A Quick Bit on Ellis’ Supergod

I am really busy. The semester is ending. I have books about feminism and science fiction to read, as well as some fairy tales. It has been that kind of year.

Anyway, I read Warren Ellis’ Supergod this past weekend. If you want the short version, I liked it. It was over the top, high concept stuff, which Ellis excels at. I’m just going to go over five quick points about the five issue series. Follow along if you want.

1. Ellis doesn’t spend a lot of time delving into the superhuman mind. It reads like a direct response to internal monologue and history that we get from Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen–the supers in Ellis’ series do not have complex backstories. They were not the daughters and sons of watchmakers. They were the product of cold calculation, of intent and ethics gone awry. That is a much more interesting story, and frankly more realistic. It is also more haunting. The supers are absolutely opaque to the narrator character and the reader.

2. A time-displaced being has “tactical sanity,” which means that it can see all possible branching paths in science. I think it was Larry Niven who wrote the “disproving God” article where he suggested that a God would have to know all possible time paths in order to exist, and that that knowledge is impossible, so no god could exist. This god, too, is a response.

3. The superbeing that opens the series is created by India. Its mission is to safeguard India and to usher in a new golden age for the country. It did that, and the scenes of destruction are beautiful. The destruction, like the gods, is opaque. We can only see an external, beautiful force. Of course, the reader gets the full on crushed-skull reality of the whole ordeal, but the scenes of destruction can’t be understood; they have a purpose outside of the human range of understanding.

4. This also becomes extraterrestrial. Watching the moon get swallowed by particle-disrupting forces is unspeakably horrifying and beautiful.

5. What I felt when reading Supergod wasn’t awe at storytelling. It is a by-the-numbers Ellis works, by all means. But there is something extra that started with Planetary that Ellis has gotten progressively better and better at (I will write on this at length one day.) Ellis is presenting us with a history. In this case, the history didn’t happen, but I think the overarching point might be “who gives a shit?” The history/histoire is merely a fiction. The only difference is that some fictions happen.

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