Rick Remender has become something of a contentious name. I’m not even talking about his recent (and utterly ridiculous) hashtag assault; it just turns out there are a lot of folks that don’t dig his stuff. Part of that I get; I mean, no writer can be “on” 100% of the time, and not everything I’ve read of his is the best. However, in terms of his science fiction - especially the brand employed in his Image series Black Science - I can name few contemporary equals. This book has been pretty darn incredible throughout its run so far, and as returning readers of its first volume will tell you, it’s a series that doesn’t flinch in making you feel the tough feels, nor does it shy away from - almost on an issue-by-issue basis - making sudden and jarring narrative paradigm changes. What started as a modern re-imagining of the Fantastic Four dynamic, now more readily equates to a book that might be called Dr. Doom & The FF, and if this issue is any indicator as to where this new arc is going, those unpredictable shifts are set to continue as a series hallmark.
Issue seven picks up a presumably short, but altogether indeterminate time period after the end of issue six, wherein our [SPOILER] now-leaderless crew of Anarchist Scientists is forced to make an inter-dimensional jump without its ill-fated figurehead and assumed series star, Grant McKay. Instead of being imperiled by a group of spore-controlled simians, however, the “family leftovers” that make up the team must now contend with reptilian overlords who ascribe to the literal translation of To Serve Man.
First things first: Black Science #7 is about three-quarters straight-up action, with most of it following a daring rescue that takes place across a blurred backdrop and mostly atop carriages drawn by alien fish-horse things, lovingly smattered with cyber-energy tomahawks, shamanistic techno-magic and “super sci-fi laser guns.” As amazing as that already sounds, it’s only part of what makes this book so great.
At its start, Scalera hits us with a terrifyingly evocative image; immediately harsh and brutal, it cuts to the quick in every sense of the phrase. Remender’s narrator - who is revealed later in the issue - takes a different tack, almost juxtaposing the grimy otherworldly peril we see in the issue with an equally harrowing tale of another time and place. In so doing, not only does this team do some great world-building and storytelling, but once again, they inject core character pathos that makes you immediately rethink everything you’ve thought about this cast so far, especially its presupposed antagonist. Remender especially makes him sympathetic, and his actions thus far even given enough weight so as to be called justifiable, while maintaining what makes him so puerile and downright unlikable.
I’ve also heard some disgruntled Remender readers talk about his writing style in general, but as I read this issue, I was forced to again wonder why. He does a great job here of incorporating what is essentially a fast-paced, sci-fi action story with bouts of humor, while at the same time introducing or developing sly hints to other subplots and throwing the main narrative once again into disarray with a literal cliffhanger, if not the aftermath thereof.
I, for one, think that he and Scalera both leverage the grand and otherworldly against the simple and introspective extremely well. There are one or two inconsistencies - like how Kadir learned an alien lizard goblin language to a conversational level - but to focus on something like that in a book like this is really just splitting hairs.
What I don’t think anyone will contest is Scalera’s by-now expected, but no less impressive art, particularly when cast with Dean White’s colors. I could watch these guys do conceptual alien worlds all day. Admittedly, the backgrounds do take to the backseat of an afterthought for most of this issue, as they are covered mostly in speed lines, but such is the almost painterly style of this stained, scratched and explosive art that it only helps us focus more on the intimate nature of the escape. Even if you’re no fan of Remender (an opinion I’d question after reading this series), check out Black Sciencefor the art. It is some kind of wonderful.
Altogether, Black Science#7 got me pumped as hell to see this series back from its brief hiatus by hustling along a curvaceous narrative path that may borrow some tried-and-true Remender tricks, but does more than enough to keep me guessing and wanting more.
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Matteo Scalera Colorist: Dean White Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 7/30/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital