When any comic book tries to do something different, there’s always a chance that it is not going to work out, and the result might be extreme. In the case of one of Image Comics’ recent Fall’13 launches, Black Science, that chance has swung fully towards the positive. It combined pulp science fiction with modern aesthetics and some really gorgeous art, becoming one of my favourite new series of 2013. Time travel. Dimensional travel. Intense character drama. Betrayal. Treachery. Aliens. This series has it all in spades and it is the better for it. All of it combines to form a really solid title.
Last month’s Black Science #4 and this past week’s Black Science #5 are the perfect examples of that. In the first three issues, Remender took things very fast, and he blitzed the reader through the characters and events, as Grant McKay and his group dimension-hopped through several different worlds. But now, even as #4 continues things in the same vein, #5 takes a step back and really focuses on the characters as the story slows down a little bit to allow Remender to develop the characters. And as ever, the art continues to be magnificent. The alien locales, the characterwork, it is all top-notch, with the entire team chipping in to deliver one of the best looking comic on the shelves right now.
In issue #4, we see how the team had made a bold play to capture one of the Native American (of the future?) shamans to help heal Grant’s wounds. But of course, this also meant that the enemy was gunning for them directly this time and thus we had a chase as the team avoided the advanced Native Americans and made it back to base in time for the Pillar-jump. Grant and his research time theorised that there were an infinite number of worlds, an infinite number of possibilities and realities, and their device, the Pillar, was meant to be the key to unlocking these possibilities. The team definitely finds itself in a pickle on this particular world, first going up against World War II era Nazis and then the scientifically advanced Native Americans.
In this issue, we really see a lot of development for the character of Ward, who is one of Grant’s core team members and also a friend and their muscle too. He leads the charge in capturing one of the shamans and then he makes sure that Kadir and Shawn make it back to the base. There is a significant amount of internal monologue from Ward this time, which does a lot to help the reader understand what kind of a man he is, and the lengths he can go to save his friends. If nothing else, issue #4 was his issue.
And we also got to see more of Kadir, who is exactly the kind of slimeball we saw hinted at in the previous three issues. He is all about self-preservation and looking out for number one. Not a stretch to imagine what happens in this issue and it quite saddening to see. But things continue, as they must, and coming off the death of a character, we go into this new issue as the team finally finds itself in a world and dimension that is not innately hostile to them. This is a world where they can relax, mend their hurt, and really take stock of their situation. But even in this faux-paradise things are not rosy because trouble is snipping at their heels. That’s how the previous issue ended and in the new one we saw how that plays out. Of course, once you start talking about parallel worlds and other dimensions, a trope of this particular science-fiction sub-genre becomes very obvious and that is what Remender explores in this issue.
As far as character development goes, I think both these issues deserve top marks. Previously, we saw glimpses of why Kadir resents Grant and how he is egged on by Chandra to make things worse given the situation that the team finds itself in. This time we finally get some cold hard facts on why that is as Kadir spells it all out for Chandra. It is a great moment and nice to see that Kadir isn’t ignored in the shuffle of the characters, given how Remender develops the story.
And then we see how that is reflected across the many different realities and what the result is, because it all ties into everything that happens with Grant and his kids here. This issue is another long, extended chase sequence, but Remender keeps it different. He really focuses on Grant’s love for his kids and he shows how far Grant is willing to go to make sure that they are safe from the dangers of what he and his team are doing, and screwing up.
Remender definitely ups the difficulty factor for the team in getting back to their home dimension, getting back to their own world. The team knows full well that one of them is the one who sabotaged the Pillar and got them all stuck in the whole mess in the first place. The two issues offer up a plausible reveal of who this saboteur might be, but we cut out just as things start to heat up again since the Pillar jumps again and the team finds itself on a new world. A hostile world.
Matteo Scalera’s pencils, Dean White’s paints and Rus Wooton’s lettering and design were one of the best elements of both issues once again. As I said before, these three have been doing some great work on the series thus far and the new issue is a great example of that. Once again we see some excellent alien locales and environments. The different alien designs throughout this issue provide a colourful backdrop for the chase sequence and for the character drama scenes, and they are just gorgeous all together.
If things continue like this, then I don’t see why this title isn’t going to be on my best of the year lists once again. It is superb all the way.