(Image Comics, 2014)
Written by Rick Remender
Artwork by Matteo Scalera
Color Artwork by Dead White
Lettering by Rus Wooton
It is theorized that time is a non-linear entity; the same could be said of Rick Remender’s narrative in the third issue of the mind-blowing pulp science fiction inspired series, Black Science. Remender very adroitly tells a tale of anarchist Grant McKay’s past which centers on the black scientist’s Don Draper-like extramarital escapades while contemporaneously building an equally engrossing and exciting narrative focused on the supporting members of this ensemble cast. This is something of a departure from the previous issues which seemed to fall more in line with Remender’s work on Fear Agent however the writer is no stranger to ensemble pieces as evidenced by his amazing run on Uncanny X-Force. Granted the casts are literally worlds apart but the dynamic is similar; where X-Force is predominately made up of morally reprehensible characters, the cast of Black Science seem to be decent people with moral motivations, whether that motivation is financial, as it is for the most part in the case of Kadir. Remender takes the time to show us that the businessman is not devoid of compassion, he is a multi-faceted character of whom we are just beginning to see another side, or responsibility as in the case of Ward who proves himself to be every bit the leader McKay needed him to be in his absence, despite his incessant worrying or wide-eyed curiosity as is the inspiration for the McKay children as they follow their father through time and the unthinkable perils that stand before them. The only character without a moral compass seems to be Grant McKay himself. Remender delves into McKay’s somewhat less than discreet indiscretions of the past as we see McKay in a compromising dalliance whilst his wedding band still encircled his finger like a tiny gold reminder of a broken promise.
McKay is complex in the same way Bill Clinton and JFK are complex; he’s a man with good intentions but he is flawed and weak in areas he shouldn’t be. McKay is a good father while being a terrible husband. It’s almost not his fault however we just can’t bring ourselves to fully feel sorry for him nor can we completely dislike him. McKay is that charming scoundrel, endearing yet arrogant in his over-confidence but enviable because of his talent and intellect. In Grant McKay Remender presents us with a man of tremendous intelligence with no regard for the feelings of others, he does not feel bound by societal rules; written, implied or otherwise. McKay is an enigma, he is certainly capable of accomplishing great things but at his core he is empty and corrupt.
These characters’ strength is derived from the group but in this issue we see cracks starting to develop. The harshness of the Eververse and the strain, both physical and mental, of jumping from dimension to dimension is taking a heavy toll. The portion of the narrative concerning present predicaments explores some of the extreme perils the group must face; armored tribesmen, a giant robot and a platoon of enemy soldiers in World War I garb are a few of the adversaries they face in this issue. The plot thread based in the past gives us a glimpse of the pillar as it is being developed. The explanation that it is to be used to solve any problem from curing cancer to mining rare minerals is such an intriguing idea and the way the Eververse is described as an onion with anything you can imagine existing on some layer of that onion is pure inspired genius on Remender’s part.
This issue demonstrates a uniquely innovative approach to storytelling; it is character driven drama set in a science fiction environment, unfolded in a very non-tradition, non-linear fashion however the plot progresses ever forward throughout the book. Remender has re-invented the art of sequential storytelling. His current works in progress, including his ground-breaking work at Marvel and his other Image book Deadly Class, all possess an originality of concept as well as mechanics. Remender starts from the ground up and builds a story. He creates worlds, populates them, and fills them with minutiae and detail that bring them to life in a way that feels genuine. His characters speak with authentic voices and live authentic lives. In a very real and deeply complex way, Remender creates worlds and then allows us to watch them exist.
Matteo Scalera visually brings Black Science to life; the other dimensions with all the indigenous dangers nearly leap from the page. His melding of the historically accurate with the wildly fantastic gives this book its inventive and extremely original look. I’ve become a huge fan of this guy’s work and I would love to see what he would do with something at the Big Two, for some reason Spider-Man jumps out as a prime candidate for this dynamic and inventive artist. His character designs are captivating, blending the nostalgic elements of campy sci-fi with a touch of Japanese robotics like Gundam and Robotech to create the armor and giant robot in this issue. Scalera’s unique approach to page composition works incredibly well with Remender’s fast paced narrative.
Black Science is that rare book that comes along every so often that should be on everyone’s pull list. It’s the book that you can bet is being looked forward to and discussed by every self-proclaimed “hard core” fanboy on any given Wednesday. Rick Remender has always been the go-to man when the industry needs a shot of originality to shake things up, from his days on Venom to his unprecedented dynamic on Uncanny Avengers; Remender has been putting his indelible mark on the Marvel Universe. Now he is returning to his creator owned roots to entertain and amaze us all over again. Black Science is only three issues into what I hope is a very long run and already I can’t wait for the next chapter in this engrossing and addictive series. I give this book my absolute highest recommendation, don’t wait for the trades with this one, and believe me you will want to get it as soon as possible. (5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.