Saturday, 19 July 2014

Strange Attractors Review (Charles Soule, Greg Scott)

A man saves New York City with maths. 

How awesome does that sound? Don’t bother reading this review - find it and read it now! It’s outstanding, I promise! 

Heller Wilson’s writing his PhD thesis and decides to use the theories of disgraced mathematician, Dr Spencer Brownfield, which throws his chances of getting a doctorate out the window. But the more he learns of Brownfield’s ideas, the more he realises how brilliant he is. Using the same principle as the Butterfly Effect (a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world, a hurricane appears on the other), the two make small actions in specific areas of NYC at specific times to keep the city from imploding. But a perfect storm is gathering to destroy the city - can Heller rise to the challenge or will the city finally fall? 

So many times in comics NYC gets saved by colourful superheroes in tights with powers and, yes, that’s because Avengers Tower is in the heart of Manhattan (for some reason - why paint a target on a densely populated area ripe for multiple casualties, especially as it gets attacked so often?), but when have you ever read a comic where an ordinary academic dude uses maths to save the city from destruction? 

It is a bit like a superhero story because of the student being recruited by the aging master to act as guardian to the city, whose identity will never be known to the public, and who uses special mathematical algorithms (“powers”) to keep the city going, save lives, etc. The structure is quite similar, but it’s much more exciting than reading, say, Spider-Man as no characters’ existence is assured and none have any superpowers to protect or help them. 

Charles Soule is one of the most remarkable comics writers to emerge in recent years. He’s currently writing Swamp Thing, Superman/Wonder Woman and Red Lanterns for DC, as well as She-Hulk, Inhuman and the forthcoming heavily-hyped mini-series, The Death of Wolverine (he was also writing Thunderbolts but has now left the title). Not content writing that many comics per month, he’s also writing Letter 44 for Oni - the man is a freakin’ machine!! 

Not only is his output prodigious, but those comics are actually quite good. However, I would say his best work is in the indie fields - Strongman was great, Letter 44 is terrific, and Strange Attractors from Archaia? It’s my favourite Charles Soule book yet. To take this kind of high concept story with unknown nerdy bookish types as the leads and turn it into this unstoppable thriller takes a special kind of talent. It’s no wonder the Marvel and DC editors read this and thought “we need to hire this guy”. 

Greg Scott’s photo-realistic art is stunningly beautiful. The panels are so detailed that even if you’ve never been to NYC, you’ll feel you have once you finish reading. There’s a clear love of the place from both creators as they take the reader on a tour of the world’s most famous city. Special mention has to be made to Robert Saywitz who designed the Complexity Maps that Heller and Spencer create to figure out where the trouble-spots will be ahead of time. They look like modern art sculptures on the page and they differ from when they’re the hand-drawn type in Spencer’s notebooks to the computer-generated type Heller creates. They’re just so awesome! 

Strange Attractors was an amazing read. I got so drawn into it that I found myself barrelling through it much too quickly so I had to pace myself. Only read a few pages a day - it’s not often I read a comic this good and I wanted to savour it! - so it took me about a week to get through, though I could’ve gobbled the whole thing down in a single sitting easily. 

It’s a fantastic, original story that’ll have you gripped from start to finish and it’s really well-written with one hell of an art team. Strange Attractors is the whole package - don’t miss it!

Strange Attractors

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