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Review of Black Science, Volume 9: No Authority But Yourself

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Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Cover of Black Science, vol. 9, art by Scalera.

Cover of Black Science, vol. 9, art by Scalera.

Reunited with his family and remaining friends, Grant McKay realizes they now inhabit the last reality, and Doxta controls nearly all of it. Kadir has a plan to counterattack, but Grant will not accept him after a lifetime of treachery, throwing him out to fend for himself while devising his own plan to defeat Doxta and restore the onion of the Eververse. Kadir refuses to accept defeat and continues with his own agenda, confident he—not the anarchist scientist—will be the one to restore order.

With Doxta’s alleged ability to reshape reality at will, the attempt to wrestle power away from her does not go as planned, but when Grant believes they are all on the verge of defeat and annihilation, he wakes in a perfect world, where his family is whole, and he has a new lease on life. It’s not in Grant’s nature to be content, especially in such a well-ordered setting, and in the course of rebelling against this stultifying perfect world, his story bifurcates when he makes a particular choice. Both storylines play out, which, if nothing else, suggests the multiverse is, in fact, recreated after the catastrophic events in both this and the prior volume. The real victory, then, is that oblivion is prevented, and the Eververse is reborn from all the choices made, similar to the metaphor of the eucalyptus tree Grant’s father talks about at the surprise birthday party (issue 43). Grant may or may not get a happy ending, but all of reality is saved.

Cover art for issue 41 or Black Science, which is part of vol. 9, art by Scalera.

Cover art for issue 41 or Black Science, which is part of vol. 9, art by Scalera.

Ambivalence

The conclusion of the series makes sense thematically. The philosophical conflict between the worldviews of Kadir and Grant run through the whole series until nearly the final page. That level of consistency and commitment to understanding all sides of their philosophies is admirable and cohesive. While not particularly present in this volume, the Draln remain in spirit because one of Grant’s final words in one of his endings is, “It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters in the Eververse [...] Because every possible thing happens” (issue 43). The lines are almost exactly what the Draln say to justify their nihilism and genocide, and it may be discomforting for readers to hear the protagonists essentially embrace one of the openly villainous perspectives voiced in the series. On a side note, the fact that the Draln are not present for the conclusion of the series when they have been antagonists since volume two is a serious miscalculation.

While the final volume and resolution works thematically and highlights the character conflict that is the core of the story, there are some noticeable flaws. For instance, there is a lot of talk about Doxta and her power, but it isn’t addressed that she does not actually have Grant’s genius for the black science. Pia stole that and inherited it in volume seven. Grant and Kadir argue over who has the plan to deal with Doxta, but it is Pia who has the knowledge that could set right the Eververse. Why she is not a more active member of the final assault is not only an oversight with the plot but also with the thematic balancing that has been such a fixture for the series. Just as Kadir is the antithetical nemesis to Grant, Doxta is the same to Pia. They are enemies, and this antagonism is reinforced because Doxta entered the series as a foe in volume five, which is the same time Pia came into her own as a leading character. The fact that the final confrontation against Doxta isn’t set as a match between her and Pia makes no sense in plotting, character growth, or thematic development. What happens instead isn’t bad, but it is a missed opportunity that seems inexplicable when readers see how much attention has been paid such conflicts all the way to this point.

Eucalyptus bridgesiana (apple box) on Red Hill, Australian Capital Territory. The eucalyptus tree is an important, recurring metaphor in Black Science.

Eucalyptus bridgesiana (apple box) on Red Hill, Australian Capital Territory. The eucalyptus tree is an important, recurring metaphor in Black Science.

So Long as You Let It Be

While the conclusion to Black Science may not work for some readers, it is largely successful because it is resonant and true to itself. Nearly everything that has been to focal points of the series is present in this last volume. That it stayed smart and competent and featured a consistent and effective art style for its whole run is a testament to the care and craft the creators have for the material. The totality of Black Science is worth the journey for anyone who wants an intelligent science-fiction story.

Source

Remender, Rick; Scalera, Matteo. Black Science, vol. 9: No Authority But Yourself. Image, 2019.

© 2020 Seth Tomko