Review of Black Science, Vol. 6: Forbidden Realms and Hidden Truths
When a tracking device goes off, Pia escapes from Kadir’s watch to go to Hong Kong, hoping her father has returned to this dimension with her brother. What she finds are the Zirites, parasitic gaseous creatures last seen in issue 16, preparing to infect Hong Kong and then the whole planet. She is discovered and saved by the timely intervention of Nate, her brother now grown, and his associated Legion of Ethical Champions, including Shawn. They managed to escape to another dimension as the Zirite onslaught begins.
Facing a global calamite, Kadir and Block are forced to confess of their rapacious use of the Pillar along with admitting they essentially stole it from Grant McKay. Kadir flails, trying to find a way to defend against the sort of extra-dimensional invasion he always feared while Block, vile and self-serving as always, plans on using the Pillar to relocate to another dimension where he can restart his greedy conquests. Grant manages to escape from confinement, but he doesn’t get far before the Dralns also arrive, ready to liberate everyone from the pain and injustice of life. As he searches for a way to contain them, Har’logh the Defiler, whom Block kept prisoner, breaks free, ready to spread plague and devastation across the universe.
In the allegedly safe dimension of the Legion of Ethical Champions, the weapon they constructed to destroy the Zirites doesn’t get used because Doxta arrives, demanding satisfaction of her bargains. When the Legion fights her, they find themselves outmatched as she uses their own powers against them to the point of endangering their whole dimension. She gives them a choice to bargain for their lives or perish, but Pia makes a different choice, stealing back the book that contains her father’s knowledge of Black Science and using it. The one thing she’s wanted was to not be like her father, but now she is the inheritor of his damaged genius.
Legion of Ethical Champions
This volume is filled with action. Chases through the subways of Hong Kong, escaping from a mental hospital while pursued by Zirites, interdimensional warfare in the streets of San Francisco, and Doxta single-handedly imperiling billions of people give a massive scope to the sense of danger and the stakes involved with the events. There are some quite moments interspersed throughout, like Pia and Nate reconnecting or Shawn’s lament about how much damage using the Pillar has done (issue 28). Such moments, though, are far fewer than they have been in previous issues, replaced by cataclysmic action at nearly every turn.
A concern undergirding much of this volume is how difficult it is to know the consequences of any action. As Shawn points out, they only had the best of intentions when developing the Pillar, but it seems to have produced unfathomable harm across multiple dimensions (issue 28). It is ironic that these destructive ripples are exactly what Kadir feared would happen, yet he appears to be one of the few who has profited from the Pillar’s use (issue 6). Block thought to drain other dimensions of their resources for personal profit, blind to how his own efforts could annihilate the one thing he valued most, himself (issue 30). This undercurrent, which has been in Black Science all along, is a questioning of consequentialist ethics because how can the rightness of any action be judged by its ends if it is almost impossible to know what ends will arise from any action?
Another interesting component given more overt attention in this volume is how Black Science sets out deconstructing tropes. All the business of the Legion of Ethical Champions is a homage to and subversion of Golden Age super hero comics (issue 27-8). When Nate says, “I’m a super-hero,” it sounds more ridiculous and implausible than the dimension-travelling, body snatching, gaseous creatures they just fought (issue 27). Even the tone, art, and text dealing with the Legion in their home dimension are throwbacks to classical comic book styling. All of this comes to and end, though, with Doxta, who is a post-modern spin on an even older trope: the bargain-making hag, like Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore. While Black Science takes inspiration from older comics and science-fiction stories, it exists in a much more grim and contemporary mindset.
A World Unmade
The sixth volume of Black Science does a lot to increase the tension and put the characters in jeopardy. With so many threats being drawn together, it reasonable for the audience to think it’s nearing a climax of the series. What remains to be seen is where Black Science will go from here.
Remender, Rick; Scalera, Matteo. Black Science, Vol. 6: Forbidden Realms and Hidden Truths. Image, 2017.
© 2017 Seth Tomko