April 1945, if studied history you will know that Hitler’s Third Reich is about to be crushed and Hitler himself has retreated to a bunker as the Soviet forces topple Berlin, and is preparing to take his own life… However, this being the world of comic books history has been rewritten and Hitler’s suicide is interrupted by the news that Nazi scientists have succeeded in one of their projects…
They have created the Übermenschen – Nazi Superhumans with phenomenal powers.
This is the premise of Avatar Press’ Über written by Kieron Gillen with art by Canaan White and Gabriel Andrade.
Thanks to these new super powered beings the Nazi’s have turned the war on its head by defeating the Soviet army in devastating fashion. Of course the Allied forces aren’t going to sit back and accept this for the British have managed to capture the technology for creating superhumans, unfortunately, the Americans are slowly, but surely being driven back by super powered Japanese soldiers, leading to a new arms race and with it all new ways to bring about death and destruction on a massive scale.
When it was originally published Über gathered some great reviews with issues selling out as soon as they hit the shelves. At time of writing individual issues were selling for some £60 each, so it’s a good job that Avatar Press saw fit to publish the first 6 issues (#0-5) in one affordable volume. Yes, a good job, or is it..?
The first thing that strikes you about the book is the art, White and Andrade have done a fantastic job of realising the horrors of World War 2 (albeit a fantasy version of it) through the use of incredibly muted palette of brown, grey, brownish grey, and greyish brown. Then again, page after page are awash with red as the artists go completely bat poop crazy in depicting scenes of carnage. People are pulled apart, rendered limb from limb, turned into paté, or otherwise mushed into a gooey red stain on walls and floor alike. This is not a book for those of a sensitive disposition.
Unfortunately the art was the only thing that stood out for me as overall I found the story just a bit too “meh” for my liking. It’s not that it is badly written, not at all, it’s very well written, it’s just that for some reason I couldn’t engage with it on anything more than a superficial level, and I like my alternate history as much as the next guy.
The book has, in the press, been lambasted for and accused of nothing more than Nazi propaganda and in favour of white supremacy! Similarly, speaking to a friend of mine, who had read the original issues when they first came out back in 2013, he said, and I quote “[the book] is for people who have a Nazi fetish”. Now this wasn’t something that I found, not in the slightest, but the book does “ask” you to empathise with Nazi characters, which is a huge ask as it tells the story from different points of view of the war effort.
It is a complex and utterly dark, perhaps even depressing, tale featuring real historical figures (Hitler and Churchill to name but two) and real events but with an alternate history slant – think Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds but less sweary and more insane superhumany.
If you studied World War II in class you’d probably be surprised as the level of detail that has gone into the storytelling, the creators have obviously paid attention in class. However, as already mentioned, I just couldn’t get into the book at all.
Still, if you like your alternate World War II histories then you could probably do a lot worse than Über, however, it just wasn’t for me.