Newuniversal (usually styled as newuniversal) is a 2006 science fiction comic series published by Marvel Comics and primarily written by Warren Ellis, a single-series reboot of Marvel's previous New Universe concept. The series was Cut Short, abruptly ending shortly into its second arc.
On March 2 2006, the White Event occurs. For a moment, the night sky over the Western Hemisphere turns white. And in its wake a handful of people are transformed into something more than human.
It quickly becomes clear that this isn't a purely random occurrence - it's been orchestrated by something alien. And, unknown to the public, the American government is very aware that this isn't the first time this has happened.
The first arc, illustrated by Salvador Larroca with color art by Jason Keith, focuses on four of the people who've been transformed by the event, each one a reinvention of a key character from the New Universe line.
Unlike the original New Universe, the newuniversal story is immediately connected to the main Marvel Universe, positioned as an alternate world with versions of existing Marvel characters as some of the supporting cast. It also introduces new versions of characters from "The Sword and the Sorcerers!", a stand-alone 1970 story in Marvel's Chamber of Darkness Anthology Comic, linking them to the New Universe concepts and the wider Marvel Universe.
The initial arc (later subtitled Everything Went White for the collected edition) is followed by two one-off historical specials by different creative teams:
- newuniversal: 1959 is written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Gregg Scott and Kody Chamberlain, with color art by Val Staples. It tells the story of the US government's reaction to the three known superhumans created by the previous celestial event, the "Fireworks" of 1953.
- newuniversal: conqueror is written by Si Spurrier, with art by Eric Nguyen and color art by John Rauch. Almost five thousand years ago there was another White Event. The superhumans that it created built a city in what's now Latvia - and then things went wrong.
After the two one-offs, the main series resumed, renumbered and renamed newuniversal: shockfront, with Ellis returning as writer and Steve Kurth and Andrew Hennessy as the artists, with color art by Chris Chuckry.
The shockfront series started to expand the scope to a wider cast of superhumans, but abruptly went on hiatus after the second issue, when Warren Ellis lost all scripts and notes due to a computer crash. The series never resumed and was, eventually, formally cancelled by Marvel.
Some elements of newuniversal's premise were later incorporated into the main Marvel Universe (alongside other concepts taken directly from the original New Universe books), most notably as part of Jonathan Hickman's run on The Avengers and Al Ewing's run on The Ultimates.
The first issue of newuniversal was released December 6, 2006. The last issue (#2) of newuniversal: shockfront was released June 11, 2008.
newuniversal contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Many of them, due to the Cut Short nature of the series.
- Jenny knows she's superhuman, and she's fixed the H.E.X. suit, but when we last see her she's not yet contacted the other superhumans or defected from Project Spitfire.
- The ruins of Zardath have been uncovered, but we don't know what's setting off Braddock's geiger counter. Or why the ruins were suddenly uncovered when the White Event took place. The end of the conqueror one-off also leaves the city's final fate unrevealed, although it wasn't looking good.
- The implication that this isn't a Stable Time Loop is never followed up on.
- John Tensen is still a superhuman spree killer and vigilante who thinks he's dead and in hell, and hasn't yet encountered any other superhumans.
- Ken and Izzy are heading to meet Magniconte, but Magniconte's just been blown up by Project Spitfire.
- Ken and Izzy are also starting to track the explosive teleporter who caused havoc in San Francisco, but haven't found him yet.
- Charlotte Beck is mapping out the alternate history of the world, but not yet in touch with other superhumans.
- Dr. Emmett Proudhawk is now superhuman, can interact with the superflow, and has used his CIA connections to start tracking other superhumans, but hasn't heard anything back yet.
- Adaptational Backstory Change: In Chamber of Darkness Len Carson was a pulp author writing about a (supposedly) fictional barbarian hero, Starr the Slayer. In newuniversal he's field director of the archaeological dig unearthing the ruins of Zardath, Starr's city.
- Adaptational Wimp: In the original New Universe, Philip Nolan Voigt was one of the most powerful paranormals in the world, the Big Bad of D.P. 7. In newuniversal he appears to be a normal human.
- Adapted Out: The condensed and Cut Short nature of the series means that many, many New Universe characters never appear (although almost all of the original titles are represented in some way). Among the most significant examples:
- Adaptational Villainy:
- In the New Universe, Dr. Karl Swensen was a benevolent engineer who was insistent that his M.A.X. armor was only for peaceful purposes. In newuniversal his equivalent, Dr. Joe Swann, is a CIA agent who helped to kill the superhumans of the 1950s, and the powered armor he was working on is to help kill their successors.
