Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Salvador Larocca

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $2.99

Release Date: December 6, 2006

I missed the whole “New Universe” experiment the first time around. Okay, “missed” isn’t the right word: “skipped” is more like it. Back in 1986, on the heels of Jim Shooter’s (Marvel’s then editor-in-chief) Secret Wars II (thus the reason why I skipped it), the premise was what if, on a world exactly like ours, a cosmic event granted people super powers. The comics line spawned such titles as Star Brand, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters, D.P.-7, Nightmask, Kickers, Inc. and Justice … and fizzled out after three years. Good idea, poor execution (which pretty much sums up my opinion of Jim Shooter on the whole). However, one could argue that the idea was a couple decades ahead of its time as the high concept is one that has been already explored quite a bit lately (see Rising Stars, Squadron Supreme, and Heroes). So apparently the conceit is one worth re-exploring.

There are certain creators that you turn to when you want something re-imagined, namely, your most imaginative creators. Topping that list are Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen, most of his Wildstorm work), Neil Gaiman (Eternals), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum, and his Seven Soldiers experiment), and Warren Ellis (Thunderbolts, Fell, and Nextwave). In typical Ellis style, he reboots the universe as newuniversal and tinkers with the back story a bit. The story picks up after a cosmic “White Event”, which gives a small percentage of people special abilities. Basically, it sparks an evolutionary leap. The Event strikes an alternate Earth where John Lennon is alive and Paul McCartney is dead and China is a superpower ahead of America in the space race.

“This is a paradigm shift. Everything you know has changed. Please remain calm.” –Communications Station

The White Event is that moment when everything changes. Paradigm shifts can be shattering experiences, especially rocking some people’s faith and their sense of who they are. New chapters or phases in life are often ushered in by forms of depression since we’re talking about the loss of security in what we believe. Sometimes life throws things at you that your faith, as constructed, isn’t able to fit into what we’ve been taught. Too often we construct these theological boxes, easily understood models of interpretation, then force our idea of reality into them. When we run into some new idea or experience or, gasp, question, we have to force it into those boxes, no matter what kind of yoga contortions we have to do to those ideas in order to cram them into those boxes.

Eventually you run up against the principle of the lemon law: how much time, energy, and resources do you pour into your car before you declare it a lemon and get a new one? At what point does a “White Event” shatter your boxes?

“The web is not of nature. It is an artificial construct.” –Communications Station

When paradigm shifts rip out the foundations of how we see things, we have to rebuild a way of seeing things. Which is why the idea of a web is so intriguing. The way it is constructed, it has several contact points, it is flexible and more easily repaired when one of the contact points is knocked loose. Spiritually speaking, we could have several contact points: the story of our faith, the tradition of our faith, our personal reason, and our spiritual experience. These create anchor points, a point of view, stable yet dynamic since it moves within a context of larger forces and reality.

In the ensuing chaos that paradigm shifts bring, as we learn to let go of our old ways of doing things, we can emerge into new life, a new way of thinking and looking at things. It helps to have “alters sentients on that world to act as heralds”, teachers, who can guide or otherwise smooth the way.

“The world has skirted the edge of new universal structure before. We believe this instance of planetary contact with the web is, finally, a long-term one.” –Communications Station

newuniversal has plenty of those Warren Ellis big concepts we’ve come to expect, such as the Superflow (the interconnectedness of creation). However, the overarching theme is that a new age has been ushered in, a new way of living, and we stand on the brink of a new universal structure, a new heavens and new earth scenario. In light of this, we need to join in the mission of who we were meant to be and join in the mission of justice and reconciliation.

The best part about Warren Ellis working within the confines of already established characters is that he doesn’t get to default to his stock protagonists and turn it into a “Warren Ellis comic”. The art is crisp and clean and has a sense of … scale to it (kind of harkening back to that cinematic style that accompanied Ellis’ work on The Authority). Rarely is Ellis weird for weird’s sake (hello Morrison and Moore) and when he’s on his game, you pay attention. newuniversal is intelligent and exciting. Pay attention.

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