newuniversal #2 (Marvel)
by Warren Ellis (writer) and Salvador Larroca (artist)
Marvel's New Universe line was essentially a big failure—of the 8 titles launched in 1986, 4 had folded within a year, and the rest were cancelled by 1990. The line as a whole wasn't strong enough to survive, but a couple of its series were pretty interesting (most notably Star Brand and DP7, which foresaw the exploration of "everyday folks with superpowers" that made Grant Morrison's early Animal Man issues so good). And the basic starting point of the entire line—a single, worldwide paranormal experience, "The White Event," transforms a mundane world into a fantastic one—was an idea worth exploring further. I've always had some affection for the New Universe, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one looking forward to Warren Ellis' reimagination of its ideas in newuniversal. The first issue was strictly set-up, but with #2 the story really starts to pick up, and I'm excited to see where it's going. The key moment for me was a scene in which a woman named Izunami Randall has a dream-vision of an enormous alien construct (see the Desolation Jones review below for some hints as to where that idea came from) that explains how her universe has been transformed by the White Event. Despite its use of the phrase "paradigm shift," it's the beginning of a very interesting reinterpretation of the New Universe's basic conceit, and one that may have some theological and eschatological overtones. The series title has real meaning here; it's the story of a universe made new.
American Virgin #10 (DC/Vertigo)
by Steven T. Seagle (writer), Becky Cloonan, and Christine Norrie (artists)
My regular readers know that my hopes for this series have mostly been disappointed so far, but this issue is much more like what the series should be. A flashback covering Adam's entire life before the first issue, this story gives us some of the complex background of his sexual and spiritual life. The story culminates with Adam's baptism and the revelatory experience that drove him into the virginity movement. It serves to complicate the character's motivations, but it also gives this issue several opportunities to do what it does best—satirize megachurch Christianity.
Desolation Jones #8 (DC/Wildstorm)
by Warren Ellis (writer) and Danijel Zezelj (artist)
Philip K. Dick's religious experience* plays an increasing role in this storyline as we meet Evers Chance, a smarmy movie producer who's optioned the rights to Dick's life. (I wonder if Ellis knows about the two biopics currently in pre-production.) Chance gives a pretty good summary of Dick's epiphany, and thankfully doesn't write it off as the result of epilepsy or LSD or plain old insanity (as many others have done), instead focusing on Dick's own theological interpretations of the event. This is the second issue of a six-part arc, so I don't know where the story is headed, but it's certainly off to an intriguing start.
*Discussed a little bit in The Gospel According to Science Fiction, and a lot (obviously) in Pink Beams of Light From the God in the Gutter: The Science-Fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick.
All-Star Superman #6
by Grant Morrison (writer) and Frank Quitely (artist)
Morrison and Quitely's Superman series has been both a love letter to Silver Age goofiness and a messianic interpretation of the Superman myth. Each issue is self-contained, and there's not much sense of direct continuity between them, but there's definitely a sense that the stories are adding up to something greater. This issue features a young Superman battling a time-traveling creature called the Chronovore. Because it takes place in the character's youth but also features beings from the future, this story offers some tantalizing hints about the character's role in his universe. We don't get much that's explicit, but there are suggestions that young Clark Kent will completely transform his world—in a way, it's like reading an infancy gospel and picking out hints about the crucifixion and resurrection.