Black Science Vol. 1 (2014) Review

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STORY BY Rick Remender

ART BY Matteo Scalera

COLORS BY Dean White

Black Science is a genre redefining science fiction epic. Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera take us on a reality hoping adventure with a team of flawed ego-maniacal scientists. They’ve just finished building “The Pillar” which allows people to travel to alternate dimensions. They describe it like an onion, the Pillar slides them down through layers of reality to presumably arrive at the core and foundation to all realities. Nevertheless, all is not well since the Pillar had been sabotaged and is constantly jumping the team from one hostile dimension to the next.

Although each jump usually leads the team to a more desperate location, to stay behind will inevitably forfeit their chances of ever going home. With the diminishing crew dying off, even if they choose to carry on who knows how long until it leads to their ultimate destruction. Meanwhile, there’s the chance the Pillar itself is cracking through realities and making all of existence unstable.

Unlike other similar stories such as Fantastic Four, Lost in Space, or Sliders, Remender always puts the danger in the foreground. The peril and doom is just as prominent as any character whether it’s coming from sources such as Frog Warriors, possessed primates, or getting caught in a genocide war or much more. It also serves as the primary motivation for Grant and the team to get everyone back to their own reality. If that wasn’t enough, there’s constant inner-group conflict revolving around power struggles and trust.

As the story progresses, we discover that the team has just as many layers as an Onion. In many stories a character like Grant would be the hero or all round good guy; however, Remender doesn’t insult the readers with stereotypes, cliches, or overused tropes. Instead, Remender likes to bring healthy doses of realism to his characters. From little Pia to Kadir, each is well defined with their own personal flaws, self absorbed motivations, as well as their brilliance and fearlessness. A large amount of tension stems from conflicts between all these very diverse set of characters. This isn’t to say the characters aren’t likable. In fact, not only are the readers able to connect to these characters, but also their realistic portrayal helps anchor us down in this unbelievable epic. For example, we see Grant break away from the idealism and conventional nature of explores and scientists. Each new threat or revealed secret peels back another layer of Grant’s ego until only his raw and primal nature remains. Perhaps he sums it up best when he says,

“Ideology is masturbation. A jerk-off afforded to those few privileged with time on their hands and no wolves at the door. Put that shit to the test in the field. This is what you get. A savage monkey willing to die so long as he destroys his enemy”.

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Also, Remender isn’t afraid to sacrifice lives in order to remain true to the tale. By issue six, the readers have already seen some prominent characters die. With a steady death count, most writers fail to keep the readers from becoming detached. However, each life which is lost, no matter how small their role, is always a gut punch to the readers. Because we care about these people, it adds just that much more tension and feeling of risk. Once again, this shows how much talent is embedded in the writing.

Meanwhile, Matteo Scalera does an excellent job of balancing the familiar with the exotic. Each creature, plant, civilization looks somewhat familiar while simultaneously new and exotic. The eyes never feel like they are staring at another world or planet; rather, they are looking at this world from a flipped and reinvented perspective. Furthermore, praise also goes to Scalera and his team’s endurance for being able to completely rebuild our world from issue to issue. Each new dimension has its own unique and defining characteristics, and it’s always a dark and beautiful treat for the eyes.

At the end of the first arc, we’re left with a nail biting conclusion that Remender has only just begun this ride. He’s kicked off a dynamic and beautiful tale which is willing to challenge conventional story telling and examine how human nature and destiny fit into scientific and technological progress.

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Pretty Deadly Vol. 1 (2014) Review

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STORY BY Kelly Sue DeConnick

ART BY Emma Rios

COLORS BY Jordie Bellaire

DeConnick uses heavy parables combined with abstract forms of art and storytelling. This combination creates a surrealist mystery. However, the story blooms perfectly, and every detail only reinforces the path to the end. For example, each character has a name or appearance which are symbolic for the American myth they represent. Johnny Coyote is a trickster, Old man Fox is a thief, Sissy the vulture girl represents death while this dreamlike story is carried on the wings of the butterfly. Because the myth is set during the early 19th century wild west, the natural landscape also helps establish the earthy tone of the other mythological aspects.

