Would you describe Black Summer as “Warren Ellis hates America” or “Warren Ellis hates superheroes?”– a review of Black Summer #2

Black Summer #2Warren Ellis is almost revisiting his work on The Authority and taking the characters one step beyond the adventures and badguys his team faced in their Wildstorm series. In The Authority, the characters wanted to make a better world but really came close to being as villainous and dangerous (and probably went beyond that in some of Millar’s run on the book) as the threats they were trying to defeat. They came close to taking over the world, believing themselves to be more benevolent than the officials who ran it. Well, in Black Summer #0, one of those “superheroes,” John Horus, actually did something, assassinating the President and his cabinet. While that issue made it look like the book was going to be about what would happen to the country when one hero acted on his own will, issues #1 and #2 have been about the other heroes, Horus’s former teammates, and how his actions affect them and force them to take action for their own safety.

Issue #2 is the big action issue. #0 set up the series and #1 was the tight setting, closed action issue that started to expand on the characters and concept. For this issue, everything blows up as a number of other members of Horus team are introduced, including his opposite number and possibly crazy Dominic Atlas Hyde, and the motorcycle driving Power Ranger Kathryn Artemis. While the world knows the man who killed the President, the authorities move in on his allies, not even knowing if they had any involvement with Horus’s actions.

Already over the course of a couple of issues, artist Juan Jose Ryp work has improved dramatically on Black Summer. With issue #2, he’s managed to simplify his artwork. The 0 issue was crammed full of detail, an almost insane amount of detail. The heightened detail added to the insane events that would make every small thing stand out compared to the crazy events of a superhero killing the President. But Ryp wisely hasn’t continued with that style, choosing to tone down the artwork a bit and concentrate on the settings and characters rather than every minute feature. The simpler art makes it easier for the reader to concentrate on the story rather being distracted by what kind of beer litters a character’s apartment or how many corpses are in the Oval office.

Black Summer continues to entertain, accelerating the force and power with each issue so far. Ellis and Ryp have made each issue bigger than the last. I wonder how long this miniseries can continue with this forward momentum. The characters have been on the run since the opening pages of the series and the artists have created a thrill ride that you can’t help but get caught up in. But at some point, we’ve got to return to the crimes and deeds that commenced the series. Ellis and Ryp have to return to the central conceit– a superhero killed the President of the United States. Why? Where there crimes that the President and his cabinet really committed or is John Horus really just a nut case.

With Ellis, the story could go either way or even both ways. I can’t tell here if he’s going to play out his “Warren Ellis hates America” card or if he’s going to go with the well-worn “Warren Ellis hates superheroes” mantra that’s widely believed by people who don’t read his work. So far, it’s easy to see both scenarios could play out as nothing and no one in these issues are remotely sympathetic but it’s been easy to relate to the “heroes” I think because we’re conditioned to believe that they’re in the right. Since those opening pages, the characters have been on the run. Sooner or later, they’ll have to stop, collect themselves and I think that’s when we’ll get to the heart of Ellis’s story. When the characters have a moment to reflect on Horus’s actions, the true nature and themes of Black Summer will be revealed. Until then, if Ellis and Ryp can continue to deliver action on the level that they have, the journey should be exciting and dangerous.

Black Summer #2
Written by: Warren Ellis
Drawn by: Juan Rose Ryp
Colored by: Mark Sweeney

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