Black Science #4 – Comic Review

Black Science is a new comic book, which works within sci-fi conventions to build a large scale story. Alien worlds, alternate realities, advanced space craft appear, and clever, deep interactions between cast members make Black Science stand out

The story involves a team of scientists who are teleported across different planets and strange places with the goal to repair their machine – the Pillar – and return home.

There are several scientists, who are  working together, or covertly against each other. Layered over these character interactions, are the conflicts within the main character’s (Grant McKay) family: Rebecca, Pia, and Nathan McKay.

Danger and suspense are created in this issue when Grant McKay’s life is in danger.

Black Science #4 offers:

  • Themes of survival, and self preservation
  • Alternate history ideas – Native American Tribes feature
  • Strong use of science fiction conventions
  • Suitable for college students and teachers examining the effects of war, and potentially modern American History
  • This comic book is for Mature audiences.

Paintings of bleak, war landscapes contrast with alien horizons. Ink enhances shadow, and helps build character.

Painted war vistas where horses sprint and Great War planes fly look incredible, and capture a sense of bleak dread. Inking enhances shadows, and plays up the angular or  round character designs, which gives an insight into personality types.

As the Pillar activates, a wash of bright gold and white light floods the page.

Another key artwork appears toward the end of the comic, where the black war vistas change to the green and violent horizons of an alien world. A masked-character dressed in blue surveys this scene. It’s a great example of a science fiction artwork.

Under the pressure of war and battle, two characters make very different decisions.

Ward, one of McKay’s colleagues, drives the plot forward in issue #4.  He is a character who believes in fighting to protect something greater than himself.

In direct contrast to Ward, there is Kadir. He is the “Boss” of the scientists. A nervous character with several visual cues marking his stress. For example, his dishevelled business suit, the angular lines used in his character design, and the clear sweat beads running down his temples.

When Ward acts to save McKay and his family, Kadir makes an altogether different decision.

Similar to series such as Attack on Titan, this comic book examines how humans react and behave under disaster conditions.

Themes of Survival, Self-preservation, and War are highlighted. The Comic Book introduces ideas concerning North American Tribes.

Contrasting Ward and Kadir’s actions, themes of survival and self-preservation are brought out by the comic. Through these characters, we see a disaster and overwhelming problems weighing down on individuals. Pressure, and how humans are changed by it, plays out across these early scenes.

The setting combined with the characters actions also makes a comment about war. War and violence, are portrayed as costly, and destructive. The comic book indicates that the value of what’s lost is often not noticed until long after the battle is over.

The comic includes characters described as Native Americans with high technology.

They are refereed to as the “Sons of the Wakan Tech-Tanka”. The Wakan Tanka is a name from Sioux tradition, suggesting these warriors are Sioux. Their inclusion in the comic book ties into American history. A reversal of events. An alternate history. Instead of Europe attacking and colonising America, Sioux from America attack Europe.

The idea of the comic is to explore diverse, alternate realities. The idea of history reversing is a convention of science fiction: particularly when characters travel to unknown worlds.

I questioned the values lining up behind these ideas though: Are the warriors depicted in a negative or positive light? It might appear negative on the surface, as they attack Ward and Kadir, but it’s made clear their goal is to rescue a Shaman that Ward kidnapped. Ultimately, they are soldiers fighting in a war. They are part of a story, but not deeply developed.

Since the Shaman has began to travel with the McKay family and their colleagues, the character may yet develop into a key cast member.

Popular Culture References:

Doctor Who classic episodes, starring William Hartnell, featured historical settings and alien worlds. In addition, the Doctor had limited or no control over the TARDIS, similar to the problems with the Pillar.

Black Science #4 is published by Image Comics ($3.99 USD). Rick Remender (W.) Matteo Scalera (A.) Dean White (Painted Art.) Rus Wooton (Lettering and Design.)

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