Rating: 4/5 – Mind-bending sci-fi bolstered by great art.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding the release of Black Science, the new Image ongoing series by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, and Dean White, since it was announced at the New York Comic Con 2013 several months ago. Understandably so, what with all the big names involved in this creator-owned project. When you have that much talent collaborating on a comic, chances are your mind is going to get blown.
Black Science is a straight-up space opera that promises to delve deep into inter-dimensional exploration. As a big science fiction fan, the premise is right up my alley. From the very first page we are taken into a strange world where threats abound in every corner, hence the deep sense of panic felt by Earth scientist Grant and his wife Sara as they make an attempt to flee for safety as a horde of alien monstrosities native to that world try to assail them.
The action sequences in this issue are simply top-notch, done in a way that makes the reader feel the nail-biting urgency of each panel as the sense of danger mounts in every page. And when the shocks come, they do so with such panache and finality. The heavy stew of strangeness endemic in that world fascinated me all the way through, and I wanted more of it page after page. In this issue alone, we get a fish-man riding a giant blue eel, frog-men with electric tongues for weapons, temples situated on top of giant turtles, and many other oddities you’re better off seeing with your own eyes.
Of most interest to me, story-wise, is the main character’s layered and complex backstory, which was fleshed out primarily through the use of the internal monologue for most of the issue. It speaks of a deep-seated guilt and despair which were indirectly brought about by his actions as an obsessed scientist, one particularly of an anarchist bent (hence his founding of the Anarchist League of Scientists). It goes even further to explain why this pathological obsession with “Black Science” came about. The psychological underpinnings that determined Grant’s current motivations as well as their repercussions concerning his present predicament have certainly made me invested in the character in more ways than one.
My only criticism of this comic is that I found the crafting of the internal monologue poorly executed, particularly in the first half of the issue. It flows in a logical manner but the syntax used in the captions has a clipped feel to it. The effect can be jarring, which did take me out of the story on more than one occasion.
With that said, the art is so gorgeous that I didn’t have trouble getting immersed in the story again. Dean White’s coloring, in particular, was a revelation, especially on the very first page. When I saw that one, it felt like the stark bright streaks of lightning plus the fine gradations of watercolor flourishes in that page smashed into my brain and lingered there. Matteo Scalera’s art deserved kudos as well. His detailed backgrounds have created a world that is as strange and beautiful as it is sinister. The strong gesture work, the slightly exaggerated facial expressions, and solid motion perspective in his art all combine to give the characters a depth that makes them anything but one-dimensional.
Black Science #1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a stunning debut that deserved all the fanfare that surrounded it before its release. It has all the elements that make for a thrilling and mind-bending sci-fi: an epic scope, outré styling, strong characterization, and gorgeous art. Do yourself a favor and add Black Science into your pull-list now. This one’s a keeper.
Reviewed by: Lawrence Arboleda – firstname.lastname@example.org
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