Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remender's Black Science is a Beast of a Book

Black Science is What Sliders Should Have Been

Rick Remender is a heavy hitter in all genres of the comic book realm. Many of you Marvel fans out there may know him from numerous books, including recent hits like Uncanny Avengers, Captain America, and Winter Soldier (with the last two being especially note-worthy with the recent cinematic blockbuster) and previous runs on Venom and Uncanny X-Force plus many, many more. While Remender excels in the larger arena, he also has a passion and great success in the smaller, creator-owned realm with fan favorites such as Fear Agent and now Black Science.

Black Science 1

It took me a while to get around to this book. I will admit, I am a fanboy for the bigger studios, namely Marvel. I dabble in DC, but I am often turned off by many different aspects of their books. When it comes to the smaller labels, Image, Dark Horse, etc. I pick up their books when someone tells me, "This is not to be missed." Well, Black Science is not to be missed! I had been alerted to this fact numerous times by my comic-book-aficionado friend Nick, but it literally took me weeks to peel back the cover of Black Science #1. In some regards, I am glad that I waited so long, because this allowed me to absorb the first arc of Black Science quite similarly to the same way I've absorbed so many popular TV shows of late. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and so many more have come to me after the initial premieres. And this lack of knowledge has afforded me the chance to binge watch these shows up until the point where I'm caught up. And then the inevitable waiting begins. The rest of you hardcore fans are probably scoffing at me now, but I feel your pain nonetheless! Black Science has recently rapped its first major story arc with a hell of a cliff-hanger, and now the next issue (#7) is not due out until July. Wow. Ouch. Sheesh. Please, no!  ... Anyway, on to the review.

Spoilers ahead for sure. Please, if you haven't read at least the first couple of issues, just take this glowing opening paragraph as a sign from above, stop reading, and go out to you local comic book shop NOW.

Black Science is wholly a sci-fi comic book in the best possible way. There are no super-heroes here, no super powers, just science... cold, hard, Black science. The title is an excellent double entendre in that it leads you to think of "black magic," but this is far worse...its Black Science. No mysteries or unexplained reactions, this is all science and the worst possible kind.

The premise of this book is, unfortunately,  not wholly original. Any Jerry O'Connell fans out there? Well, if so, good for you, because the most basic comparison to any existing pop culture reference here is easily the mid-90's sci-fi TV show, Sliders. This crew of "anarchist scientists," as our lead character Grant McKay refers to this rabble, is currently bouncing through an infinite number of alternate universes (or rather, the "Eververse" in keeping with the book's nomenclature). Why you may ask? Well, Grant and his crew surmised that in a universe with infinite quantum possibilities, there must be worlds in which every possible outcome had in fact already occurred. To this end, they believed that if they could travel to these other timelines, they would have access to every solution to any problem they would ever have. As it turns out, they were right. And, for as much scientific success that this crew had, unfortunately, their problems are rooted heavily in the interpersonal realm. And who knows what science could ever do there.


As this books starts out, you get none of this backstory I so eloquently detailed for you. Issue #1 starts out fast and violent. This is why I should apologize for my earlier Sliders reference. For every bit that the basic premise may compare to that hokey 90's show, every single other aspect of this book is completely different. It is dark, visceral, and violent. This crew does not share the light-hearted camaraderie that Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown, Professor Arturo and Quinn Mallory so readily exchanged. This crew, while at its emotional core consists of Grant McKay and his teen-aged children, otherwise is a group stricken by deep-seated personal, professional, and romantic conflicts. Kamir, the financial backer and his lackey Chandra do not share the same goals as McKay. Grant accompanied by his children Nathan and Pia also have a loyal crew of fellow researchers/security of Shawn, Rebecca, and Ward. These relationships are all twisted and convoluted in different ways, but the lynch pin in the whole ensemble nightmare is that the world-jumping technology known as the Pillar has been damaged since the first jump, stranding this contentious crew in the numerous alternate dimensions that await them until they can travel home.

