Black Science #23 sees Grant McKay on a mission to try and win back his daughter by going on a quest to visit an evil witch and retrieve an artifact that will fix the mess that he’s created. Is this going to be straightforward or easy? No, because Rick Remender is the one who’s writing this story, and he seems to take a great deal of pleasure in humiliating his characters and making them suffer. There are no heroic action sequences here, and when the fighting comes, it only emphasizes the powerlessness of the protagonist. All in all, it’s a normal issue for this book.
Despite Pia asking Grant to not go after Doxta the witch, he ignores her, steals her fiancé’s horse, and heads into the Withering Wood. Pia initially contemplates letting him go off on his own, but while she manages to talk her people out of following him, she can’t let him go alone either. Grant’s little sojourn doesn’t go well at all, and after stumbling through in his usual Grant way, he finds himself face-to-face with the witch. He’s given an ugly choice between walking away empty-handed or giving Doxta his mind, so that she might unlock the key to Black Science.
Grant’s really gotten himself in a true conundrum. He’s accepted that he won’t get Pia to come back with him and he’s determined to fix the mess he made, which is a good start. But he’s also been vowing for the past ten issues that he will leave worlds no worse than he found them, which is a mantra he repeats a few times here. If he accepts the deal that’s been offered to him, he’s going to unleash a second awful force on the Eververse, on top of that Mantid death-cult that’s still kicking around out there. But if he refuses…well, at least the world he’s in will collapse into outright warfare.
The witch’s offer is a real test of Grant, and I’m wondering whether that might be the point. She talks about forgiveness, sacrifice, and trying to make amends, and so she makes an offer that would reduce Grant to a normal person but possibly repair his relationship with Pia. If that were true, that might be his “out” in this situation, but that rests on two assumptions: Doxta isn’t quite as evil as she has been made out to be, and Grant is willing to set aside his ego for the sake of a greater good. Grant has been willing to put himself in harm’s way plenty of times, so we know that he doesn’t fear physical harm. But his intellect has been such a part of his character, and it’s never been on the line in a meaningful way. It’s how we’ll see whether Grant really changed as a result of the “Godworld” arc.
On a lighter note, is Grant’s brain damaged? He cracks wise a lot more than he used to, which has been a constant since Godworld, and he mentioned something in #17 or #18 about losing his memories because of the place he was trapped.
I’ve really enjoyed this particular world and its fantasy-meets-science arc, but the preview for the next issue makes it sound as though Grant might be returning home. What’s going to happen? I honestly can’t see an easy path from this issue’s conclusion to our world, or rather, one that doesn’t end in disaster for a lot of people. Business as usual, and Black Science is as good as ever.
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Black Science #23
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scolera
Colorist: Moreno Dinisio
Publisher: Image Comics
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital