Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.
Having built a device to travel to different dimensions, Grant McKay, his lab assistants, and his children are jumping at random through alternate universes and encountering the dangers of these environments. Desperate to save his children from his own greatest invention, Grant tries to make his helpers Shawn, Ward, and Rebecca work with Kadir and Chandra, a couple of bureaucrats overseeing the creation of Grant’s Pillar. Each time the Pillar jumps them to a new dimension, they have to adapt to the new and alien conditions of the world. While trying to fix the Pillar enough to enable them to get home, Grant discovers his device was sabotaged, meaning someone wanted the pillar to fail, and that someone might still be in the group.
The Anarchist League of Scientists
Matteo Scalera and Dean White do a fantastic job portraying all the different environments and their exotic inhabitants. Temples on jungle islands on the back of giant turtles? Check. Power armor using Native Americans with laser tomahawks engaged in trench warfare with World War One era Germans? Check. Bazaar filled with aliens and robots? Check. Gorilla-wizard-ghost? Not exactly, but close. Because they are only limited by their imagination, the creators of the comic push their vision of alternate worlds as far as they can, yet each one is rendered in such detail that they seem like believe backgrounds for the sort of dangerous adventure that propels Black Science.
In a few instances, however, the main characters are visually similar in a way that can cause some confusion. For example, Pia and Rebecca look alike, and it doesn’t help that they wear a uniform that prevents either of them from having a unique silhouette, so to speak. Also, the presence of some character’s other-dimension selves can be jarring. These problems are not insurmountable, but they can be an annoying distraction from a comic that is otherwise so engaging.
I Am the Danger
The immediate threat presented to McKay’s crew, from the first panel, is what hostility these alien environments and the creature that inhabit them present. With the Pillar as both an uncontrollable object and their only way home, the people are forced to survive in conditions they were never meant to encounter in the first place. Having to use their wits and limited resources against alien obstacles creates tension from the start. Often, success requires sacrifice on the part of one team member or another, which only strengthens the argument of characters like Kadir who say the pillar is a device of such random, destructive power that it should never have been made.
Kadir’s arguments represent another source of danger, one subtler and potentially lethal. No matter how dangerous the different dimensions are, Grant and his team could increase their chances of survival if they worked together. However, the level of mistrust and personal rancor among the team members guarantees that they are almost always at each other’s throats. Grant’s children are suspicious and resentful of him since he’s spent more time being a cutting-edge scientist than a father. Kadir hates Grant’s arrogance just as Grant hates Kadir’s vanity and self-promotion. Rebecca cares for Grant as a man, but she seems to think his invention is dangerous, even if she won’t admit it. All of these ruinous interpersonal problems endanger the whole team at every step.
There is also the matter of Grant McKay himself. A divisive, brilliant, self-absorbed man, who took it upon himself to engage in the most far-fetched science just to prove he could essentially beat the universe at its own game, ultimately endangers the very people he should have cared the most for since the beginning. His character arc as protagonist seems the most clearly laid out, as he realizes the hazard he as brought to his family if not all these different worlds by trying to prove himself to people that hate him. With selfish but fairly good intentions, he might have doomed his loved ones and the world he calls home. In a flashback, he does give an explanation about “the onion” or parallel dimensions and how they can use the pillar to “acquire well—anything. The cure for cancer. Rare minerals. Unimaginable technology” (issue 3). The flip side of this argument is presented by Kadir, who calls the Pillar “A door to every variety of virus, every assortment of predator, every potential weapon—interdimensional travel can only end in catastrophe. Chaos points in all directions. Order points in only one—life’s fragile limitations demand the laws or order be obeyed—not only for the protection of our world—but all the worlds we trespass” (issue 6). Both men are intelligent and arrogant, believing they know what is best for everyone, and that conflict puts the whole team at risk.
One Perfect World
Black Science is a great series for sci-fi fans. It has a lot in common with Dr. Who or Sliders, but it is far darker than either of those. The pacing, action, and character moments are all strong with only a few visual choices that may be bothersome to readers.
Remender, Rick, and Scalera, Matteo. Black Science, vol. 1: How to Fall Forever. Berkley, CA: Image Comics, 2014.
© 2015 Seth Tomko