“Nowhere Men #1”

(w) Eric Stephenson
(a) Nate Bellegarde
Image Comics
71 pages

Nowhere Men is written by renowned and prolific Eric Stephenson, executive director of Image Comics. He gives us World Corp., the “supergroup” of brilliant, celebrity scientists: Dave Ellis, a neuroscientist who reads Ray Bradbury and dreams of “sustainable peace;” Simon Grimshaw, the Ayn Rand materialist, a geneticist whose greatest ambition is perfection and greatest influence is “the prospect of failure or poverty;”  Emerson Strange, who, as his name might suggest, is the eccentric inventor-philosopher and likes experimental-era Beach Boys and reads bizarre modernist works such as John Fowles’ The Magus; Thomas Walker, the only British member of the otherwise American team, is an LSD-taking theoretical physicist who studies wormholes and dark matter—he is purportedly the only living human to have heard The Beatles’ legendary long-lost “Carnival of Light” song.

It is unclear what World Corp. are up to, but a gorilla with what appeared to be amethyst bursting from a rocky hide threw around unarmed men who were inadequately protected in hazmat suits.

Simon, part-owner of the world’s largest corporation, is pursuing this vein of scientific research for the military, but supposedly the military hasn’t yet seen the results of this research. He plans to continue despite protest from the other board members of the corporation which headquarters dominate the city skyline, thus thrusting the reader into a stereotypical Science Gone Wrong and We’ve Gone Too Far-like scenario: “This is the opportunity of a lifetime!”  vs. “This is not what we set out to do!” This part felt far from fresh, but maybe this trite plot device is just tried and true.

Albert Einstein spent much of his life trying to prevent the tools of science from falling into the wrong hands. He wrote in an article for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (August 1947): “One may argue that, today, institutions of learning and research must increasingly be supported by government grants since, for various reasons, private resources are inadequate to the task; but does that mean that it is reasonable to permit the military to distribute the funds raised from the taxpayers for research purposes? Surely, intelligent people will answer this question in the negative.”

Einstein was a leading member of a team of scientists like World Corp., along with Neils Bohr, called the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. They campaigned for nuclear disarmament which Einstein felt was only possible through the end of arms races, militarism, and nationalism via global government and cooperation. Especially united in this way, the scientists could be thought of as superhuman. Einstein felt this was important not only for practical reasons—“The difficult task of apportioning [funds for research] to best advantage ought clearly to be placed in the hands of men whose training and experience justify the assumption that they have some familiarity with science and scholarship”—but also because he personally subscribed to Plato’s “philosopher kings” concept.

So it’s the human-made aberration idea that goes back to Frankenstein’s monster, who easily defeated Victor in combat because of its unimaginable power, and even though science created the danger, scientists must be part of the solution.

Nowhere Men infuses the modern attitude on civilian casualties. Simon said, “We suffer some acceptable losses and suddenly you’ve both lost the stomach for research?!” Poignant at a time when estimates for civilian deaths caused by drones vary wildly from double to triple digits since the year 2001 depending on the sources cited. (Here’s just one of many confused, outdated sources.)

Two major issues come with such power: first, the reluctance to relinquish the technology once attained, partly due to the fear of others acquiring the same lethal knowledge. (A board member asked Simon if the experimental subject gone wild hadn’t been disposed of. “Disposed of?” Simon said. “Don’t be barbaric. It’s still in Holding.”) And the second problem is simply not having any defense against it. (“It can’t be killed can it?” the board member said. “Tell me I’m wrong.”) Presently, those in the path of drone strikes have about as much defense against the drones as they would against a rampaging amethyst gorilla. Einstein again: “…the existence of the military mentality is more dangerous than ever; for the weapons which are available to aggressor nations have become much more powerful than weapons of defense.”

Nate Bellegarde’s artwork serves as an adequate, stable space for the story—sleek, airy, and uncluttered. Jordie Bellaire’s coloring is bright and modern. Nothing fancy with the panel work, but there is an effect like revolving cameras around the rooms at interesting enough angles. By creating a sense of setting, consecutive pages of conversation remain dynamic. Most faces are permanently affixed with a sort of half-snarl, but an amazing job is done drawing out nuanced feelings through the characters’ eyes. These strengths and the writing excel in the last part of the issue; some very compelling characters and story threads from among a quarantined population are introduced.

The World Corp. bio pages and an interview at the end add nice variety to the format. The characters and how they will interact and develop makes the Nowhere Men series worth looking forward to.

*422-433 Nathan, Otto and Heinz Norden, eds. Einstein On Peace. New York: Avenel Books, 1981. Print.