|UBER No. 0, March 2013|
Writer Kieron Gillen goes to great lengths in the afterword of this book to emphasise that he wanted “Uber” to be a serious read and that the series "has no interest in other superhero comics.” And for the most part the British author seemingly accomplishes such an earnest goal with this first publication for the Anglo-American title. For Issue Zero not only deals with the unpalatable rape of German civilians by the invading Red Army during the 1945 Battle of Berlin. But also soberingly contains some of the goriest depictions of human mutilation and explicit profanities possible within a comic book. Indeed this “Avatar Press” periodical would surely have been ‘mana from heaven’ for Fredric Wertham and the series of Senate hearings which lead to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority in 1954.
As it is without any ‘mature content’ warning visible upon the magazine’s front cover, both the overt violence and strong language is both shocking (as presumably intended) but also disappointingly unnecessary; with a female sniper’s colourful response to the unwanted attentions of a fellow soldier proving to be especially vile and unpleasant. In fact quite a lot of the swearing and graphic illustrations of severed limbs or decapitated corpses, whilst doubtless conveying a genuine sense of war-time atrocities, actually comes across as being rather unfittingly adolescent. The terror of the German women cowering in cellars, hiding from the Soviets for fear of their unwanted barbaric physical attentions, is ample message enough that depressingly humanity has been replaced by abhorrent bestial behaviour on the streets of Berlin. There is no need for Gillen or artist Caanan White to emphasise the point any further.
Instead the former “Uncanny X-Men” writer could have concentrated on clarifying some of his storyline's more confusing aspects. What are the scenes and eventual murder of Professor Metzger at Projekt U or the German soldier ‘trapped’ within the cellar north of Tiergarten actually about? Where did these ‘Battleships’ and the Ubermensch army come from, and what actually are their seemingly invincible powers?
Equally as befuddling, at times, is Caanan White’s artwork. Despite being somewhat overzealous in his drawings of partially-shredded human anatomy, the artist’s pencilling is well done and full of vigour and dynamism. Certainly some of his larger double-page spreads, such as Strikeforce Siegfried’s engagement with the Belorussian Front troops, are particularly impactive and memorable. But sometimes it is hard to discern between certain characters within the book, such as Doctor Bergen and the ‘Battleship’ Klaudia Hoch; both of which are drawn as strong-looking females with long blonde hair tied in a ponytail. As a result I was somewhat confused that both the Doctor and Hoch were not one and the same, with the scenes set on the Swiss/Austrian border actually being the uber’s origin story… at least until the comic’s final few pages when the ‘scientist’ cold-bloodedly murders a hapless colleague.