Review: Strange Attractors #1

I'd like to claim I am uniquely qualified to have an opinion about Boom Studios' new book Strange Attractors. After all, it's about mathematical theory and filled with nerdy math references and I just graduated from four years of mathematics classes. Unfortunately, I hate nerdy math references and the book is frankly too dull to really register the part of my brain that liked math. So all that is to say, as a math student, I have no opinion on Strange Attractors and as a comic fan, I don't recommend it. The first major issue with Strange Attractors is the plot--there isn't one.  We have an intro in which a mathematics graduate student has some trippy math vision and commits suicide, followed by a cryptic talk about chaos theory between an elderly professor and another student. Then there's a series of scenes that I don't really know what to make of at all that has our second math student (the non-dead one) interacting with some friends. There's no momentum, no charisma, and most fatally, no hook. Soule would have done well to pick a subject or character and focus, or at least give us something concrete to chew on, but instead we get vague mysteries with dully white men. It reads like an episode of the X-files as written by a writer fired from CBS' defunct math procedural 'Numb3rs'.

Strange-Attractors-#1Soule revels a little in his references to math (a character's pet is named 'boolean', the word 'theory' is dropped repeatedly), but there's no specificity. The world and characters are so generic that even a well-researched presentation of some aspect of math. Having spent some time in that world, I can tell you that while dull in places, upper level mathematic encompasses some very interesting concept and methodologies that could make for some interesting story work (check out Ted Chiang's short story 'Division by Zero' if you don't believe me). But Soule opts for something much easier here, with a few concepts that remain mostly unexplained and never very interesting.

On art duties Greg Scott produces the sort of shadowy, photo-referenced art that rarely works when not being attempted by Sean Phillips or Michael Lark. It's not particularly attractive, with over-detailed characters who don't remain consistent between panels and underdeveloped backgrounds that more often than not are just swaths of color or texture. But the real issue here is the writing which can't for a minute breath any sort of life in Scott's unmemorable artwork.

I don't entirely understand the meteoric rise of Charles Soule. His work in the big two (She-Hulk, Swamp Thing, Inhumans, Wolverine, etc.) has been workmanlike and genuinely uninspired. One can recognize the elements in play (narration boxes, emotional anecdotes, surprise twists, etc.) without ever feeling like they bother to form a story worth telling. Frankly, I would rather see an over-ambitious failure than a book like those created by Charles Soule which seem content to simply coast along at a consistent if mediocre quality. I've read many worse books than Strange Attractors, but few I'd be less likely to recommend giving a try.

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Strange Attractors #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist:  Greg Scott
Publisher: BOOM!/Archaia
Price: $3.99
Release Date: 6/1/16
Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital