Professor Grant McKay has invented a remarkable device named simply, The Pillar. The Pillar allows for travel between dimensions and for the historical event of its maiden voyage McKay wants to take along and share the moment with his family, staff and financiers, a commendable if naïve notion considering that his weakness of character and personal indulgences are breaking up his family, alienating his team and causing venomous head-butting with his boss. On arriving at their first destination, the team of travellers are shocked to find that The Pillar has been sabotaged. Unable to fix its destination navigational settings or its manual timer, the team find themselves continually racing against the clock trying to fix The Pillar as they randomly jump through a dangerous Eververse, potentially damaging reality as they go.
And so Image comics’ domination of the most original creative output in the medium continues to expand, adding more titles by some of the industry’s finest creative talent. along side the excellent creator owned books by such writing giants as Brian K. Vaughn, Mark Millar, Greg Rucka, Jonathan Hickman, Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron and Kelly Sue Deconnick, with their various books, can now be added Rick Remender and his sci-fi tour de force, Black Science.
Remender has been in the industry some time, eventually making a splash with his Dark Horse title, Fear Agent, before really turning heads with his amazing run of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force, a success that paid off with marvel offering him a swing at some their biggest franchises, an Avengers book and Captain America, which have been greeted with critical and commercial kudos.
Riding this wave, Remender hit the creator owned scene re-invigorated and with a brilliant creative team that seem intent putting out one of the most exciting and visually striking books on the shelves. Joining Remender are artists Matteo Scalera and, for my money the best colour artist in the business, Dean White.
From the story description you would expect this to be a jargon heavy story that is fully dependent on its scenario to tell episodic stories, but that just isn’t the case. What we have here is an ongoing adventure that is more dependent on character, motivation, and urgency. Sure the sci-fi mythology is well thought out, but it bares much in common with a good post-apocalyptic drama, as in the details of the apocalyptic backdrop DO make for some exciting set-pieces but could be interchangeable with numerous other scenarios because that’s not where the real thrust of the story comes from.
The basic set-up is that of Lost In Space, a familiar but dysfunctional group are stranded and have to do the best they can with what they have, and, yes, the dimension hopping element could easily be changed with time hopping or planet hopping, but this is like HBO’s Lost in Space, blending high and mature drama into a sci-fi epic setting. We’re talking sex, violence, politics, ideals, money, fallible characters, oodles of intrigue and the potential end of all existence.
With such character play at work it would be easy to let the tempo slow down, at which point we would lose that constant race against the clock urgency which is such an important point of the story, but that is where Matteo Scalera comes in. His cartoony yet detailed style contains a frenetic sense of dynamism that is rare outside of manga. His feverish line work and swift, loose inking style has each panel popping with such movement that you’d swear some of them are actually moving. They rush your eye from one panel to the next with hardly enough time to read the dialogue.
He couples this with remarkably inventive design work that not only builds alternative worlds in moments but clearly separates each new dimension with an entirely new and original visual aesthetic. This is helped along no end by Dean White’s thick, vivid, bold colour work that really punches us in the face with how alien the worlds are while blending seamlessly with Scalera’s style, inks and washes.
It’s actually a bit of a shame that Remender, Scalera and White put so much effort into creating such depth and texture into each world only for the characters to dash through them at a hundred miles per hour, but it’s that kind of effort that separates Black Science from 95% of its competition in this and any other medium.
As has become a habit with this new wave of creator owned Image books, the first story arc has been followed by a few months break so that the art team can catch up rather than using a back-up artist, thereby retaining a consistent visual look for the whole series. I for one applaud this (not entirely) new way of thinking, because while a downside might be that we only get ten issues of a comic per year, it actually illustrates an adherence to quality and consistency over acquiring every last penny from the reader’s pocket, which is a most welcome gesture.
If you’re after imaginative and colourful science fiction, choc-full of dynamism, character and intrigue, make Black Science your first port of call, you’ll be hooked immediately.
A- grade – for storytelling
A- grade – for visuals
A grade – for pacing
Overall grade – A-
The first collected volume of Black Science will be available from June 10th 2014.