Artist: Matteo Scalera
Release Date: January 28, 2015
Rick Remender’s sci-fi opus, Black Science, remains unabashedly pulpy in every way, beginning with Andrew Robinson’s evocative covers and continuing with the alien landscapes, bizarre creatures and adrenaline-doused cliffhangers. The first volume, “How to Fall Forever,” established the title’s narrative through the Anarchist League of Scientists, a group of explorers falling through a series of parallel worlds — some recognizable as skewed alternate histories, others featuring far-from-human dominant species. In this second volume, “Welcome, Nowhere” (collecting issues 7-11), the action settles on a slightly smaller, more grounded scale set largely in a single world, and finds that the group’s dynamics have shifted after the startling conclusion of the first volume.
Primarily, this new status quo involves Kadir, the initial corporate foil of Grant McKay (the rogue scientist whose experiments first set Black Science’s reality-spanning journey in motion). Here, the former antagonist assumes a more sympathetic light, with some of his motivations clarified. It doesn’t hurt that he also displays legitimate heroism, even putting his life on the line for his companions. Remender suggests that this motive is genuine, while also noting that trying one’s hand at a pulp hero doesn’t necessarily make you a success at it.
The anything-goes sensibility introduced in the first volume thrives into this collection as well. If those initial first issues helped create a sense that no character was safe from a horrific fate, that volatility further amplifies the tension here: during a scene where Kadir and The Shaman (an addition to the group from one of the previous worlds visited) face off against a vast group of enemies, there’s no guarantee that either of them will survive. Similarly, when Grant’s teenage children Pia and Nate are separated from the rest of the group, there’s genuine ambiguity whether they’ll rejoin their compatriots before they leave the dimension.
This collection abounds with nail-biting action, surreal landscapes, and absorbing alien figures. The art, from Matteo Scalera and Dean White, is appropriately kinetic, capturing small character moments as well as some truly strange creatures, including a flying, fire-breathing hippopotamus. But there are also hints of a larger plot unfolding; the sinister, parallel-universe duplicates of the league gain more context while other subplots, such as one about an alien consciousness possessing one of the team’s members, poke up, but seem designed to blossom down the line.
Whereas the early issues of Black Science solidified the tone of the book — frenetically-paced, character-driven, and overrun with exotic settings — these recent chapters have pushed the series’ characters in brazen directions, discovering new wrinkles and old secrets. Ultimately, “Welcome, Nowhere” is a satisfying continuation in a comic that blends old-school pulp thrills with modern risks for its characters.