pillar 2

Once again, I can't help but make the Sliders comparison for numerous reasons: the crew is required to "jump" on a predetermined timeline, their mechanism for jumping is broken, thus resulting in them moving randomly from dimension to dimension without any idea where they will end up. While its fair to make this comparison, Black Science would have made a helluva better show. The worlds of Black Science are stranger, more in-depth, and mystifying than anything else I've read in comic books. And that's saying something from a Marvel fan (those fools love to fuck with the timeline and create alternate dimensions). Often times, the population of these alternate dimensions are human like, but only if amphibians, reptiles, or primates had evolved to the level of our current civilizations. Alternately, the book doesn't always play with evolution, but instead world history, as we see the Native American tribes at one point as the dominant civilization on the planet, running the European civilizations into the ground with superior technology.

Black Science 1 - 2

While the world building is infinitely interesting (as the potential is still very much untapped) the characters and their relationships are really the meat and potatoes of this story. I've read every column at the back of each comic in its entirety and it's impossible to ignore Remender's focus on an ensemble cast for this book. It's very clear he wanted to focus on a group of characters and explore what comes from their relationships and honestly, he's really killing it here. Without dropping any major spoilers here (go read issue #6), things between these characters are getting really sticky. Let me go ahead and give you the same warning I wish someone had given me before I started watching Game of Thrones: No characters are off limits. Yep, I'm just going to leave that there and move on.

primate pillar

While I could indulge my self ad infinitum, I think its time to rap this up and push you all to go read this book. Its truly fantastic. The art of Matteo Scalera and Dean White set a perfect tone for this edgy, dark, and often mesmerizing sci-fi story while Rick Remender is really holding nothing back on this one. Many an online forum or letters column I have read, wax on end that this book is worthy of the title of "masterpiece" in the annals of Remender's work and I am akin to agree. While it took me a while to get around to this series, I'm sure to feel the burn of the next couple of months waiting for issue #7...

Check Image Comics page for more info on Black Science: http://imagecomics.com/content/view/see-forever-in-black-science-by-remender-and-scalera

Cyclops #1 Preview

Scott Summers Gets a Do-Over on Life With Cyclops #1

Cyclops #1 is going to be an exciting bit of nostalgia mixed with an epic space opera. With this comic coming out in just a few days, I thought it would be nice to do a sort of Cyclops #1 Preview, if you will. This preview is very unofficial, but it should help you to get an idea of what to expect.

Cyclops #1 Preview Variant Cover

It is important to note here that if you haven't been reading comics in the ALL-NEW Marvel Now! phase, you might find Scott Summer's first solo outing a bit confusing. To get you caught up, the newest and youngest version of Cyclops was brought by Hank McCoy to the future. Beast's intentions were to show Scott Summers what he used to be with the hope that it would change the present day man back into a better person. But then things got sticky. Once the original X-men tried to return to their own timeline, for some unexplained reason, they couldn't and they were stuck in the present. (See All-New X-men to get really caught up on what's going on here.) Then things got extra-planetary.

There is a lot more to read about in The Trial of Jean Grey, but to get to the point, young Scott Summers meets his Space Pirate father and decides to adventure across the galaxy with him.  Leaving his one true love and his original X-men buddies behind, Cyclops is off to travel the stars.

Cyclops 1 Preview

I think this ongoing series has a lot of potential, especially when you weigh the young Scott Summers against his present day counterpart. While I will wholly admit that I actually like the revolutionary Cyclops a lot better than the goody-goody righteous leader that he has always played, there is just a lot of baggage on Cyclops right now. The Phoenix force came and took over his body and as a result, (spoiler alert) Scott ended up slaying Charles Xavier in cold blood. Now that the events of A vs. X are over, Cyclops has been a very heavy character to follow, and it's not without it's rewards. I love his new costume, his new crew, and his new attitude, but after a while, I start to wonder where its all leading to? With Bendis at the helm, I know that Uncanny X-men (the book with the central role surrounding Scott Summers and his team of X-defectors) has a good chance of staying excellent. But with Cyclops on-going series, we get a bit of relief from the darkness that Uncanny X-men just can't achieve. At least not for some time.

