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‘Black Science Compendium’ TPB (review)

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Matteo Scalera
Published by Image Comics

 

The Multiverse is having a moment.

From the Oscar winning Everything Everywhere All at Once to a summertime swing Across the Spider-Verse, today’s pop culture landscape is littered with alternate universes and parallel timelines. The idea has been a mainstay of speculative fiction for decades, finding particularly fertile ground over the years in comics.

Veteran comic writer Rick Remender offered his own spin on the concept along with Italian illustrator Matteo Scalera in the 2013-2019 series Black Science from Image Comics.

This year, the publisher has released Black Science Compendium, collecting all 43 issues of the series in one 1100-page volume for the first time.  The tome is a both a visual feast and a breakneck ride across universes.

But like many multiversal epics, following the sprawling plot can prove challenging.

Maverick scientist Grant McKay invents a device called a Pillar which open portals to other universes, potentially unlocking an unlimited supply of technology and resources. An accident damages the Pillar and its homing beacon, causing it to jump to random parallel worlds throughout “the Eververse” at random intervals, and taking Grant, his family, and several colleagues along for the ride into increasingly deadly situations.

On the surface, Black Science plays like a riff on the ‘90s television show Sliders cast with a dysfunctional version of the Robinson family from Lost in Space. But Remender and Scalero’s vision is far more ambitions than that simple premise. As Grant fights to stay alive in hostile and unfamiliar environments long enough to reach home, Scalero fills those worlds with lush detail and exotic creatures evocative of old EC Comics titles like Weird Science while rendering the work in an angular, kinetic style that propels the story forward.

More than just a wild tour through a multiverse of madness, Remender tells a story about choices and consequences. Grant’s struggle to find a way home is matched by his struggle to repair the damage he has caused to his family after a lifetime of selfishness. Grant’s journey through the Eververse forces him to confront his past at each step of fighting for his future.

Remender’s strong character work lays the foundation of the story. Each character is explored and allowed room to reveal unexpected motivations and hidden nuances. Their rich interpersonal dynamics and conflicts allow Remender to delve into recognizable themes about family and personal responsibility without being overshadowed by the relentless momentum of thrills and plot twists.

That momentum combined with the density of the plot make Black Science a challenging read at times. However, that challenge does not diminish the vividly realized worlds and characters brought to life in Remender and Scalera’s work.

Black Science sets itself apart in a mediascape of multiverses by being a story about choices.

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