The final act in the first arc of Rick Remender’s Black Science continues to thrill with wildly inventive hodge-podge realities and a more pinpointed take on the established narrative style than was seen in the previous two volumes. As volume two concluded, we were made privy to the fact that Grant McKay was in fact alive, despite having been led to believe he had perished beneath the crushing weight of clockwork machinery. And smartly, this third volume makes an early objective of explaining just how the scientist, pioneer, and previously deadbeat dad cheated death. The explanation is brief, yet befitting the tale that has been woven through the previous installments, and simultaneously provides some concrete footing for the answers that are revealed before this third volume’s climactic finale.
If there is one theme that rings constant through volume three, dubbed Vanishing Pattern, it is a story of redemption – specifically, the redemption of Grant McKay in the eyes of his children and unlikely comrades. There are still misunderstandings among the exploration team, and selfish actions that lead to physical confrontations. But the emergence of a father who actually cares about his children and the chance to see them reach home safely is a rewarding payoff having understood Grant to have previously been a cheater, a liar, and a workaholic who was absent for the majority of his children’s formative years. It may not a complete hero’s journey, but it is refreshing to see him act the part of a decent human being, not only taking responsibility for his poor judgment in the past, but also taking the role of leader more seriously.
Meanwhile, Grant’s children appear to have a greater stake in the story as a result of their placing faith in their father. While Nate received a healthy amount of time in the spotlight during Black Science’s second volume, his elder sister Pia takes center stage for a couple of chapters in this third volume, standing up to a couple of key characters who would dare to try and tell her to sit back and let the adults make decisions on her behalf. While it is true that the cast has been thinned a decent amount since Black Science’s first chapter, the dynamics played off among the current band of misfits feels the most natural and manageable yet. Grant still does not trust Kadir, and Kadir may not be out to prove himself a hero to anyone, but it is that very uneasiness between the two most action-oriented males of the party that makes their relationship so perfect.
Vanishing Pattern sees the party visit but one lone world, whose situation is worse than ever. In this reality, the counterparts to Grant, Shawn, Rebecca, and the other cast members concocted some form of virus that spread across the planet – a planet where Roman Praetorians make use of jetpacks, wrist-bound flamethrowers, and other space-age tech in their quest to punish those who allied themselves with the scientists who damned their world. As is the case with nearly every encounter made across the various planes of reality the main cast has made, the initial run-in with these royal warriors turns violent quickly, and they slowly but surely begin to unravel the mysteries of what went so horribly wrong in this world, while simultaneously deducing the pattern of events that has led them to this place and time.
As random as the Pillar’s jumps appeared to have been, there is, in fact, a pattern that is revealed, as well as an intended vector. Volume three does not answer all of Black Science’s lingering questions, but it does clear up a few key mysteries prevalent during this first act. The art style is, once again, superb throughout, with terrifyingly gorgeous decayed cityscapes splashed across full pages, and the high-flying action of jetpack chases expressed with incredible intensity. The oranges and reds of blood and fire clash violently against the dull and darkened interior of this world’s facilities, wonderfully symbolic of the death and destruction that has been wrought upon this reality, as well as how starkly out of place the exploration team is as strangers in yet another strange land. The finale is, yet again, a cliffhanger – one that excels in shock and horror, yet feels a very appropriate tail-end to this more intensely-focused portion of Black Science’s grander narrative.
My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)