14th Sep2015

‘Universe War One: Collected Edition’ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written and Drawn by Denis Bajram | Published by Titan Comic | Format: Hardback, 288pp

uni-w-1-cover

I came into this review thinking I had never previously heard of Universal War One, but after doing a little bit of research realised I had in fact come across it before. Several years ago, Marvel Comics published a translated collection of the French original, collecting it together in two volumes. I saw a few pages of advance art, thought it nice, but never picked it up. Titan Comics have now given me the chance to see if I made a mistake not picking it up by releasing the entire six parts in this single volume.

The praise, or blame, for Universal War One lies solely with Writer/Penciller/Inker Denis Bajram. He would probably pop it through your door as well if he could. The first thing I noticed before diving in is just how well-defined, how cinematic the world he has created is. In many ways it reads like a movie storyboard, and I found myself casting the parts as I read it. Is it a war story? A sci-fi story? Time to dive in.

First, a little background. The story begins as war has broken out, between the big business CIC (Colonization Industrial Companies) and the Earth’s military UEF (United Earth Forces). Not helping matters is the fact a huge black wall has suddenly appeared in our solar system, cutting off anything beyond Saturn. So far very sci-fi, but then we get the introduction of the story’s main players, the Purgatory Squadron, a sort of futuristic Dirty Dozen. Purgatory Squadron is made up of soldiers from the UEF who have all been found guilty of serious crimes and are due to be court-martialed. They are given the chance to redeem themselves, and avoid court-martial, by going on a seemingly suicidal mission to investigate the black wall. The UEF Command suspects the CIC are involved and hopes Purgatory Squadron can prove this.

Universal War One is a strange animal, because it is both very interesting and cleverly done, but also very derivative in many ways. The things I liked are many. Bajram creates a living, breathing world, where he has put a lot of thought into the environments in general, but specifically buildings and ship designs. He has created a cast of characters that, although their function as a ‘Dirty Dozen in space’ is very derivative, all have very distinct back stories and personalities. He also seems to use, as much as he can, realistic science putting this more in the realm of serious sci-fi such as 2001 rather than Star Trek. it is all as ‘real’ as a sci-fi set story can be. Bajram also throws a real curve ball during the middle of the story. All the things we thought we knew, or at least that he told us, may in fact not be so clear cut after all…(time…cough..travel…cough).

The bad? We’ve seen a lot of this before, the gruff general in charge, the bunch of no-hopers, the mysterious object appearing in space, a bit of time travel here, a sprinkling of paradox there etc. At times it’s like a greatest hits of sci-fi/ war films. The dialogue is workmanlike, but nothing special, and I had to re-read some pages here and there to make sure I fully understood what was happening; to be fair to Bajram, this is a translation so perhaps it isn’t entirely his fault. Far too much dialogue is crammed in to small panels as well, not doing the story or art any justice at times.

What truly makes this stand out overall though is the art. It is a thing of beauty indeed. I could find no fault with it, save at times a bit too busy in the panel layouts. Distinct figures, gorgeous backgrounds and environments, and very clever design work. Candy for the eyes indeed.

Although not perfect by any means, this is a very worthy entry into the sci-fi comic genre. Bajram pours everything he has into it, and it shows on every page. Universal War One is worth picking up for the art alone.

***½  3.5/5

Universe War One: Collected Edition is released on September 30th, courtesy of Titan Comics.

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