Rick Remender slips into horror like a custom-made suit and his return to the genre marks one of the best debuts of the year. “Black Science” #1 is evocative of the height of the EC era, and Matteo Scalera and Dean White provide art that makes fear a beautiful experience.
Remender throws the reader and Grant McKay into the deep end of this story from the first page, catching them up through McKay’s terrified, regretful inner monologue. Through the Anarchist League of Scientists, McKay has broken the barriers between dimensions and discovers that the rules of the universe were there for our own protection. The cocksure lead of most Remender tales is gone here, replaced by a man whose attitude has cost him everything. McKay hasn’t just stranded himself in other dimensions, he’s done it to his family as well -- "Lost In Space" led by James Cameron. Most of the writing here is internal, allowing us to feel as caught up and confused as McKay. His regrets and fear feel real and relatable. He doesn’t regret using the wrong sammflange or quark spark; he hates that he ignored his family to the point that he may have cost them their lives. He anguishes over smoking too much pot, over cheating on his wife, over not being in better shape. This is a man who has been forced to face the price of his hubris while trying to not die at the hands of warring factions of warrior-frog proles and electro-toad imperialists. The dialogue is crisp and distinct; we get McKay’s voice immediately.
Scalera’s designs are disturbing and beautiful. It’s obvious that this series will involve a lot of fantastical elements and if what is on display here is evocative of what is to come then I want to hug his brain. The action crackles and pops, all high octane and speed. McKay is lithe, angular; we can feel the sweat as he speeds through the world, see the desperation in both his face and body language as he does anything to get back to his children. The monsters are horrifying and beautiful, full of raw power and control. As the story takes a left turn at the end, the new world where we find ourselves has a rich tapestry or war machines and sharp, steel terror.
All of this work would be moot if the color work were flat, and it’s here that “Black Science” jumps up a level. Dean White fills the art with a rich palate of color and dimension that makes this world even scarier as the depth makes it feel tangible and real. This is next level work, Eisner Award nomination material, beyond his stellar run on “Uncanny X-Force.” Everything is bathed in darkness and cool electric hues. He creates a whole new palate after the ALoS jump to a new world, with warmer colors evocative of wartime terror. Scalera and White an art team that work together like hand in glove. Even the lettering of McKay’s monologues assist in showing the fractured, jagged feel of a mind racing to survive.
Whatever dark wizards Remender made a deal with to create this story are certainly getting their money’s worth. “Black Science” #1 is the start of a terrifying new thrill ride that I will be reading between my fingers, hands over my eyes.