By Robert Larson
I wasn’t entirely happy with the direction Black Science took last issue, in part because the never-ending series of misfortunes was starting to wear thin. Yes, it’s been fun to watch Remender take the screws to his characters, especially given that most of them deserve at least some of the misfortune they’re force-fed, but it can start to feel predictable. And yet, this issue makes me want to step back from that a little bit, if for no other reason than Remender really commits to the monkey-wrench he threw last time. I can at least appreciate a writer making meaningful consequences stick.
It’s been six months since Grant returned to earth and had his pillar stolen. The pillar has revolutionized the planet the way it was promised to, but perhaps somewhat predictably, it’s not being used safely. Pia and Kadir are still living out the lies they’ve been told to live, though Kadir is basically happy with his, and Pia is not. Grant meanwhile is sitting in a mental asylum, refusing to tell his brother where Nate is and unable to build the pillar Block is demanding.
It’s hard not to feel for Grant. I’ve been bitterly critical of him as a human being in previous issues, but the whole world thinks he murdered his own son, and it’s not exactly fair that he’s being punished for the one thing he didn’t do. Meanwhile, Kadir gets to look like a genius by leeching off of Grant’s accomplishments, and in the process looks like a substantially worse human being. I’d been sympathetic to him before, but he’s doing the one thing he promised he wouldn’t do: use the pillar for his own gain, because it’s too dangerous. He’s forgotten all of that because he gets to act out a fantasy where Sara loves him (even if she’s so drugged and booze-besotted that the façade cracks) and he’s a genius.
This makes their scenes some of the richest in the book. Kadir goes to confront him in the asylum, and both men are right at the same time that they’re wrong. Grant isn’t just a victim: he did plunge a knife into Kadir’s chest for trying to protect his children, after his girlfriend killed (presumably) his protégé. But Kadir is a hypocrite for taking advantage of this situation, especially since he understands exactly why it’s going to end in disaster. Furthermore, if Sara was treated badly by Grant, it’s not exactly kind to lie to her or to let her drink herself stupid.
And then of course, there’s the ticking time bomb the Pillar represents. Block isn’t using it solely to track down clean energy or cures for cancer; he’s bringing back the dangerous stuff too. While he thinks that he might be able to contain them, we all know better. He has an honest-to-Christ demon lord in there, and it will take only a little accident to set hell loose on the planet. (The art for the demon-lord is amazing, by the way, like somebody dropped acid and watched Teletubbies). Or, worse, maybe Block actually can control them and has a plan, which could actually be worse.
None of this changes my sense that this book needs to stop using “X gets the shaft” as a trope, because it will wear thin. That being said, I’m more disposed to accept that when it’s done well, and that’s what happens here. The status quo has been changed sufficiently that I’ll buy back in.
Black Science #25
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mateo Scalero and Moreno Dinisio
Publisher: Image Comics