Just as it looks like the Allies will win World War II in Europe, Germany pulls an ace out of its sleeve. The Übermensch devastate Russian forces working to capture Berlin and Hitler rethinks blowing his brains out: welcome to Kieron Gillen’s ( Phonogram , Young Avengers , Iron Man ) alternative take on the final months of World War II, illustrated by Caanan White ( The Harlem Hellfighters ) , welcome to Über Volume 1 .
The first thing that struck me about Über isn’t the origins of its characters, rather the brutal, gruesome devastation meted out by the Übermensch. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything so disgusting in a comic, and it manages to top the panels of Kick-Ass by quite a bit. What White’s art did remind me of was the art of Juan Jose Ryp in Warren Ellis’s No Hero (also published by Avatar).
If you want to read these comics, you better get use to looking at entrails, exploding heads, bones being in places they shouldn’t be and a whole lot worse. While the alternative events are very removed from the reality of what happened in what was the concluding months of WWII in Europe, Gillen enables you to suspend your disbelief enough to be horrified by each attack.
Gillen seems to have been very concerned with showing as many points of view in his story’s narrative as possible. Sometimes, as we move from one German officer to the other or one British figure to another, or Russian and so on, it can get a bit confusing. And unfortunately, I do feel that White didn’t help matters as many of the German officers in the comic are quite similar in appearance facially.
At the same time, the comic’s pacing does benefit from this jumping around, so you really get a feel for the urgency of what’s happening, how quickly the tides are turned in relation to what we know happened in reality. Everything is moving fast and it works: you get that a day can make all the difference.
Being an alternative take on history, it was already unpredictable. But after this volume: you still don’t know who is going to come out on top. This is despite the fact that the storyline is like Captain America met Trainspotting and had a very disturbed – you get the picture.
So sure, it’s a super soldier story at its heart, but due to events within the comics, you don’t know who’s going to triumph. You don’t know who’s really going to have the most success by the end of it all. And it gives the delicious feeling that everything will go to hell for everyone involved, regardless of the side they’re on: the unpredictability of the plot makes Über really stand out.
If you have a stomach for White’s visuals (it is all far more gruesome and less cartoony than the likes of Kick-Ass ) and want to read something that is far less idealised than Marvel’s First Avenger, then Über is for you. I definitely enjoyed reading it, despite the constant battle between my eyes and my stomach.
Über Volume 1 is out now and available from Avatar Press.