Up until now, I’d read Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s “Black Science” series in bunches of issues. With so many great new series being published right now, it’s easy to fall behind and then binge on three or four issues at a time. However, reading “Black Science” #8 in isolation made me re-evaluate the series, and looking back at earlier issues, it’s a problem that existed previously too. Namely, “Black Science” is a comic book that doesn’t work half as well in a serialized format.
The broad strokes of “Black Science” are great; a strange synthesis of shows like “Lost in Space” and “Sliders,” with a group of scientists (and two kids) caught up in a dimension-hopping adventure where the team has so many hours before the Pillar (the device that lets them jump) re-activates. But when you read “Black Science” #8, it’s clear that this is a book with its later publication as a collected edition in mind. The plot moves forward in drips and drabs; most of the issue is the two children either falling or hiding, with a stopping point in the middle to get a sudden information dump for a character who we really should have heard from when he was introduced a couple of months ago.
As a graphic novel, this chapter of “Black Science” will be just fine. It’s a bit of transition with a big exposition dump buried inside of it. But as a single issue, it’s hard to imagine picking it up in a vacuum, reading it and thinking, “I can’t wait to find out what happens next.” With so little actually happening in any one issue, it’s hard to latch onto something that will carry readers into next month’s installment. Remender’s comics have normally felt a bit better in terms of pacing, but here it’s ground to a crawl.
The saving grace is Scalera’s art, which along with Dean White’s colors results in some bold, vivid pages. When the kids are plunging through the air, look at how Scalera maps out the individual panels. With the creatures’ tongues wrapped around them, more often than not he’s placed them so the kid is at one end of a long narrow panel, and the tongue (and the creature’s mouth) is at the opposite corner. It gives you an almost instant feel of falling because of how your eye moves across the panel; the distance coupled with the diagonal instantly triggers that response in your brain. There’s so much energy and a sense of motion to the opening sequence that it’s what makes you want to keep reading above all else.
Also great is White’s work on the title, using some of the brightest, most vivid colors I’ve seen for some time in comics. I can’t think a comic that uses more bright greens, pinks, and purples… or more importantly, makes them eye-catching rather than eye-gouging. This really does feel like an alien universe thanks to White’s unusual hues; those deep purple skies on the last page will just suck you in and let you stare at it for hours if you let it.
“Black Science” #8 is a frustrating comic. Will this work better in a few months when the storyline’s complete and it exists as “Black Science Volume 2” instead? Almost certainly. But taken just as “Black Science” #8, though, it’s just not quite there. In the future, it’s be great to see a little more attention on making each issue something worth reading in its own right.