Thursday, 28 May 2015

Nowhere Men, Volume 1: Fates Worse Than Death Review (Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde)

Let me take you down… ‘cos that’s where Nowhere Men’s taken me after reading it!

Four hippy scientists are apparently “rock stars” for their amazing research or something. They create World Corp that becomes the world’s biggest corporation (yup, we’re in simpleton land already!). Fast forward to the present. We’re on board a space station and the crew are sick with some unknown disease. The hippy scientists broke up because… the wooorrrllld… is rooooounnnd… nah, it was about money or something stupid! The space station crashes. Somehow this is all connected and is supposed to mean something.

Nowhere Men is the dumbest “science”-themed book ever. There’s no actual science, just people standing in labs talking about who’s boning who and other peoples’ appearances. Then we’re repeatedly told “science is the new rock ‘n’ roll” – did Eric Stephenson also come up with those lame posters you see in school libraries like “Hey, Kids -Reading Is COOL!”?

Do we see what the fruits of all this amazing science is? No. Do we ever see whatever they did being used in the wider world? No. How exactly did they change the world with their work? No clue. Totally unconvincing “scientists”.

And let’s dispel this notion that this has anything to do with The Beatles. The title, the fact that a couple scientists are deliberately made to look like John and Paul, and that mega-naff “science is the new rock ‘n’ roll” motto (so you’re told to believe these scientists are considered rock stars even though there’s no reason given as to why) are the only things tying in to this idiotic idea.

But the real problems of Nowhere Men are that I read a full six-issue arc and still have no idea a) what the story is supposed to be, b) who the characters actually are, c) how the characters connect, and d) massive pacing issues that means the story is told at a sluggish crawl. Stephenson is a shockingly incapable writer, totally unable to juggle the various storylines he’s got going on – the flashbacks and the two threads in the present. He pastes huge chunks of texts on every page and still can’t get the basics of competent storytelling down. Exposition litters the comic entirely and none of it is engaging.

In addition, he thought it was a good idea to include faux magazine/newspaper articles and profiles on the characters slotted throughout the book. These boring and gimmicky page-length blocks of text add absolutely nothing to what we already know and after the first few, I just stopped bothering reading them. And really, profiles on the characters? Do I need to know what Scientist A’s (of course I didn’t retain their names!) favourite Beatles song is? It’s so irrelevant and it slows an already lethargic story even further. Stop telling us who the characters are and SHOW us, Stephenson! Also, when I pick up a comic, I want to read a comic, not a magazine or newspaper – that’s why, duh, I picked up a comic!

Even if Stephenson were a decent writer, I’m not sure Nowhere Men would be worth reading anyway. There’s a Stargate, there’s the mad scientists creating monstrosities in the secret lab like The Manhattan Projects, there are people transformed in space into superheroes like the Fantastic Four – everything in here has already been done and done better elsewhere. Why bother with Nowhere Men?

Good gravy, what a mess! Nowhere Men was a convoluted disaster full of things that looked like story and characters but felt like neither. How does a sloppy writer like Eric Stephenson get published by Image? Oh, that’s right, he’s the publisher of Image! Well, Nowhere Men is possibly the worst Image comic I’ve ever read. No wonder it got cancelled so soon!

A fate worse than death? Reading Nowhere Men!

Nowhere Men, Volume 1: Fates Worse Than Death

1 comment:

  1. This review may have done me in. I can't figure out why your critical views on conceptual ideas in comic books are almost consistently low, yet when it comes to simple character books with little more than fists and guns you seem relatively easily pleased. I've read this particular trade, and while there are mentioned elements that don't get in-depth treatment, these aspects have almost nothing to do with the driving core of the story, but you seem to completely miss this. So after reading this review along with some of your Alan Moore, Ellis, and Morrison reviews among others, it seems your paradigm towards interesting ideas is oddly contemptuous and superficial. It's too narrow for me. Good luck.