Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Black Science, Volume 1: How to Fall Forever Review (Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera)

I was really, really surprised to find that Black Science was actually a pretty good comic because I’ve read Rick Remender’s Marvel stuff like Uncanny Avengers and Captain America and HAAAAATED them so much. Well, it seems his comics outside Marvel are the place to read good Remender! 

But I’ll qualify that statement: I haven’t read any of his other Image comics (yet) so this might be a one-off, and Black Science is good in that it’s a brainless and very obvious – but entertaining – action/adventure sci-fi story. What it isn’t is original, layered, challenging or particularly deep on any emotional level. It’s on-par with Speed essentially, but, boy, watching that bus drive non-stop sure was exciting, eh? 

Grant McKay, an “anarchist scientist” (read: nonsense), builds a dimension-hopping device called The Pillar – and it works! As Grant, his kids (!), his mistress, his security guy, and a couple others, along with his evil boss, the snarling, bitter suit Kadir, gather for a test flight, something goes wrong and they’re stranded in another dimension – and don’t know how to get home. They gotta keep jumping through the Eververse until they make it back. It’s basically Lost in Space crossed with Quantum Leap with some Sliders thrown in. See what I mean about unoriginal? 

We’ve all heard Arthur C. Clarke’s quote about magic being science we don’t understand yet (more memorably paraphrased by the bodacious Chris Hemsworth as Thor) which is why I think we have that title: Black Magic = Black Science. But Grant calling what he does “anarchist” science is just silly. Political philosophy has no correlation with science on any level – science is empirical, politics is not. There are no “forbidden ideas” in science just knowledge we haven’t discovered yet. It’s an annoying detail that plays into the ridiculous obsession Image have with publishing comics starring “rock star” scientists from Nowhere Men to Chrononauts. We get it, nerds are in – but it’s so naff to pose like “I’m an anarchist scientist, yeah!”. Blech. For a comic starring genius scientists, it all comes across as quite dim. 

The characters are all archetypes: the tough guy security chief, the villainous suit, the hot mistress, the angry, ignored kids, the father who just wants to do right by them - whatever! It doesn’t matter in this comic though because it’s all about the fast-moving story and the fantastical figures we come across. The frog tribesmen in one dimension, the Native Americans with robot suits fighting WW1-era Germans, and the Star Wars-esque aliens in the desert are the real focus as our cast have to survive amongst them. 

The story is simple: each time they jump, they need to get something – fresh water for The Pillar, medical supplies for someone who’s hurt – before The Pillar jumps them to the next dimension, so it’s a bit like reading a video game with different missions for different levels! But therein lies its brilliance because the characters are familiar enough so you know their kind immediately so you’re more easily drawn into the swiftly-moving tale which Remender and artist Matteo Scalera manage to keep the pace up on. I did find the villain’s motivation for doing what he did incredibly weak but once again I’ll say that we’re not dealing with a very sophisticated plot: everything is geared towards throwing this group into one action/alien scenario after another, so it’s forgivable. 

Remender effectively uses flashbacks so that they’re not intrusive or awkwardly in the way of the action but complements it, acting as breathers in between the excitement so it doesn’t wear you down reading too many Indiana Jones-type chase sequences in a row. They also develop important points in the overall story so it’s a more satisfying read. 

Scalera’s art is excellent for the most part. My biggest complaint – and it’s the same for all of his comics – is that a lot of his male characters’ faces are much too similar. Their mouths, eyes and head shapes all look alike, especially those angular noses! Grant looks like characters from Dead Body Road and Indestructible Hulk. The female characters are hard to distinguish too with the mistress and the daughter looking disturbingly similar! Otherwise, the action is conveyed well and the alien landscapes are absolutely wonderful, especially with Dean White’s superb and vivid colours. 

Black Science Volume 1 is an effortless, entertaining action/adventure comic that’s enjoyable for purely superficial reasons. It lacks a lot of things but makes up for it in simplistic fun – and sometimes that’s all you need from a comic.

Black Science, Volume 1: How to Fall Forever

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