By Cat Wyatt
Adventures in Science is a collection of short stories told in graphic novel form. I’ll admit I was honestly surprised by how many stories they managed to fit into this one collection. It includes Time on Ice, Blood on Your Hands, 51st Century Blues, Vita Extensum, 14 Arms to Hold You, Holiday of a Lifetime, Campaign 2079, No Signal, Not for Turning, No More Secrets, Next Customer Please, Eye in the Sky, and Deadly Skies (see, I told you there was a lot!).
Time on Ice was absolutely their best pick for starting this graphic novel off with. It immediately drew me into the world, though I’ll admit I was a little sad to not see more from it. Have you ever wondered if there is a more efficient way to rehabilitate prisoners? One that has a higher success rate, as well as being shorter in time and more cost-effective? Apparently, that’s no long a concern of the future; they found the perfect way to deal with their criminals (regardless of the number of offenses they’ve had).
The story follows a man named Jimmy, he’s been in prison long enough, and he only have to make it through one more day before he’s released. He’s so close he can taste it. The catch? This isn’t exactly a normal prison. It’s cold, so cold if you remove your clothing you there’s zero chance you’ll survive. It doesn’t sound like an ethical prison, but apparently, you do get a small say in where you end up going (you know, if you’re okay with hard labor or high accident risk over being eternally freezing). Still, Jimmy only has one more day, and all he has to do is make it through. I’m sure you’re well aware that there’s a hidden catch, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.
The artwork was pretty decent on the whole for this story. I particularly liked the blue tones to help indicate just how cold it was. Even the skin tones had a slightly bluer hue in them. It’s really quite simple, but very evocative.
The second short story is Blood on Your Hands, it follows a man named Mr. Morely. Mr. Morely’s tale starts out with him sitting in court, on trial for murder. His defense? He didn’t do it, his hands did! I’m sure you have just as many questions as I did (and the number of questions likely changed once they showed an image of his prosthetic hands).
Years ago Mr. Morely suffered from an awful accident which left him a quadruple amputee. Unlike many, he got a second chance at life thanks to four incredibly high tech prosthetics. He could suddenly do everything he once took for granted, so it’s hard to blame the guy for ignoring some oddities about the new limbs. I mean, really, who would want to risk having these wonderful new parts removed?
The fact that the company that gave him those prosthetics up and disappeared should have been a warning sign (assuming he even noticed that happening – it kind of sounds like he didn’t). Once it started becoming clear that the limbs were willing to take actions he merely daydreamed about (as opposed to actually planning on committing), he probably should have said something to somebody…but alas, here we are.
The artwork was pretty solid for this story. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the prosthetics, they’re detailed but not in an overwhelming manner. You can tell the artist spent some time studying how they should look and the implied motions they’d have. I love the attention to detail provided.
51st Century Blues is the third story in this collection, and it certainly starts off on an odd tone, to say the least. Stacey Kilogram is a middle aged woman who has basically hit a rut in her life. You’d think with all of the advances we’d (hopefully) have made by the 51st century that this wouldn’t be an issue anymore, but apparently it is. Unlike many people, instead of wallowing in self-pity, Stacey stepped up and started to make the changes she so desperately needed in her life (starting with the refrigerator that literally has programmed insults into itself).
I didn’t love the artwork for this one- particularly the color palette. It comes off as kind of…retro seventies style? I feel like that was probably intentional, but it was mildly off-putting for me. I’ll give the artist credit for not being afraid to draw some odd scenes (like a fairly detailed image of the dog licking his…well you can probably guess).
Vita Extensum is probably one of the more disturbing stories in this collection, and that has more to do with the implications of how far a human is willing to go to gain immortality. In this world, mankind has finally cracked the secret for eternal life…but there’s a catch. You have to swap into a new body in order for it to work. A new infant, in fact. And no, they’re not cloned and thus devoid of whatever attributes you’d require to consider them human. They’re actual human children being sold (or taken) into the immortality market. Pretty horrifying, right?
It’s a pretty quick story, all things considered, only lasting a few pages. But it still carries a very heavy message with it. I’m almost relieved it didn’t continue further, in a way. As far as the artwork goes, it wasn’t bad. Lots of heavy lines and blocks of color, but it effectively tells the story the author wanted us to hear.
14 Arms to Hold You is the oddest of the group (I believe). Out of all of them I had the most trouble parsing out the intent behind this story. Two scuba divers are doing their check night dives, and for one reason or another they’re doing them in a bit of a rush. That means they’re not being terribly careful, and they didn’t spot the danger before it was too late.
