In this day and age the meta comic is no longer anything new; the likes of Moore and Morrison started strongly self-referencing back in the eighties and the effects of their success have just seen the popularity of the approach exaggerate ever since. So when a script for a lesser known series like Supreme that was first written by Moore closer to then than now finally sees production and comes out with a cover that features a villain holding the very comic that you’re holding, it’s cover featuring the villain holding the very comic that he’s holding, etc. then these days you’re just as likely to sigh as be shocked. Meta is mainstream now, in many mediums besides this one that perhaps first perfected it, and so why should we care? What more is there to be said through such self awareness? Those are the exact questions that Moore seems to have pondered before setting pen to paper on this story, because what he has written here is deserving of another term, but instead is best described as meta-meta.
The issue doesn’t just open in media res, it opens inside of a seperate medium altogether with a character reading a comic that serves as a loose analogy of this loose analogy of Superman while around him some young kids comment on that same comic, remarking that ” It’s like… I dunno… the comic is talking about itself. Hmmmm… this could get complicated.” So common is the concept that even children are aware and accepting of it; breaking the fourth wall has kind of become the new nuclear accident, it’s just a given when you enter this genre. So Moore is making fun of the medium on a whole host of different levels here and mocking the meta is only one of them, he also embraces that old approach by taking a practice common to the comics industry, the ret-con, and perverts it into a plot device; as that childish greek chorus describe it the book is ” going on about characters getting revised, when that’s [also] what it’s doing!” Every version of every character, real and once imagined but briskly erased, is real and exist in their own little universe; if you’re thinking that this all sounds a little too heady or head-up-its-own-arse for your taste than fear not because there is a third level to all of this that redeems it, one that is still shocking today; the books meta-narrative is much more heavily weighted towards the later element than one would expect, Moore isn’t just doing all of this to deconstruct stories but to tell one and a pretty damn good one at that.
Now, I haven’t read a single page of Supreme prior to this issue because the books at this stage are all out of print – though unlike his other pseudo-Superman book Marvelman/Miracleman they do exist out there somewhere – and although Image are marketing this issue as the perfect stepping on point like they did for their Prophet and Glory revivals recently I can’t honestly say that this is the truth. The characters are all cliché tropes, that is of course part of the intention, and so they should be easy enough to acquaint yourself with as you go along but because of its complexity the book doesn’t exactly allow you any excess brain-matter to process these relationships, nor is it constructed in a way that re-introduces them to you easily; we aren’t given one Dax to follow but several hundred . I won’t lie, it is a tough read to wrap your mind around because of its sheer complexity, I doubt that I ingested it all on this run through, but its a fun one irregardless and the characters are all enjoyable to be around (every version of them); primarily because Moore thankfully has has a deft touch for denseness and artist Erik Larsen’s clean style allows for a free-flowing read despite the detail of his panels.
So yes Supreme is a very, very smart book but don’t let that scare you away; the meta-commentary is never really there for cerebrality, it’s for comedic and plot purposes only. Supreme will have you laughing in amazement and riveted by it’s freshness, you’ll be ripping through pages not stopping to scratch your chin and when the final page comes you’ll be dying to know what comes next, not to write an essay about form. This is the enjoyably insane Alan Moore that i’ve so missed and so it’s a shame that it has taken this book so long to arrive, but it’s here now so you’ve no excuse not to read it. Erik Larsen has his hands full following this run, good luck to him.