Friday, July 4, 2014

Comic Review: Black Science Volume 1

    It’s no secret that I love science fiction.  Old time, pulp science fiction with rocket ships and ray guns holds an especial place in my heart.  So, when I see a fishbowl helmet, a ray gun, weird aliens, and the title Black Science…well, let’s just say, you’ve got me attention.  I recently read the first volume of  Remender’s Fear Agent, which I liked a good deal for its pulpy swagger.  So I sat down to Black Science to see what it was all about.

    I’m going to start off with the negative.  The first problem (taking the book as a whole, this is more of an annoyance than a problem) I had was that several of the characters looked too similar.  Enough so that even after having read the whole volume, I’m not 100% sure which female with long black hair was which (Sara, Rebecca, Jen? I don’t know.).  This was exacerbated by, and in turn exacerbated some confusing use of time jumping.  When you’ve got a story about hopping dimensions, and you tell it in a non-linier way, without using time/place identifying caption boxes, it becomes difficult to follow if you can’t easily identify everyone involved.  Someone dies on page 6, and at two different times later in the volume I was surprised to find out it wasn’t a different character.  In fact, I’m still not clear on who it was.  I went back and found the character’s name, but I can’t figure out what relation said person has to the rest of the characters.  Maybe I should have been taking notes.

    OK, so that bit of confusion aside, the actual story is pretty darned cool.  Though hanging with the trappings of pulp-era science fiction (it sometimes feels like a more serious Venture Bros.), there’s the haunted, damaged, paranoid vibe of 70s science fiction at its emotional core.  Grant McKay isn’t a good man at all.  He’s bordering on evil genius.  Many of the people he works with aren’t so good either.  They have some of that post-60s Utopian zeal, tinged with the bitterness of failure.  I like how the tensions are turned right up from the start.  It hits the ground running, and doesn’t let up.  Always a countdown, always a thing on their heels, always a danger from within.  It’s fast paced, to say the least, and it doesn’t let you relax.  And it’s full of the weird, crazy, over the top kinds of ideas that I love.  Some of the worlds they visit are extremely intriguing.

    Occasionally confusing character design aside, I loved the art.  There’s something of Azpiri, the artist behind Heavy Metal regular Lorna, and something of 2000AD’s look and feel.  But plenty of unique and fun stuff of its own.  Scalera’s panel to panel, visual storytelling is solid.  And Dean White’s coloring is quite good.  I love some of the odd color choices that lend places more alien aspects (George Lucas & James Cameron, take note).

    The end of the book left me very, very hungry to find out what happens next.  So many cans of worms have been opened, the whole multiverse is up for grabs.  What will be found as more layers of the Onion are pealed?  What horrors await on the next jump?  I have to assume that this is a limited series, with an ending in mind.  I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen.  And I strongly recommend it for people looking for something outside the superhero/mopy teen genres that are so popular.

Black Science Volume 1: How to Fall Forever
Author: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-967-6

-Matthew J. Constantine

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