- The New Universe's Troubleshooters were engineering students and pranksters who helped Jenny confront her father's killers. The newuniversal Troubleshooters are Voight's CIA teams, who monitor and murder superhumans.
- Adaptation Name Change:
- Jenny Swensen of the New Universe's Codename: Spitfire becomes newuniversal's Jenny Swann, as Warren Ellis felt that the original comics had too many similar surnames: Swensen, Tensen (Justice) and Remsen (the original Nightmask, replaced by Izanami Randall for newuniversal).
- Jenny's father, Dr. Karl Swensen, becomes Dr. Joe Swann - and his M.A.X. armor becomes the H.E.X. suit.
- Alternate Universe: The series is explicitly set on Earth-555, one of the many alternate worlds linked to the Marvel Universe. That Earth ID number is quoted in-universe at one point, and several supporting characters are variants of existing characters. Additionally, two of the extra Starbrands at the end of the first arc are said to be visiting from alternate worlds.
- Asshole Victim:
- Tensen's powers as Justice means that while he's a murderous madman, he's one that only targets evildoers. His first victim is a serial killing nurse who weakly justifies his actions as mercy killings.
- Subverted with Kenneth's first usage of his powers against a group of cops beating him up. While it's self-defense, the cops only attack him first because they think he murdered an innocent woman and then because he's making things melt and explode with his mind and they're predictably terrified. Kenneth is traumatized and feels awful about it afterwards.
- Barrier Warrior: Part of the Justice power set. Tensen can create force shields to block attacks, or in mid air to use as stepping stones. He can also project them for a Shield Bash that's far less lethal than his usual Laser Blade.
- Benevolent Boss: Voight is a cold-blooded Well-Intentioned Extremist who Would Hurt a Child (and did), but he won't ask his team to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He insists on personally assassinating Magniconte to demonstrate this point - which means he walks into a room with a superhuman who’s just torn someone in half, and hopes his cover holds up. And he does all of this knowing that one of Magniconte's predecessors could read minds. The man is a monster, but not a coward.
- Beware the Superman: Played with. The events of the 1950s have left the NSA's Project Spitfire with some of these assumptions about superhumans, which may or may not be true. Either way, they are determined to kill superhumans to stop it becoming true. Voight in particular is a zealous field agent-turned-director who believes that superhumans are transhuman abominations that don't even think like normal people and will inevitably start trying to take over the world out of some darwinistic drive.
- Boom, Headshot!: In 1959, NSA agents Voight and Swann debrief a cheerful Tony Stark after his escape from North Vietnam. And then Voight shoots him in the head.
- Canon Welding: Starr the Slayer, Trull and Len Carson were characters from a one-off fantasy story in Chamber of Darkness with no clear connection to the shared Marvel Universe, unlike the newuniversal versions.
- Cassandra Truth: Jenny very quickly and logically pieces together that the White Event is likely a paranormal event that randomly selects people to bless with powers, as well as that Kenneth Connell was acting in self-defense when he violently broke out of prison, and tells her boss such. Unfortunately, Voight is too blinded by his Theory Tunnel Vision to accept it.
- Comic-Book Time: Very much averted. The series is specifically set in 2006 and puts timestamp captions on most major events.
- Crusading Widow: In the 1959 one-off, Veronica Kelly is the widow of a police officer who was secretly murdered by a crooked colleague. Once she gets the Justice powers she can see the crime in the culprit's mind. And she can cut him to pieces with energy blades.
- Cut Short: The series was cancelled midway through the second Shockwave arc after Warren Ellis lost all notes and scripts due to a computer crash (several of the other projects he was working on were cancelled in the same way).
- Death by Adaptation:
- Tony Stark is the 1950s Cipher, empowered by the Fireworks. He built a prototype Iron Man suit to escape from North Vietnam. And then the NSA killed him out of fear that he'd meet the other two 1950s superhumans.
- In the original New Universe, Madeline Felix (more often known by her nickname, "Debbie the Duck") is a regular supporting character for the first year or more, eventually dying in childbirth after the events of The Pitt. In newuniversal she's immediately killed when Connell receives the Starbrand power.
- Death by Origin Story: Ken Connell's girlfriend Madeline Felix, who's Collateral Damage when the Starbrand is transmitted to Connell while they're both asleep. The overflow incinerates her.
- Diagonal Cut: Tensen applies two, in an x-shape, to one of the men who shot him. He doesn’t fall apart until after the second swing.
- Evil Chancellor: Trull, the Nightmask of ancient Zardath, holds this role in the conqueror one-off. He's been mutating and murdering other superhumans, but until the start of the story Starr is oblivious to this.
