In fiction there’s the adage: Show don’t tell. But when a writer of Warren Ellis caliber choses to wield the telling format, you can be sure as hell that it’s a deliberate choice. Over his long career he has used all the narrative tricks, from extremely compact tales like Supergod to long form stuff like Transmetropolitan. So why then did he chose it this way? I can think of two reasons: first, not wanting to tell another superhero story that went on far too long and second, not getting into all the emotions that come with the end of the world and all that when shown in detail.
Since that’s what Supergod is, an apocalyptic tale of what happens when humans really create the man of tomorrow. It’s the end of the world, where a dozen governments decide to build their own human-sized weapons of mass destruction, without understanding all of the implications that go with it. Like someone with the impetus to really safe the world, but with no human morality holding him back. It’s post-humanity realized, and then all goes to hell.
This could have been quite a depressive read, but due to the format the story seem less horrible. The fictional narrator is emotional distanced from everything that happens and only at the end you’ll realize just why that is. It feels like a piece of history, with interesting stuff happening, but where you can easily keep your distance. It’s the perfect format to communicate ideas succinctly. But if you’re the kind of reader who enjoys conventional stories with characters doing stuff, not with them telling you what happened, this probably won’t be to your liking.
As far as the superhero genre goes, I think it’s a smart jab, even if its overall relevancy is limited (because it’s not what most readers of superhero comics actually want to read). But if you read it as an exploration of post-humanity, then it’s an effective counterpart to all those who imagine humans and post-humans merrily working together to bring a new golden age. As the story shows (what a pun), that is not a given at all. Like with all science fiction stories, this isn’t the last word on the topic, but it’s a good antidote for those infused with too much optimism.