January 21, 2022

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Comic Review: Black Science Volume 1

A group of explorers are lost between dimensions in this crazy sci-fi offering from Image Comics.

Image Comics grants a lot of creative freedom to various writers and artists, many of whom do good work for other companies that otherwise restrain them from really going nuts.  Writer Rick Remender’s runs on both Uncanny X-Force and the first Uncanny Avengers went fast, loose, and crazy with Marvel continuity, granting some important backstory to one-note X-Men foe Apocalypse and his place in the Marvel Earth in the process.

With Black Science, we can see what Remender can do on his own.  Review for volume one, How to Fall Forever, after the cut.

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The story opens with two people, a man and a woman, fleeing for their lives from what looks like fish people.  The man is the narrator/protagonist Grant McKay, and he has invented a device that allows people to travel to different dimensions and realities along a concept he refers to as “the onion”. Soon, McKay has eluded the fish people but then runs into equally hostile frog people.  He has only a few minutes to get back to his device, called a pillar, before it tries to leave without him, though it won’t get far without the fresh water he was trying to retrieve before that happened.  Besides the woman with him at the start, the remaining people on the journey are McKay’s mistress/lab partner, his two children, a security chief, a young protege, and two management types from the lab he came from.  And though the pillar has a homing device, someone has sabotaged the machine.  It will go to a new reality, but McKay has no control over which one or how long the group will be stuck there.

A few things leap out about the volume.  First, the different realities the group goes to are outright crazy.  One extended side trip is to a world where the Americas were never discovered, and now the Natives of those continents are invading Europe with incredibly high tech machinery.  Another is inhabited by ape men.  The second is that none of the team members is particularly safe here.  That “anyone can die” vibe has been used before, but for Black Science, that seems to be very true.  Members of the team can and do die, seemingly at random.  What they do is incredibly dangerous, and McKay is ignoring warnings.

In fact, when the saboteur is revealed and the reader learns the motives, said motives are actually highly understandable.  They weren’t the actions of a villain.  On the other hand, with the cast as large as it is, Remender and his frequent artistic partner Matteo Scalera don’t often have time to devote to really fleshing out characters other than McKay and the security chief, Ward.  Ward may be a more likable character than McKay, and his conflict is much realer, as the idealist McKay is focused on just discovering things while Ward has a more tangible goal.

That said, the lack of characterization is a bit of an issue.  I would think Remender gets more in as the series progresses, as the characters that don’t die right away do seem to become more three dimensional as the series goes on.  Let’s give this one seven and a half sentient red vapors out of ten.

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