Written by: Rick Remender
Published by: Image Comics
Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera and Dean White are back after a short break, and “Black Science #7” may be one of the most captivating issues of the series to date. Remender deftly scripts some compelling character work and sets up where we’re going. Meanwhile, Scalera and White continue to produce arguably their best work ever. Black Science is a book with many contemporary peers, including Remender’s new series Low which debuts this week, but it manages to set itself apart from the pack. The Eisner buzz has pretty much come and gone for this year with SDCC now in the rear-view mirror, but expect this series to be on the short-list for “Best New Series” this time next year.
One of the things I like most about this series is that I never know what to expect. It’s very much the reason why Saga and Manhattan Projects have been my favourite comics for a long time now. When you can open a comic and the only safe bet is to expect the unexpected, you’ve got a certified masterpiece on your hands. I mean, if you’re capable of conceiving fish-horses, a ravenous race of eyeless carnivores, a massive multi-armed death-hippo capable of shocking speeds and powerful blasts of energy from its mouth, then I guess you have this series figured out. But for us mere mortals, this issue continues to show us why it’s such a blast to linger within the twisted imagination of Rick Remender.
Being a young series Black Science’s characterization isn’t as strong as other series. Not yet. Remender, the masterful scribe, managed to totally flip a character from his first arc and, through the power of his story-telling voice, make us see things in a different light. Kadir is a completely different character than the one we saw in the first issue and throughout much of the first story-arc. “Black Science #7” is subtly one of the strongest examples of why Remender is a prized writer in comics today. Pulling off a believable shift for a character like Kadir is no simple feat. Yet the reader is able to understand the genuine change of heart that has taken place. This issue strikes the perfect balance between compelling narration and visual story-telling, with neither device dominating the narrative.
Scalera and White spoil us rotten with “Black Science #7,” constantly outdoing themselves with gorgeous spreads. It takes a special kind of madness to pull off a series as zany as this, and these two have done it to a near-flawless level. The frantic escape from ritual sacrifice which encapsulates the entire issue is captured with angles that translate the tension easily to the reader. The ink splattered pages help to construct a messy, dirty world where anything is possible and anything can and will happen. There aren’t many comics on shelves right now that have a wider and more diverse colour palette than Black Science. From the start this series has put a focus on tremendous colours and that trend continues here. Infinite universes and infinite possibility truly is the name of the game.
The art probably looks best when the explosive action scenes take precedence. Scalera has really improved his character and facial work in the last few years to achieve a very consistent level. But he’s definitely at his best when characters are dashing to and fro, firing laser pistols from the hip and trying to live to see another day. Pulling off a vehicle chase in comics is incredibly difficult and it’s something that we rarely see as a result of that inherent difficulty. Scalera proves equal to the task and makes it look easy. Most panels are framed to give the readers the best possible view of the events and it never loses its most frantic qualities. It would have been nice to see a bit more heartbreak at the end with the cliff-hanger, but with so many gorgeous double-page spreads the team was pretty strapped for space.
If there is anything that is sorely missed this week it’s the focus on the infinite possibilities of science that made the first arc so brilliant. Just like Manhattan Projects, this series celebrates the achievements that are possible through science and science literacy (that’s for people like me who only get it on the 50,000 foot level and can’t actually do the science). There just wasn’t room for the book to explore the fantastic world of science-fiction this time around and its absence is notable. This celebration of scientific achievement, coupled with a healthy respect with what happens when it’s mistreated, is needed now more than ever. In my country, Canada, we’re taking cues from the United States of America, and not in a good way. Our government is becoming dangerously scientifically intolerant, illiterate, and they seemingly seek to obfuscate or ignore every significant achievement we’ve ever made while suffocating any advances we will try to make in the future. This sort of behaviour is inexcusable, especially coming from democratically elected governments. It’s simply not good enough that a few more people up here understand that The Flintstones was a cartoon for kids and not a documentary.
An Angus Reid study from 2007 stated that only 59% of Canadians accept the theory of evolution (SOURCE). Perhaps even more startling, 42% agreed that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. How many of those people would disagree with the theory of gravity? The theory of plate tectonics? Germ theory? Quantum theory? The theory of relativity? Bueller? Bueller?! If all of these scientific theories are just as robust as the others would it not be reasonable to work under the guise of the truth of each of them? At the risk of sounding pretentious, the obvious answer is a resounding Yes. Books like Black Science serve a unique purpose in society at times like this. They provide a light, a way to grab attention and make you explore and think up brand new questions that you’ve never asked before. Being scientifically literate means being able to pursue the amazing things that we read about in this series: the know-how to pursue advanced ideas and solve complex problems. Without this base, we’re powerless to achieve something the characters in this series would consider trivial.
I know you probably didn’t want, or expect, a rant about scientific literacy when you turned up to see how good “Black Science #7” was this week, but to understand its importance you must appreciate the circumstances comments on and is a product of. Far be it from me to question to superior intellect that was Oscar Wilde, but there are important times when art imitates life and not the other way around. And, to me, this is one of those times. Is it coincidence that science-fiction and superhero stories in various mediums are cropping up more frequently than ever? I doubt it. Especially when you consider that Western society is experiencing an upheaval of religious fundamentalism and financial crisis. When you’d rather call someone an abomination for who they love, it’s inconvenient to have to look at the facts. When you can’t afford your water bill anymore why wouldn’t you fantasize about heroes that can save the world from threats we can’t even imagine? That’s a nice anecdote, and it’s nothing more than that I admit, but if that conjecture sounds in any way truthful then you’ll appreciate what Black Science is trying to do on the 50,000 foot level. This is a book that beautifully examines a “what if?” part of our culture that we’ve lost the courage and curiosity to explore. Something we need to get back with the utmost haste.
Without “Black Science #7” your batch of comics this week would be significantly less awesome and that’s never a good thing. Remender, Scalera, and White are churning out one masterful issue after another. This week sees the series take a crucial and compelling change in direction and the sleight of hand required to pull this off with any sort of authenticity speaks to the story-telling prowess of this team. This comic sneaks up on you and becomes one of the best of the week.
“Black Science #7” earns 9.5 / 10