In this dual review two writers (in this case Steve and James) will take a look at the issue and give a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass. Before we begin here’s what the issue is about from Image Comics: Shell-shocked and battered, Grant McKay and his team are stranded on the front lines of the European savages' final standoff against the Sons of the Wakan Tech-Tanka. Will this inverse manifest destiny claim the life of a member of the Anarchist League of Scientists? Or will they be betrayed by one of their own?
Here’s the thing about Rick Remender: you’ve gotta give him some time sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan, but on more than one occasion, it’s taken him a hot minute to establish traction. Of course, once he firms the position of his pounce - when he really digs his heel in - he can become an unstoppable force. Exhibit A: Black Science #3.
In terms of story, this issue does a great job of playing with one of my favorite tropes: alternative/revisionist history. I thought the second issue’s introduction of a conflict between early-20th Century German soldiers and a technologically-advanced society of Native Americans was interesting, but perhaps too marginalized.
It’s a conflict that remains on the fringe here as our cast of “Dimensionauts” tries (unsuccessfully) to avoid contact, but with one phrase - “inverse manifest destiny” - it suddenly became more thought-provoking. I mean, two historical empires - one real, the other imagined - both consumed with conquest and set against each other like this? Yeah, sign me the fuck up. And don’t even get me started on the promise of “Infiniology” or its teased study of what could possibly exist at the center of a rippling multiverse.
What’s even more interesting is the way Remender plots his character development in issue three. Moral ambiguity has already proven to be a hallmark of his players so far, but here, he stirs the gray in even further, making you question the ethical gravity of both pro and antagonist alike by ingratiating us to the series’ resident cad while showing both depravity and savagery in his marginally more wholesome characters. In so doing, Remender strikes an excellent balance of layers.
It’s interesting that Anarchist Scientist Grant McKay uses an onion as an analogy of his extra-dimensional exploratory endeavors, because I’d use the same image of Remender’s storytelling process here. Each big character reveal draws strength from its nonlinear framework, as he slowly peels back its layers in different times to divulge the true nature of his plot and those that people it. In fact, what is revealed here fundamentally changes, or at very least explains in a new way the book’s dynamic, and I once again can’t wait to see where this goes.
I continue to love Matteo Scalera’s art for this book. From his paint-stained urban cluster intro to the way he merges three discordant cultures to his almost marionette figure work, it’s all one big, wet treat. His action especially is fucking furious as it slashes in an often painterly way against the page, like a less-restrained Nick Dragotta. It’s an excellent style and has been pretty much the one constant thus far for the series.
I think it’s safe to say that after its third issue, I’m back aboard the Black Science express, with renewed faith that Remender has found his footing.
I really enjoyed Issue #1 of this title. It was action packed and exciting with just phenomenal 1970s inspired art. Issue #2 was not as good, but it was not bad either, as the team who dared to mess with black science, were dealing with the ramifications of inter dimensional travel and its consequences. Issue three continues in this strange and bizarre land of German soldiers, Indians, and robots fighting it out in a WWI/Terminator Salvation type battlefield. That alone should be worth the price of purchase, but we saw all of this in the last issue. We are still here and though the action did progress, it slowed down considerably even as the clock is ticking before the group is to be transported again. We did receive some needed backstory that allows us to now know how the current party of people came to be in this dimensional pinball machine.
Though the issue is readable and the art by Matteo Scalera is just wonderful (with absolutely excellent cover art by Dean White), this issue is at a place where it needs to decide what it will become. The story has near unlimited potential and is backed with the herculean writing chops of Rick Remender who is a master of his craft. If you don't believe me, I direct you to check out the Comic Bastards' review of Deadly Class #1. The writing talent is there, but I just don't know if it has gelled yet to be something amazing. I have been giving it the benefit of a doubt as I have rated it a "Buy" for the last two issues. I am downgrading Issue #3 however to a "Borrow" as the elements are there, but nothing real groundbreaking has set this story apart as of yet. I was hoping #3 would be the one. It was not and I am disappointed at that. I am really hoping to eat my words for #4 though. Only time will tell.
Score: Buy or Borrow
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Matteo Scalera Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/29/14