If Han Solo were a scientist, he would probably be Black Science’s Dr. Grant McKay. Both are mavericks in the field of smuggling or “black science, but they still care about things. The motivations for Grant’s actions in Black Science are saving his family, and this fuels the desperation of his action, including intervening in a turf battle between rival alien frog and fish clans. Even though it deals with a lot of scientific concepts, Black Science #1 is a straightforward action-adventure comic with gun battles, foot chases, and angst-ridden caption boxes. Rick Remender lets Matteo Scalera and Dean White’s images tell the story while he fills in back-story and characterization with his trademark caption boxes. Their art is painted, but full of action and motion. White’s colors add an otherworldly element to the story which is set on a random amphibian and reptile infested planet. As well as having an action-packed plot, Remender does a great job fleshing out the protagonist, Grant, in the space of a single issue.
Remender eschews flashbacks, decompression, and non-linear narratives to tell a riveting linear story in an extraterrestrial setting reminiscent of Jack Kirby’s old Marvel monster comics from the 1950s. Each panel moves the story forward, and there are new, exotic dangers awaiting on every corner. Scalera designs a veritable menagerie of aliens for Grant to fight and gives them high-tech weapons, whose effects are embellished by White’s painted colors. Without Remender’s captions, Black Science #1 would be a tightly plotted action serial. Think the opening of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness without Spock’s constant references to the Prime Directive. The combination of Scalera’s art and Remender’s captions make for a pleasing and engrossing experience. The reader can grasp the general gist of the plot and setting before delving into Grant’s character and the conflict around him.
Matteo Scalera and Dean White succeed in the difficult task of turning painted art into a sequential story. Black Science #1 is full of beautiful red vistas and technological wonders, but it also has characters who get hurt, die, and show emotion. Scalera’s figures are jagged and unconventional, but their movements are unconventional. What really makes Black Science #1 is its sense of motion and urgency. In each panel, Grant is moving closer to his base and family where he can hopefully leave this insane, alien dimension. Scalera and White use Black Science #1 as a showcase for their storytelling talents and allow Remender to focus on character development and motivations while they handle the bulk of the plot and world building.
Black Science #1’s well-paced plot and beautiful world makes up for Remender’s occasional overuse of caption boxes. These boxes do a great job of revealing the reasons behind Grant running for his life and shed some light on the mystery of the “black science”. However, they sometimes get in the way of the visuals. But this is just one small problem in a technically flawless comic that is part sci-fi thriller, part family drama, and another book to add to the canon of great painted comics.