BLACK SCIENCE has boasted a clever, engaging plot since the beginning, but this issue is immersive and intriguing even before the story advances. Matteo Scalera's opening-page aliens -- sporting beer guts and briefcases -- make a foreign world seem familiar, as does the matter-of-course dialogue that passes between them before we're pulled back into human affairs. They're not special on their own (we can't particularly expect to see them again, what with all the eververse-traversal going on), but they're part of a fantastic series of contrasts between aliens who do normal, mundane things and humans who act recklessly and jet around dimensions.
In fact, all of the non-human characters in this issue are engaged in everyday activities like shopping or working; they only interrupt these tasks to react to the disruptive actions of the Anarchist League. Scalera does a spectacular job of making these exotic-looking creatures seem peaceful and boring, just as he delivers charged-up, erratic humans in the form of the central cast.
Remender is a master at tension-building -- the sabotage and subsequent race to repair the Pillar, the sacrifices already made, the mistrust sown within the team -- every beat is designed to add to the growing sense of unrest. And when the duplicates appear? It's half payoff, half twist of the knife. The mistrust, the sacrifices -- they're turned on their heads, and a wholly new kind of tension emerges.
The one thing that I find distracting from an otherwise engrossing read is the jargon devised by the team. "Eververse" sounds overly whimsical for a dramatic sci-fi series, and it joins "dimensionaut" on the list of words that are a bit too cute for a band of scientists who brand themselves "anarchists." (Both terms would feel authentic coming from Nathan or Pia, but are on the odd side when uttered by Grant.)
BLACK SCIENCE has a structure that feels like an addictive tv drama; it's peppered with flashbacks that deliver context at just the right time, but the story drives ever forward, even as fragmented dimensional paths give the middle finger to linear narrative. The characters, too, buck linear, one-dimensional arcs, and their emotional states are as complex as their paths through the eververse. Everyone lies, everyone reacts, and sabotage is just a symptom of the journey's tumult. Interpersonal drama is at the core of this book, even if it's branded as sci-fi adventure, and that's what makes BLACK SCIENCE such a compelling read.