When Adaptation came out, I remarked irritably that I was so damn sick of all this meta stuff -- it's really cool the first time, mildly interesting the next few times, and increasingly annoying every time thereafter. Which explains why I was bugged by Alan Moore's Supreme: Story of the Year .

In some respects, this book is a victim of failing to live up to false expectations. When I ordered it, I knew that it was a (very-)thinly-veiled Superman story told from a historical perspective with a modern eye; that description and the Alex Ross cover led me to think that it was something in the vein of Kurt Busiek's superb Astro City (which has, in its Samaritan character, a Superman-analogue who does lead to some wonderful storylines). Alas, no. The true nature of Moore's work is revealed at the very beginning, where Supreme falls into a little pocket dimension filled with all the retconned previous versions of him. Much amusement, in a very meta way, is had.

The meta theme continues throughout the story. One of the key elements of Supreme, and one that annoyed me heavily, was the frequent use of stylized flashbacks -- that is, when Supreme thinks back to something from the 60s, the panels are drawn, colored, lettered, and written in the 60s style. This is actually an interesting gimmick, but it's used to better effect in Moore's own Tomorrow Stories, where the shorter length of the stories prevents it from getting annoying -- because, well, 60s-style comic art is just ugly, and I don't want to have to look at it for 100 pages. The use of stylized flashbacks also obscures the other, subtler differences that could have made the flashbacks fascinating -- the different costumes, the different villains, the background detail of the world in general. Again, I have to make the unflattering comparison to Astro City, where these elements are utterly cool (and pretty).

If I hadn't read Moore's later work (Supreme was written before any of his modern ABC comics) or Astro City, I would have had high praise for Supreme. As it is, it fills a niche that's been better-filled by a number of other works, and has too damn much meta for its own good.


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