Review by Rob Walton
When the Fantastic Four debuted in 1961 it introduced the world to a different kind of superhero team. Unlike the members of DC’s Justice League of America, Marvel’s Fantastic Four wasn’t composed of superheroes banding together in the cause of justice, but a loose family unit who received their individual powers through the same exposure to cosmic rays. More importantly, for what would become a hallmark of Marvel’s characters, the Fantastic Four were far from perfect people who bickered and fought with each other as much as they did any super-villain.
Four years later, another sci-fi family made their debut on CBS on September 15, 1965. Lost In Space, featuring space-travelling parents and their three children, which originally appeared as a Gold Key Comic, The Space Family Robinson, in 1962. It was the television series, however, that popularised the family’s struggles to find their way back to earth after their mission to colonize space was sabotaged by Dr. Zachary Smith, leaving the cast, including Smith, stranded on a hostile planet.
In Black Science, Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, and Dean White, adeptly combines the dysfunctional family from Fantastic Four with the adventures of a family trying to return to earth from Lost In Space to produce an exciting and fast-paced story that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Grant McKay is the brilliant, philandering, anarchistic Reed Richards. His blind ambition is to save the world while giving the science establishment the finger. He’s going to do this by creating a machine, “The Pillar”, that will allow him to visit any world in any dimension in the hopes of finding the cure for every disease, and the technology to ensure world peace forever.
The action is intense, but it’s sink or swim for both the characters and the reader, as they try to comprehend what’s going on. The art and story set the tone with luscious visuals by Matteo Scalera and painted colors by Dean White. The attractive lettering design is by Rus Wooton. The first shock comes before the opening credits as Remender sends the reader an early message: Wherever this series is going, it will be life or death all the way. Accompanying Glen are his kids, Pia and Nate, his R&D team of Rebecca and Shawn, and crew members, Ward and Chandra. Along for the ride is Nadir, the despicable corporate money behind the Pillar, and Glen’s outspoken antagonist.
Continually jumping from the frying pan into the fire brings out the worst and best in everyone. Even when characters do the right thing, their motives are often less than noble. Glen’s saving grace is that he knows he has screwed up badly, and is desperately trying to make things right. The problem is, no two characters can agree on what “making things right” means.
This opener only has time to set up the conflict and backstory, with just enough character development to keep things interesting. There are plenty of twists, turns, betrayals and back stabbings in every chapter, and cliffhanger endings have you binge reading, setting up even bigger shocks. The story becomes complicated in a good way, and benefits from reading it all together as a collection. This is exciting, full throttle storytelling that will have you salivating for subsequent volumes. The next is Welcome, Nowhere.