panel. In contrast to the swervy, loose look of Lotay’s lines, almost every panel is rectangular and uniform with clean black borders. Some of these panels are scenes from a television show that is trying to transmit a message from the future.

Besides Diana’s dream-reality and screen caps from a telenovela called Professor Night, this issue also cuts to the hallucinations of scientist Chelsea Henry. The things and places Chelsea sees are some of the most glorious things Lotay has had a chance to illustrate in Supreme Blue Rose so far. Chelsea sees ruins, giant stingrays, dinosaurs, and plaintive figures labeled coolly “late human render ghosts.” Chelsea, like almost everyone else in the story, does not know what is happening to her or how things work.

The overriding message of this book has been that a message is being forced across time and is coming through as garbled static to be decoded. Supreme Blue Rose #4 reaffirms that Ellis has made a book that is garbled static, beautifully rendered by Lotay. So far, this impressionistic success comes at the cost of traditional story elements such as dramatic irony, collectible clues, and energy that builds toward a crisis. Readers who like to get from point A to point B should swim at their own risk. Readers who like the sensation of Brownian motion should come on in, the water’s fine.

One thought on “Supreme Blue Rose #4

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