Furthermore, Rios and Bellaire’s style of artwork and coloring looked more handcrafted than the usual polish and shine Image is known for putting out. Because they went with pencil sketched art and colors that weren’t overly inked or glossy, the art not only depicts dreamlike settings and characters but also the personal touch looks like a story from an earlier time. This isn’t to say the art and colors are minimalistic or indie. In contrary, the artwork is beautiful and detailed from the eyes to the skull landscape of deaths domain to the kinetic action scenes. In fact, the gun battles and sword fights in this story were exceptionally brutal and flowed with a brilliant understanding of pacing and movement.

With Deconnick’s mastery over storytelling and Rios and Bellaire’s artwork, the reader can’t help but soak in every detail from every frame and word the flows from one panel to the next. What the creators give us is an enchanting coming of age and changing of the guard tale. Because everything came together perfectly in the end, it’s hard to imagine where they will go next. However, with the world building from the artwork, plot and the short story supplements, it’s understandable why it would be hard to walk away from Ginny and Sissy.

Aphrodite IX (2013) Review

ImageMatt Hawkins and Stjepan Sejic recent reboot of the Aphordite IX series is a rich treat for the eyes and mind. The story takes place in the far future where humanity is on the brink of extinction. Society has become polarized. On one side lives a genetically augmented civilization who rely on augmentation to perform needed tasks instead of depending on technology or machines. They use their spirituality and tradition for guidance. The technophiles are the other half of civilization. These people rely heavily on technology and have become more like cyborgs. They believe that the diminishing resources of the planet and their need to migrate to another resource rich planet can only be solved through the use of technology. Furthermore, they see the Geneticist as a self-destructive culture who will inevitably die off.

Also, although this story starts off with a tribal battle it quickly falls into politics. This makes sense because Aphrodite is an Assassin who lacks free will; thereby, she is the story’s protagonist and antagonist. This creates a complex character to compliment this complex story.

In the midst of their tribal conflicts, Aphrodite IX who is the perfect bio-engineered assassin wakes up in the middle of a battle. She quickly chooses to fight against the technophiles and their drones because they were posing a threat to her. In the aftermath, the technophiles find and befriend Aphrodite’s handler who can not only upload a hit list to Aphrodite’s mind but he can also determine who she should fall in love with or hate. However, the longer Aphrodite goes on without being rebooted the more freewill Aphrodite has. Matt Hawkins does a great job of showing this through his lavish use of internal dialogue. The readers can see that her inner voice was more stoic analysis and by the end of the run her inner dialogue becomes more emotionally conflicted and self-doubting.

Yes, this is a very text heavy comic book, but there are very few times where it felt superfluous, or they are just slapping script directions onto the page instead of allowing the artist to show instead of tell. Matt Hawkins is using Aphrodite IX to tell a philosophical story about cultures who rely on Religion, Politics, or Technology. It’s also nice that Hawkins backs up each subject with links to his research and brief lectures at the back of each comic.

Stjepan Sejic’s art is mostly hyper-realistic renderings. Because the art is less abstract, it makes the reader identify with Aphordite IX’s world, and helps make the reader believe this is a possible future. Sejic includes Aphrodite’s POV shots which look like an updated Terminator interface. These are nice because it reminds us of what Aphrodite is and keeps us focused on the action. One complaint is that the hand to hand combat is sometimes repetitive or too basic, but he more than makes up for it when it comes to weapon, vehicle, and dragon combat. Yep, this story even has dragons. All the characters are very unique looking and you can tell he had a lot of fun with the various technophiles.

Matt Hawkins wanted to give us a story that was full of everything Sci-Fi nerds love about Sci-Fi, and he and Sejic pulled it off wonderfully. This is a beautiful book for those who love and miss Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, and Rod Serling type of science fiction.