Hours after reading Black Science #43, my mind kept ruminating on the closing chapter of what I consider Rick Remender’s most exceptional work to date. This issue is the culmination of years of storytelling, forcing readers to reflect on the theme, plot, and moral implications long after turning the final page, and we’re all the better for it. Remender’s Black Science is further proof of the author’s abilities as a master storyteller. In concert with Matteo Scalera’s art — a genuine feast for the eyes — Black Science #43 is easily one of the best single issues (and series) of 2019. Whether you consider yourself a fan-focused on the “Big Two” or live in a world of independent publishing, this issue will elicit a genuine emotional response. Black Science is a remarkable mix of edgy narrative, captivating visuals, and ethical quandaries that form one of the best collective works in recent memory.
“No Authority But Yourself” is the conclusion of Grant McKay’s personal story, with the very fabric of existence hinging on his next decision. The self-proclaimed “scientific anarchist” has seen it all, literally; past, present, future, boundless multiverses of reality and more, but one final choice remains. Grant’s adventure began with a simple premise: save the world. However, his yearning brought about the destruction of every world but one. A world where seemingly his every desire has come to fruition: his parents are alive, his children are safe, and his marriage is stronger than ever. Yet to Grant, this world echoes with fallaciousness, it must be saved from Kadir. In trying to save this last remaining world, Grant may have doomed it.
The issue kicks off with a deafening silence. The first six pages of issue #43 resonate with a cinematic quality. Every panel is like a craftily selected shot in a movie meant to pull at the audience’s heartstrings. Not a word of dialogue is spoken during this time, but the emotional weight of the scene speaks volumes. Grant appears to be on the fringes of mental collapse, contemplating suicide. The moment was a dark reflection of his when his father took his own life. Fans privy to the escapades of the “dimensionauts” throughout 43 issues will have more than enough context to empathize with Grant.
Grant McKay is motivated by altruistic intentions; a nearly unquenchable desire to correct the injustice he sees in the world. The pillar project was meant to right the wrongs so rife in the world surrounding him. Grant sets out to save the world, but underneath the visage of selflessness lies a selfish pursuit of scientific admiration. Despite his best intentions, Grant’s actions have led to inadvertent turmoil, with his family in the crosshairs. Is Grant’s family better off without him? Will taking his own life save countless worlds from his deeds? Or is he only looking for a way out? Grant McKay is a shining example of how a three-dimensional character should be written. He has his strengths, most definitely weaknesses, and is utterly relatable on multiple levels. We commiserate with Grant during this pivotal moment and sigh a breath of relief as he makes a choice to strive forward.
A reoccurring theme in Black Science is the daughter theory (or perhaps multiple universes). In scientific circles, the theory suggests that for every outcome that could come from one of your decisions, there would be a range of universes — each of which saw one result come to be. An infinite number of realities where every decision spawns countless worlds, which in themselves generate more worlds, and so on, and so on. Endless possibilities that boggle the mind in both scope and vision. The beginning of the “No Authority But Yourself” arc saw all realities boiled down to one. Yet, if the theory holds true, this one reality is enough to spawn a limitless number of analog worlds, each with its own unique series of events hinging on a decision.
With that in mind, Remender waved his conductor’s wand and used the daughter theory to draw our attention once again to Grant McKay’s moral fork in the road, splitting reality in two once again. The pivotal moment in question finds Grant Mckay holding Khadir at gunpoint. One world has Grant lowering the weapon, putting his family first. The other has Grant accidentally killing Kadir’s wife, thrusting events into a spiral of madness Grant – and his family – can’t recover from. Order (reality 1) and chaos (reality 2). “Every choice we make is a single quantum event, creating an infinite chain of possible dimensions.”
Throughout the issue, readers are jolted between these two realities. The juxtaposition is a robust narrative tool that hammers home how vital Grant’s decisions have been, and by proxy, our decisions as well. Parallel worlds, one where Grant and his family live in harmony, and another, where Grant’s acquiescence ends abruptly, putting his families very lives on the line. For every decision, an action; for every choice, a repercussion.
It’s difficult to accurately provide nuance to the issue without straddling the line of “spoiler territory.” However, what can be said is Black Science #43 (and the series as a whole) has introduced heady themes into its plot, but the focus inevitably returns to the McKay Family. Every character in Black Science is fleshed out and fully formed. As the saga grows increasingly more epic, readers begin to get a full scope of the journey and development of all concerned. A profound sense of realism permeates throughout the book itself. It’s this type of characterization that has us – as a fully committed audience – eagerly waiting to see the McKay family’s fate. Trust me when I say the issue does not disappoint.
Grant’s personal struggle with personal glory vs. his obligations to his wife and children has been the crux of the series. Every new incident in the “chaos” reality brings destruction, anxiety, and ultimately untimely death. The Grant McKay from this world seems to be doomed to repeat his mistakes, a perpetual cycle of wanton destruction like a black hole of anarchy pulling in anyone or anything in its wake. Despite the cynicism, hope remains. Grant was never a bad person per se, just a flawed man getting in his own way. Redemption has always been as much a part of the Black Science story as cosmic witches and psychic millipedes (if you know, you know). With every new volume, readers have the privilege of watching Grant transform from a self-centered hipster into a devoted father and husband. A family man who endures hellish risks to save his shattered family from the many dangers the many worlds have wrought. All the while, bringing a semblance of reparation to their emotional conflict.
In the “chaos Grant” world everything is falling apart, a stark contradiction to what the “order Grant” world presents. Remember that pivotal moment where Grant had Kadir at gunpoint? Here, he put the gun down, not based on cowardice, but for the sake of his family. A clear sign of growth on Grant’s part. Admittedly, it is this same world where Grant considered suicide, but that crucial moment is a part of his road to recovery.
In this world, Grant’s family throws him a not-so-surprising birthday party. The party is a depiction of near perfection, something Grant destroyed in distant reality. This is world Kadir created for him as a “prison” of sorts. In the world of chaos, the conflict was evidently external, but in this place, Grant’s struggle is internal. The McKay family is safe here, but is too perfect? The answer lies in Grant’s outlook.
To say Black Science ends on a happy note would be doing the issue a disservice. The story is ambiguous, more reflective of the reader’s disposition rather than handing readers an abrupt conclusion on a silver platter. Rick Remender provides a more nuanced tale depicting a desperate family becoming progressively aware of the value of morality. A story dissecting how powerful our choices can be, a series of cascading events all stemming from one decision, good or bad.
Black Science #43 checks off all the proverbial boxes and some: incredible line work, perfect shot selection, a flawless pace, but most importantly, a narrative that resonates with fans of any ilk. Black Science‘s offerings of ostentatious sci-fi trappings capture readers’ imaginations, taking us down the rabbit hole of existential possibilities and theoretical scientific promise. But that is just part of what makes Grant McKay’s story so enticing. For all the bombastic fancies of imagination, the story inherently boils down to a granular level, themes that resonate with any of us on a relatable scale. Perceptive readers may even learn a valuable lesson or two from this comic. For all the aforementioned adulation layered on the title sometimes simplicity works best; Black Science is one of the most sensational comics on the shelves today and more than deserving of a read. Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera have crafted a damn fine graphic novel.
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