- Flat-Earth Atheist: Deconstructed. Voight's unwillingness to accept that there's anything supernatural about the White Events and the powers they bring is a major factor in him becoming a monstrous Knight Templar, leading to him utterly misunderstanding the situation simply because he refuses to acknowledge anything that contradicts his hard materialist view. He blows up into an utter rage when Jenny dares to mention the possibility of something divine happening.
- Flesh and Bombs: In 1959 the government uses Veronica Kelly's body, treated so that she still looks alive at first glance, to lure Lester Robbins into the blast radius of their bombs. Whether or not the body is wired up with explosives, or just the house, is left unclear.
- Half the Man He Used to Be:
- A silhouette suggests this is the fate of the last surviving member of the gang who shot Tensen prior to the White Event. Tensen uses his Justice powers to cut them all to pieces with Laser Blades.
- Veronica Kelly, the previous (1950s) Justice, seems to have done this to some of her targets during her career as a vigilante. And the 1959 special also shows her cutting two NSA agents in half after they poison her.
- Jack Magniconte, who doesn't realise that he now has Super-Strength, accidentally tears an opponent in half during a charity football game.
- Healing Factor: Kenneth discovers that his Starbrand powers come with healing powers when he tries to smash his branded hand off with a rock, only for it to immediately fix itself.
- Hero's Evil Predecessor: As seen in Conquerer, Trull, the Nightmask of ancient Zardath, conspired against Starr, destroyed most of Ukru the Justice's mind and experimented on other superhumans until they degenerated into monsters.
- Hired to Hunt Yourself: Jennifer Swann is trying to build powered armor for the NSA's Project Spitfire, so that they can hunt and kill superhumans. After years of stalled progress, Swann easily manages to fix the armor's technical problems shortly after the White Event, realising that this is because she's just become a superhuman herself.
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: When the 1950s Nightmask, Lester Robbins, returns to Veronica Kelly's house in the 1959 one-off, the bomb the government's planted there is very visible. But by the time he sees it, it's too late.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Called out and complained about by Izanami, who understandably despises being called Chinese when she's Japanese.
- Laser Blade: Part of the Justice power set. Tensen manifests them as pure white blades with a bluish edge, either used as a sword or cast as a missile. Kelly, the 1950s Justice, manifested them as knives and scissors sculpted from light blue energy.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Voight's preferred tactic, although in practice he relies on bombs more than once.Phillip Voight: We had a saying, in the original Project Spitfire: "Bombs cause wars. Accidents cause funerals."
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: The White Event, the moment a planet locks into their place in the Superflow, marking a major paradigm shift for the inhabitants of that world. Not all such Events are perfect, however, and Earth has gone through three failed White Events prior to the semi-success in 2006 that kicks off the plot.
- Mercy Kill: Tensen's first victim is a nurse who occasionally murders his own patients as an "angel of death" serial killer, justifying his acts as ones of mercy preventing unnecessary suffering. Said nurse was intending to do this to the comatose Tensen before the White Event heals and empowers him.
- Meta Origin: This was always intended to be part of the New Universe concept, but some titles didn't follow this rule, or were only connected by a Retcon. Newuniversal sticks to this rule from the start, with all superhumans empowered by the White Event or its predecessors.
- In the original New Universe, Jenny initially had no superpowers and her father's powered armor was unrelated to the White Event. In newuniversal Jenny's empowered as the new Cipher and the H.E.X. armor is based on a 1950s suit designed by the previous Cipher, Tony Stark.
- Starr and Trull were originally a barbarian and wizard from a fantasy story. In newuniversal Starr's might comes from the Starbrand and Trull's dark wizardry is because he's a Nightmask.
- Mook Horror Show: John Tensen, empowered as Justice, tracks the men who shot him to a darkened warehouse. There's a speech from the shadows, telling them he's there. And then he cuts them to pieces.
- Not His Sled: Tony Stark goes through his classic origin story of being kidnapped by terrorists and inventing the Iron Man armor to escape… then gets murdered by Voight to keep the existence of superhumans secret before he can become a superhero.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: Played for drama in 1959. Veronica Kelly's corpse is sitting in her house when Robbins returns, looking lifelike from a distance. It's been set up by the government to lure him into a Flesh and Bombs trap.
- The Poorly Chosen One:
- Trull, the Nightmask of ancient Zardath, as seen in conqueror. He's an Evil Chancellor who's more interested in stealing power from his fellow superhumans than fulfilling his role. It gets to the point where the system that empowered him is actively trying to warn Starr about what he's doing.