I am looking forward to an era where the X-men team will be whole again. Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Marvel and its writers seem to have more fun destroying characters, teams, hell even entire universes right now than they want to re-establish the status quo. I, for one, look forward to Cyclops being a nice book to find some comic relief and possibly more light-hearted story lines. The father-son dynamic is sure to be filled with strife as well as heart-warming moments. Plus, setting the whole run in outer space opens the dynamics of this story up to unlimited possibilities.

In the very short preview that I have seen, the writing of Greg Rucka is quick and funny. We get enough exposure into the life of Cyclops without bogging the development of the story arc in redundancy. The art is beautiful. Russell Dauterman brings the youth and excitement of this Cyclops directly to the page. There is still much to be seen as far as what type of alien characters we will run into, but so far Dauterman brings the depths of space to life brilliantly with the help of colors by Chris Sotomayor.

Here's to new comic book Wednesday!

Check out a preview of the book over at Comic Book Resources:  http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=21456

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Future of Marvel Ultimate Universe

Miles Morales Returns to the Marvel Ultimate Universe Line-Up This Week!

The Marvel Ultimate Universe was in a very precarious place not too long ago, and to much chagrin and celebration (depending on who you are), the end of the world did not occur during the big Cataclysm crossover event. While the Ultimate Universe did survive, the lay of the land will never be the same for the remaining heroes in this alternate timeline.

Marvel Ultimate Universe: Cataclysm

"The lay of the land" is really different in two major ways. First, in the books, the world is drastically different. Galactus came and destroyed half of Manhattan amongst much more destruction that wasn't geographically specified, but it had to be bad, because he had a giant planet eating machine drilling into the planet's core. On top of that the array of Marvel Ultimate Universe comics is now much slimmer than before. The only books coming out on the Ultimate U side of things now are The All-New Ultimates, Ultimate FF, and Miles Morales The Ultimate Spider-Man. This is pretty slim pickings by comparison to the many other versions that have come before 2014. For me, this only leads to speculation about how much longer this imprint will continue to publish new stories.

Earth-1610 has been through many cancellations and reboots, but it still manages to hang on somehow. If a world-ending crossover event wasn't enough to put this world to rest, then it may have a healthy future ahead of it for sometime. With that being said, I'm excited for the release of Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1 this Wednesday (May 7th). While there will always be controversy over a Spider-Man that is not Peter Parker, I for one cannot get enough of the work that Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez put out together. Don't get me wrong, I've heard all the complaints about Bendis, and they aren't necessarily wrong, but Bendis is the true visionary behind the Ultimate Universe. I think his relationship to this imprint goes a long way toward some great storytelling.

One of the most fruitful of Bendis's creations, in my view, is the new team of youngster Ultimates, aka The All-New Ultimates. This team had been slowly coming together over many issues of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and with Marquez leading the art on the final issues of that book, it was a really exciting story arc to read. Now that the team has been formalized in its own series, I'm excited to see what will come of this ragtag team of teenagers. Unfortunately, I have not been a big fan of the art on that book, but Bendis and Marquez are back on Miles Morales, and frankly I can't wait to get my hands on it.

[caption id="attachment_104" align="alignnone" width="650"]Marvel Ultimate Universe: Miles Morales #1 Norman Osbourne returns in Miles Morales #1[/caption]

As for the one remaining book in the Marvel Ultimate Universe that I haven't discussed, Ultimate FF has the most potential, but that can go both ways. This book is based on a high concept that Earth-1610 is in dire dimensional straights. The new team of Iron Man, Sue Storm, Falcon, and Machine Man are working to stop dimensional bubbles that continue to appear from tearing their home dimension apart. While the art style is strong, and the concept is very intriguing, it once again leads to the ultimate conclusion (no pun intended) that this universe is headed to the grave. It has killed nearly all its big heroes and now the dimension itself is falling apart. I really don't know how long you can keep a series going based on the premise that the fabric of reality itself is going to shit. Either the crew wins their race against the dimensional decay and save the universe and the book ends, or they don't and the whole universe ends. The stakes are high either way, but I can say at least, for now, they've got me interested. Here's to new comic book Wednesday!

Catch a preview of the new Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man over at Comic Book Resources: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=21468