I mentioned last November that I was excited about the upcoming release of Black Science. Although I didn’t like Uncanny Avengers, I think that was more a casualty of being a flagship title that had to bear the burden of the whole Avengers vs X-Men storyline. I thought Remender had done an amazing job with Uncanny X-Force where he was allowed to do whatever he wanted because it was a title outside the constant event cycle (even thought it ended up affecting the other X-Men titles). I am happy to report that Black Science does not disappoint. At the time at which I’m writing this (a couple weeks before it’s published), I have finished reading the first six issues – which will make up the first trade.
I’d like to reverse things a bit and talk about the art first. Just like he did with Uncanny X-Force, Rick Remender has chosen to work with artists who make nearly every panel look like a work of art I’d like to blow up and put up in my home. Matteo Scalera and Dean White make this comic work in a very specific way – the general plot involves a bunch of scientists travelling through different dimensions. The art in this comic makes the worlds feel real. The technique used, especially in the first issue, is similar to painting used to capture real images. So it gives each of the worlds a feeling of actually existing. At the same time, Scalera has somehow made it so that he can still be a bit cartoony with the faces – unlike the caricature art used in The Manhattan Projects.
So what narrative force drives this story forward? Deception. Just like Mark Waid’s Irredeemable or Jurassic Park, things keep going from bad to worse because no one is being forthright with anyone else. The first thing we learn is that someone has sabotaged The Pillar (the device for travelling through dimensions). Then we learn that Kadir, the guy who got together funding for The Pillar, is planning to get rid of the other scientists and pretend he came up with the work on his own. Then we find out the Grant is cheating on his wife with one of the other scientists. He’s also been somewhat deceptive in testing the machine without telling Kadir first. And, on the day this adventure starts he makes the Jurassic Park mistake of bringing his kids along.
What really gets me excited about this story about getting home (as old or older than The Odyssey) are the multidimensional properties that Remender is building into the story. As a science fiction geek, I’ve been into interdimensional stories for nearly 20 years. The key moment for me was when I realized that any definitive science about dimensions/universes is so far in the future that each story gets to makes its own rules. What’s interesting in Black Science? Every dimension has a Grant who works on The Pillar. Each dimension also chooses to view things as an onion and develop the same logo. Also, and this might be more deception, but another Grant meets up with ours and tells him that in every dimension the kids die. So, interestingly, there’s an element of inevitability even though it’s believed that each dimension represents the infinitely different choices that could have been made.
It’s possible that he’s lying, but what does alternate universe Grant mean when he kills people and says they’re not real? He says this more than once. What does he know that we don’t? Or is he just acting like the hit-man in Rasl who insists the other dimensions aren’t real? If the other worlds aren’t real, why does he want this world’s kids? So what does he know that we don’t? And given that, what does it mean that he tells our Grant that Kadir is always the saboteur? Is he just causing problems or is this another inevitability in all the dimensions?
Remender has once again shown his mastery of story-telling. He’s given us a science fiction Odyssey worthy of our hard earned cash. I know I’m finding myself extremely curious to see how things are resolved. He has shown a huge willingness to kill main characters and that’s very exciting as well. You have no idea who, if anyone is going to make it home. Oh yeah, and you get to see Remender have someone killed in the mud…again. If we ever get into a fight I’m checking the ground around me for water!