- Arguably, John Tensen. Under normal circumstances he might be an effective Justice, but when he was chosen he was in a coma with a bullet in his brain. When he wakes up with his new powers he's not entirely rational, not least because he's convinced that he's died and gone to hell.
- Power Incontinence: Magniconte doesn't initially realize he's gained superpowers and learns he has when he accidentally kills an opposing player with his unbridled super-strength right in the middle of a football game.
- Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: A number of characters from the mainstream Marvel Universe show up in radically different roles. Mary Jane Watson is a movie producer and drug addict, John Jameson serves in the military, Jim Braddock is an archeologist, and Tony Stark is an underachiever who almost becomes Iron Man but is murdered before he can. Amusingly subverted with General Ross, though, who's still a general in the army.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: This seems to be part of Charlotte Beck's powers. When she first appears in shockfront she's spent two weeks mapping out the history of the newuniversal Earth and how it differs from the "real" one she remembers.
- Shout-Out: Archaeologist Len Carson mentions The Day of the Triffids when he talks about sleeping through the White Event.
- The Social Darwinist: Voight possesses a hyper-darwinistic view of the world that leads to him believing superhumans are an emergent new species evolving into existence that will try to kill and subjugate normal humans out of survival of the fittest. He also views his fellow humans who don't share this view as "weak".
- Spared by the Adaptation: He only appears briefly, and it may have been averted later if the series wasn't Cut Short, but Emmett Proudhawk avoids his Mentor Occupational Hazard from the original Psi-Force series.
- Stable Time Loop: Played with. When the four Starbrands meet in the Wichita mountains, two of the visitors are from alternate universes and the third is an older version of Ken, from fifty years in the future. All three of them believe it's a stable loop. But then Nightmask teleports the younger Ken away, and his older self certainly doesn't remember that, clearly indicating that the old Ken is just another alternate (fitting with the rules of time travel in Marvel; namely that it doesn't exist and that you just jaunt to or create a Close-Enough Timeline).
- Tampering with Food and Drink: In the 1959 one-off, after considering Veronica Kelly's abilities, the NSA decides that the best way to kill her is by poisoning a meal when she eats at a local restaurant. It works, but not before she realizes she's been poisoned and kills several NSA agents.
- Theory Tunnel Vision: Voight's certainty in his (extremely incorrect) interpretation of how the White Events and those they empower function that he will not tolerate any alternate suggestions. He blackmails the initial director of Project Spitfire into resigning simply because said director questions his brutal treatment of supers and later screams his head off over Jenny idly speculating that he may not understand as much as he thinks he does.
- Uncertain Doom:
- conqueror ends with Starr and Baneth discovering Trull's treachery and murder, with the framing text suggesting that he must flee or face Starr's wrath. It doesn't reveal what happened next… though, given Trull was standing directly next to Starr when this reveal happened, things don't look good for the former.
- The last published issue of shockfront ends with Magniconte in a room with a briefcase bomb - which detonates and does major damage to the building. Unless he was teleported out, or has a significant level of invulnerability (both of which are entirely possible, in this context) he's likely to be dead. But it's never confirmed.
- Wham Line: For most of the first issue, you're led to believe that Earth-555 is Like Reality, Unless Noted, just like your typical superhero universe. Than we overhear a news report about how it's John Lennon's birthday… and the reporter casually mentions that the still-alive Lennon therefore has given a speech asking that people remember his dearly departed friend, Paul McCartney, who was murdered decades prior.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: As with the Aborted Arc list, the Cut Short nature of the aeries left a couple of these behind.
- Although the two one-offs do show the ancient city of Zardath and the 1950s, Voight also mentions that the NSA was aware of one superhuman created in 1888, who apparently died in World War One. We don't get any further details about them.
- Jim Braddock is the dig leader in Latvia, uncovering the ruins of Zardath. It’s mentioned that he lost his son at a dig in England the previous year, but this isn't followed up on. In the main Marvel universe, James Braddock Sr. is also the father of Brian Braddock, the original Captain Britain.
- Would Hurt a Child: Back in 1959, NSA agent Phillip Voight shot Robbins' and Kelly's baby, acting in the belief that superhuman powers can be inherited.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Voight's evil actions are motivated near entirely by his laughably wrong assumptions of how the White Events and superpowers work, like thinking that superhumans don't think like humans and will instinctively try to dominate humans (when they're actually meant to protect and help them) and angrily dismissing any suggestion that the process may be something other than mundane evolution (it's a divine cosmic process that all planets go through).