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Black Science, once again, has managed to amaze me. The more I learn about the characters, the more I feel like I know them personally; the more I learn about their interdimensional travels, the more eager I become to see where they end up next. Rick Remender seems to have science fiction down to a—well—down to a science, and issue three is right on the money in more ways than one.
I love flawed characters. Black Science possesses a morally ambiguous cast of characters who are every bit as loathsome as they are likeable. Those who, at the moment at least, seem to have the fewest amount of flaws are characters we simply have yet to learn about in depth. And loathsome is a word I use lightly. In fact, “human” seems the more appropriate label. Remender has filled these pages with actual people, making the scenario in which they find themselves all the more riveting.
Issue #3 gives us as much a look at the recent past as it does the present moment. A mere three hours before Grant is wounded, Jen is dead, Ward is battling robots, and all hope seems lost, Grant’s most pressing problems are marital, his oldest daughter resents him for it, and Kadir is preparing to fire everyone. Things aren’t perfect by any means, but it’s life as usual. And Grant, a man who seems to use his Anarchist beliefs to follow only his own rules, no matter who he hurts in the process, has just finished his life’s work. Not one of them suspects a seemingly endless trip through hell, although someone there had to press the button and we have yet to find out whom.
The science fiction itself is incredible. As explained in the story, it’s theorized that dimensional layers can be thought of like an onion. Each layer is every possible circumstance and potential scenario imaginable, and at the center is the first dimension, the first situation that sent every other dimension rippling like the surface troubled water to the here and now. The world of frog and fish people from issue one and the “reverse manifest destiny”—as Kadir calls it—from issues two and three are all possible directions that the world could have taken. Please Rick, show us the center of the onion.
I think it doesn’t even have to be said: Rick Remender’s writing remains on point. The story is paced somewhat slowly. That isn’t a problem because it’s the compromise that has to be made to give us the flashbacks, and therefore character building, which have both lent infinite depth to this story. The story’s present moment advances steadily, but nothing about this comic feels slow. In fact, the present wouldn’t be half as interesting without knowing the tumultuous history between these characters and the trouble they’re now in.
Matteo Scalera’s artwork manages to make war and chaos look beautiful. The dimension that this issue is set in, at times, looks like the horrible trenches of World War I, and at others, it resembles a brilliant future-scape with robots resembling predator birds and armor mimicking traditional Native American wears. The faces he renders are embellished in all the right ways, from Grant’s pointed and upturned beak to Ward’s compressed and puggish face. One could argue that their physical exteriors mirror their innermost, truest selves: Grant, uppity with an air of arrogance and Ward, savagely loyal in the most reckless of ways.
Black Science #3, I can only hope, is a strong start to a sprawling series. And while I say this, the danger facing our heroes feels so real that it almost appears as if they won’t survive another issue. Of course, most of them certainly will, but not without giving us a good scare first. So much has happened in just three short issues—I know so much about these people and their predicament that it feels like I’ve read ten! I can’t wait to see what Remender and Scalera have in store for 2014.