Avatar is a publisher that likes to take risks. And they have taken many risks over the years by featuring books that contain some of the most violent, horrific and disturbing images ever to be put on paper. Not an easy feat to do and still remain in business. But Avatar is not about the blood and gore, or even being a publisher that puts out horror books. They are about freedom and the freedom to write whatever story you wish. It just so happens that nearly every single book they publish has a really great story. By publishing this book, Uber, it is a risk that has paid off with a fantastic story detailing an alternate ending to the Second World War by in fact, not ending it at all.
Uber, as it is, is not a story about Germany or Germans much like the title would suggest. It is a story about World War II just like any other tale about the Great War. It just so happens that this book does focus on the Germans for the first part, until it does not, and then splits that focus between Germany and Britain. It is also, as previously mentioned, an alternate history of the war and one that involves the creation and use of super-powers. The bad news is the Germans arrived there first, much to the chagrin of other nations. It is probably the worst thing that could have happened during the war, and what does Germany do now that they are ahead in the ‘arms’ race?
They start winning.
To start, the art by Caanan White is utterly compelling. It is clean and very expressive, but at the same time just seems gritty. As the book goes on, White’s art keeps getting better as well. Whether illustrating bombed out buildings or the panzermensch soldiers, drawing Hitler, Churchill, tanks or the Uber in battle, White’s storytelling ability is only matched by the scripts he is given. The character designs for the Ubers are excellent takes on the usual German uniform. They are large and impressive human beings and they look it as they tower above everyone else. Their power manifestations are laudable as well and fascinating to see in battle. Suffice it to say, whoever made the decision to put Caanan White on the book is a genius.
While the art is good, the story and script is great, and reads just like a movie, harkening back to every war film that comes to mind from the 1940s and 50s. The big difference of course is the science fiction aspects, namely the Ubers. Kieron Gillen has created an utterly captivating book. His inception of the Ubers is interesting but the fact that there are different classes of Ubers is the really clever part of the idea, as well as the naming scheme such as calling the upper class of German Ubers, Battleships. Also naming the German Ubers after Wagner was so obvious and yet so brilliant, being Siegmund, Sieglinde and Siegfried. They are three of the cruellest and yet more interesting villains ever crafted. Of the three, Sieglinde seems the more humane one, and even a little vain as we see her trying to dye her hair with her powers. Even so, you would still not want to face her or any of the other Ubers in battle as they are simply destruction personified.
The rest of the cast aside from the Ubers are very engaging. Stephanie, the doctor and spy, is a person who just might take the lead in the book as currently there is no clear-cut central character. Her duality is interesting to watch as she loathes killing and performing the experiments, or so she tells herself, but then she has no compunction about performing the action when it comes down to the wire. Churchill is actually a little humorous to see as he is written perfectly by Gillen, and seems almost disinterested at times in the British public. On the opposite side, Hitler is also characterized to perfection as a man who comes back from the brink of suicide knowing he has lost the war, to finding out that he is in charge of the ultimate weapons and he could end up ruling all. Gillen knows his characters and it seems he knows exactly where this book is headed if this volume is anything to go by.
As it stands, Uber could have ended up being the most offensive book that Avatar has ever published. Instead, Kieron Gillen and Caanan White have come up with a great wartime book that is neither offensive nor obscene, at least in the way some of their books are. There is some blood and some gore, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a story taking place during World War II. Gillen could have taken advantage of the freedom that Avatar allows by creating a truly risqué book, yet he only writes in what he needs to without going to excess. This surrogate story about the Great War is engrossing and exciting. By cutting back and forth between the Allies and the Germans, it keeps the momentum up and the suspense palpable, never knowing just exactly what will happen next. There have been other books about powers in World War II – The Invaders, The Justice Society and DC’s Earth-Two to name just a few, and Uber can stand proud among them.