I think we can all agree that a giant murderous octopus would be terrifying in its own right; but a giant murderous octopus that has claws and telepathy? Count me out. I want nothing to do with that, and I certainly don’t like the idea of these creatures being intentionally created in a lab (but of course that had to be the case – there’s no way this sort of thing would happen in nature, at least not at that pace).
The artwork wasn’t too bad for this story. It could have been significantly more graphic than it was, so I appreciate tuning it down just a bit. The chosen place for some of the octopus’ claws were a bit odd for me, but that’s really a stylistic choice more than anything.
Holiday of a Lifetime is the most satirical of the collection. It tells a story about a delusional couple taking a trip through time; their chosen journey? They wanted to see the Titanic sink. And boy did they ever. It was pretty obvious how this one was going to end, but it was still worth the few chuckles I got while reading it. It heavily mocked the concept of the conceited tourist, giving them an inevitable doom because of their own carelessness.
The characters in this story were very clearly designed to be somewhat off-putting. They’re garishly dressed, which not only made me dislike them but it also helped them to stand out from the rest of the crowds in the Titanic (whom apparently didn’t see anything odd about how they dress? Perhaps some tech to keep them from being noticed?). Otherwise the artwork was pretty fantastic – very detailed but with a comical twist to it.
Campaign 2079 reminded me a lot of one of the Overwatch shorts released a few years ago (the one where Black Widow and Tracer duke it out), but it was still a pretty decent read. Picture how an election would go (obviously in the future – 2079 to be precise) if robots were allowed to run for presidency (resisting the urge to throw in a joke or two from Futurama right now). Obviously somebody is going to take issue with it; it’s a sad inevitability.
This story was drawn in an almost classic comic book style. While it didn’t mesh with the stories before or after it, I still enjoyed the break in art style.
No Signal is one of those stories that starts out really interesting and ends up shockingly heavy. Imagine a world where you receive all incoming messages and alerts through a chip in your head – not turning it off and no filtering (pretty bad design there, if I may say so). Now imagine you said something colossally stupid – the type that many in society wouldn’t forgive – and trying to run from the repercussions of that action. Now you have a good idea of the basis for this story. There’s more than happens after these events…but I think they’re best read as the author intended.
Not for Turning’s artwork immediately caught my attention. The style almost reminds me of Beavis and Butthead, but not quite. Anyway, this is another story with a rather dim view on humanity. It poses the question: if Margaret Thatcher met a handful of aliens who were offering her (and thus humanity) all the knowledge we could ever hope for, what would she do about it? Clearly the author for this story doesn’t think any good would come of it. I’d like to argue, but I’m not even sure where to begin.
No More Secrets is pretty much a governmental nightmare; every single secret there is to be had thrown out into the open. Now, I’ll admit I didn’t think about the depth of this statement until it was shown to me. Think about some of the secrets a government HAS to keep, such as the codes for all of their missiles. That one didn’t even occur to me…but yikes. It’s an interesting debate about which secrets are better off being kept, and which ones are only harmful when hidden away.
Next Customer Please is another oddity in this collection. It’s about a moon colony and all of the unanticipated risks with getting supplies to said colony. It’s a given that getting supplies to anywhere out of the way is obviously more difficult and expensive (look at the prices any islands have to charge for basic supplies and you immediately have an understanding of that one). The question the creators want us to ask is which one would ultimately win here; practicality (the issues with transport) or greed (need I say more?).
Eye in the Sky is the second to last story for the collection, and it resides in a world where any crime is met with corporal punishment (including parking on the yellow line, as we see in the first couple of panels). It’s a depressing world to considering, to be sure. It’s also no surprise that somebody figured out how to con the system.
Deadly Skies is the final story in the Adventures in Science collection. I wasn’t expecting any of the stories to be based in the past, especially not after having so many based (very far) in the future. This is another short story, and it’s mostly visual – showing us an aerial battle between a fighter pilot and a bunch of alien spacecrafts (no, I have no idea who or why). I would have loved more context for this story, but it pretty much starts and ends with the action already in motion.
This was a pretty interesting collection of stories on the whole. I can’t help but notice a lot of them (though thankfully not all) have a pretty dim view on humanity and the advancements of technology. I did like the occasional deviation from that theme however. At first I didn’t love that all of the art styles changed from story to story, but once I got into the rhythm of things I ended up enjoying the clear cut beginning and ending to each one.
Adventures in Science
Dead Canary Comics