June 13

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Supergod by Warren Ellis

Supergod is about the end of the world. A scientist responsible for the destruction of humanity sits, drunk and high, speaking into a communication device which appears to be a tape recorder. He recounts the arms race that led to the apocalypse. Several nations built “gods”, and these gods went to war. Each one breaks or subverts the control of its human handlers, because vast power, and extreme capacities for perception, lead to moralities which are inhuman, fathomable only in the bluntest way.

The one exception to this, perhaps, is the first American hero, who is a 1970s cyborg, controlled by a sort of gaslighting: an induced religious schizophrenia. It’s his relative sanity and powerlessness which leads directly to the doom of the human race, because his replacement is deliberately ambivalent to the idea of sanity. Sanity is socially constructed: he has no society, therefore he’s not either sane or insane. Sanity is for people, and gods aren’t people.

Ellis’s book is, at one level, a criticism of the messianic tropes of other comics. We should strive to save ourselves, not be saved by an ubermensch from the stars. In saving ourselves, though, we should not give our power to embodiments of our ideologies. Religion is, to Ellis, a literal opiate: one of the gods even tells his follower that he exists because humans desire the endocrine release granted by worship, but other ideologies fare little better. The book’s plot doesn’t quite stretch to fill it’s length, and the final pivot in the plot isn’t absolutely convincing, but as horror comics go, it’s certainly worth a look.