This much-anticipated series from Image Comics started off with a bang. Three issues in, we’re getting some much-needed background as we learn more about our protagonist.
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Matteo Scalera
Shell-shocked and battered, Grant McKay and his team are stranded on the front lines of the European savages’ final standoff against the Sons of the Wakan Tech-Tanka. Will this inverse manifest destiny claim the life of a member of the Anarchist League of Scientists? Or will they be betrayed by one of their own?
Since Grant’s still out of commission, Ward continues to narrate, bringing his perspective on events as he and the rest of the team negotiate an alternate-history crossfire. (Can we agree that “inverse manifest destiny” is a clumsy term for it?) Ward’s a more approachable character than Grant, with a more ground-level take on things, and the way he thinks through the situation – particularly his disagreement with Kadir – keeps the momentum of the issue steady.
This said, most of the characters still feel a bit one-dimensional – mostly, I think, because there’s a good number of them, and what with the wall-to-wall action it’s been hard for most of them to get a word in edgewise. We do get a couple breathers over the course of this issue in the form of flashbacks, and these fill in some of Grant’s backstory – without the benefit of Grant’s narration. Watching both Rebecca and and his daughter Pia call him on his duplicity casts a light on this character’s seedy side, providing a neat counterpoint to the more romanticized arc of the first issue.
We also get some background on the Pillar and the way it operates, with a simple layers-of-the-onion metaphor serving to illustrate the concept. The way an idea of God fits into the whole thing is certainly interesting, and it’s hard not to wonder how this concept will be paid off later.
Finally, we get some context as why the kids are along for the ride, and while it’s all a bit tidy, their presence adds an extra dimension to the violent proceedings. That the actions of the Anarchist League of Scientists are having tangible consequences for parties who were never meant to be involved is pretty much the definition of “high stakes”.
Artwise, this series is all about the double page spreads, and they bowl you over every time. It’s not just the weaponry and robotics of the Sons of the Wakan Tech-Tanka either (although they impress in their own right); it’s the muddy, rainy, shrapnel-filled chaos of it all, with every impact and explosion bursting off the page. Matteo Scalera has got a sure hand when it comes to action, and with the double-page spreads he uses the amplified sense of scale to make every motion hit like a pile of bricks.
The quiet scenes, on the other hand, give us a chance to appreciate Scalera’s character work – and while, again, we can’t say we know these characters very well, the messiness of their interpersonal dealings certainly comes across in their expressions. Pia in particular has a lot of range; we see her as a sarcastic teenager only after watching her deal with a terrifying wartime scenario, and in both cases her portrayal rings true. Grant’s a little flatter, which is hard to account for; but then, the whole issue seems to be taking us further from Grant, putting the emphasis on the magnitude of the situation.
Speaking of magnitude, Dean White’s colours and textures provides an immersive, pulpy feel. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this series has a camp aesthetic, but the vibrancy and extravagance of White’s work complements the broad strokes of the plot, keeping our eye on the big picture. This series is bringing up some immense themes, and it needs a big aesthetic to match.
This isn’t exactly a spotlight issue; multiple threads are being developed, and the backstory is gradually taking shape. There’s still a lot of potential to be paid off, and for the moment, the impact and scope of Scalara and White’s work is keeping things engaging. Time will tell how enlightening “Black Science” really is.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Buy