This Column Has Seven Days #084 // I’ve Got My Pencil, Give Me Something To Write On
Hello and thanks for joining me here for The Most Inaccurately Named Column On The Internet! Since we last spoke I had a birthday, which means that I have officially survived another year on this great big beautiful blue rock. How have you been? Still trying to make headway on that work project? Still watching that television show that you like? The people and/or animals that live with you still providing you with joy? That’s great!
What’s that? What have I been enjoying lately? Oh my friend, I am glad you asked. Let me break it down for you quickly and succinctly.
* * * * *
Initially I looked at Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s Black Science as a meditation on the Fantastic Four, and more specifically Reed Richards. After all, the lead character in Black Science is Grant McKay, member of the Anarchist League of Scientists, and the first few issues focus on his family and his team breaking through dimensional barriers and exploring alternate earths with his invention, The Pillar. There’s a lot more going on in this series than that simple surface reading, of course; Black Science has a diverse cast of characters, each of whom contribute to the plot and themes of the book, and take it in surprising directions. No matter what happens in the book, though, it’s that elevator pitch that stuck with me: a scientist who is often seen as aloof and arrogant endangers his family, friends, and loved ones on crazy science adventures. Sounds a lot like Mr. Fantastic to me, even if Grant McKay has more of an attitude and less stretchability. I know that Remender has a lot going on in that beautiful creative brain of his, so I should have suspected that there was more coming. But I didn’t expect it to take the turn it did in the fourth story arc, “Godworld.”
Without getting too much into the spoilers for the first twenty issues of Black Science, the events of the past four issues throw the series for a loop, both in terms of emotional impact and storytelling scope. Imagination runs wild in this series but it shifts to a scale I’d not previously imagined in “Godworld.” Starting in issue 17, the pace of the book slows considerably, from rocketing action-adventure to introspective fantasy, which gives artist Scalera even more leeway to make beautiful, evocative art that echoes the emotional landscape deep inside Black Science‘s protagonist. The reader finds Grant McKay walking through a previously unseen world, where mindwhales soar through the ether and anthropomorphic animals roam the streets. He has no memories of what has happened to him in the past, and is being followed by companion that has not been seen before. As the two men wander this alien land, the mystery deepens: what has happened to his memories? Who is in control of this strange world? And is this even the same Grant McKay that was introduced in the first issue?
I can’t get into any more details because if I do I’ll clumsily destroy the beautiful story structure that Remender and Scalera have crafted in this series. I want people to explore it and discover the revelations for themselves. So if you’re interested in a book that’s science-fiction-adventure on the surface but slowly becomes emotionally dense to the point of something almost metaphysical, then Black Science is the book to read. “Godworld” is a good jumping-on point for new readers and also a huge payoff for people who have been reading since the beginning. You can’t lose.
After listening to “Wanderlust,” the first track off of Wild Beasts’ 2014 album Present Tense, for ten seconds, I was riveted. With its heavy synth bass opening and the driving beat of the drums, the band was wrapping me up in a sonic cocoon. And then the high and hollow voice of Hayden Thorpe kicked in, and I was thrown for another loop. After two minutes I knew I had another musical crush, and when the song was over I was firmly and solidly in love. Then, the next track, “Nature Boy” started, with a completely different singer, the rich baritone voice of Tom Fleming floating over the tom toms and more of that eerie synth, and I knew I had discovered something really special. Present Tense has plenty of the dark and slightly aggressive musical tone that strikes at the core of me but it also has a sweetness and lightness to it as well. This is best exemplified by tracks like “Simple Beautiful Truth,” with electronic flutes and bells over an assured and sharp rhythm section and straightforward lyrics celebrating the beauty of love, or the second single, “Mecca,” which sweeps me up with its passionate multi-layered vocals and pizzicato guitar work. Simple but effective. The music that Wild Beasts crafts on Present Tense is varied and exquisite, reminding me a lot of Alt+J’s This Is All Yours or some of Brian Eno’s work. It’s emotionally dense and powerful pop-rock and I can’t get enough of it.
I picked up the collection of the most recent OMAC series from DC Comics at a local used bookstore as a treat for my birthday. I read it when it was coming out and loved it like no other book that DC was publishing at the time, and figured that having it on my bookshelf within easy access would be a better place for the story than sitting in a cardboard box. It’s a monster of a superhero comic book, one that I was very skeptical about when it was first published. Until I actually read the thing, and was swept up in the action and adventure. In this version of OMAC, Kevin Kho, a Cambodian child refugee who now works for Project Cadmus, is transformed into the One-Machine Army Construct, a hulking blue powerhouse with an electric fauxhawk. This transformation is due to the machinations of the mysterious Brother Eye, an artificially intelligent satellite with a mysterious connection to and hate-on for Cadmus. In these eight issues Brother Eye leads Kevin and OMAC through different corners of the world, where he meets different superpowered beings that have a connection to Cadmus, and often smashes them.
Penciler Keith Giffen and inker Scott Koblish do a beautiful job of harnessing the raw power of Jack Kirby (creator of the original OMAC, which is one of my favourite DC series of all time), without ever slipping over the edge of homage into parody. There are epic battles in these pages, beautifully and dynamically rendered, with amazing colour work from Hi-Fi Design that only add to the visual punch. And Giffen and co-writer Dan DiDio craft a fun mystery story with dialogue that is cleverly over-the-top. It’s clear that the entire creative team wanted to craft something worthy of The King of Comics and honestly, they pull it off with style. And with OMAC suplexing a supercomputer. It’s got something for everyone, is what I’m saying, and it’s worth checking out if any reader overlooked it in the Nu52 shuffle.
* * * * *
That’s going to do it for me this week. Until next time, wrap yourself in beauty and transform yourself into an unstoppable dynamic force. I’ll see you in seven days?