Black Science has a lot of potential, but the book can’t totally convert, despite the fun premise, quick pacing, and the fantastic art by Matteo Scalera and Dean White, who do the pulpy throwback sci-fi comic like a cocaine-laced joint rolled in an Amazing Stories magazine.
The style looks like little else in comics. The writing could be read anywhere.
Black Science is an ongoing series by Image — No. 15 just came out; I read the first trade, collecting issues 1-6 — that follows a group of inter-dimensional travelers on inter-dimensional adventures. The characters include adulterous scientists, non-adulterous scientists, an evil corporate stereotype, an evil henchwoman stereotype who would have been better as the evil corporate stereotype, a non-evil henchman, and children who stand in for actual pathos. Need the audience to feel? Imperil kids.
The primary adulterous scientist, Grant McKay, invents a machine that is the warp engine of inter-dimensional travel. The machine, called “The Pillar,” is sabotaged and malfunctions, kicking off a Lost in Space episode filled with blood and death, adult themes and occasional naughty language. It’s also in beautiful, phantasmagoric color.
The art, again, is what seeds the urge to buy Black Science Volume 2: Welcome, Nowhere. And maybe Black Science Volume 3: Vanishing Pattern when it’s released in August. And then also maybe to start reading Black Science as a monthly book. You’re also kind of curious who else will die (more so how they die).
Scalera and White overcome some nit-picky stuff — too many panels, crowded panels, the female characters (except the one who looks like Tasha Yar) drawn the same — and do great things with anthropomorphic stripper slave frogs, a World War I that’s Germans vs. Native Americans wielding light-saber tomahawks, and a planet of the apes where the apes are soulless shells animated by wispy fire-spirit parasites. The illustration is wondrous and unique, and that makes it so unlike the writing.
Too much of the dialogue — as well as the protagonist’s interminable, self-hating inner monologues that badly mimic hard noir — is written with stock language and boring, over-worn phrasings.
- Opening too many serious conversations with “Look.”
- Having one character say, “Rage pushes me over the edge. Same mistake I always make. Leap before I look.’
- Using “adamantly opposed” during a climactic issue-6 argument that closes a plot arc when it would have been possible, preferred and clever to convey adamant opposition in a way people haven’t heard/read thousands and thousands of desensitizing times.
Numb, rote language is too common in Black Science. The writing’s not bad; it’s just been written before.
At a face-your-mortality moment, McKay — drawn like Dr. Venture if Dr. Venture was a roadie for Black Flag — is lamenting all the time he spent cheating on his wife. It’s another dense, droning inner monologue that ends with Remender gathering the stale chi of too many forgotten bad detective-fiction authors and writing, “The poor woman only ever made one mistake — she married the wrong guy.”
The cliches undercut the great art, the great genre concept, a great title, and the genuine bowel-loosening tension of all the dimension-hopping. And it’s not just the dialogue, it’s the characters, too, that keep Black Science from its potential — characters like Evil Corporate Villain Guy and his partner-in-scheming, Evil Corporate Villian Henchwoman. They’re joined by Angsty Teenage Daughter, the Token Comic-Relief Black Guy, and Shame-Wracked Other Woman, who is further shamed by Angsty Teenage Daughter.
However, to Remender’s credit, he’s resisted, at least through the first six issues, “Don’t you die on me!” There’s also a good joke about fucking a sheep.