Short Cuts 35: Black Science Vol. 6 – Forbidden Realms and Hidden Truths; Black Science, Vol. 7 – Extinction Is the Rule; Paper Girls Volume 4; Extremity Vol. 2 – Warrior; Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 4 – The Mask of Night

Black Science Vol. 6: Forbidden Realms and Hidden Truths
Rick Remender, writer; Matteo Scalera, artist; Moreno Dinisio, colors
Image Comics, 2017

This should be a happy reunion story, as the McKay family members all return to their home dimension. But it’s a fractured family: Sara is now married to Kadir; Pia is with them, but hates Kadir. An alarm alerts her to the possible presence of her brother Nate–but before she meets him she encounters a nest of alien invaders. Long story short: their Earth is being invaded by not one, but three alien predators: the Zirites (a sentient gas that takes over their hosts); the Dralns (a death cult out to extinguish all life); and Har’Logh the Defiler (who looks like a Muppet, but makes colorful, obscene threats); not to mention Doxta, the Witch of the Withering  Woods (the one who took Grant’s intellect in trade to save Pia). There are also quasi-superhero teams The Anarchist League of Scientists and The Legion of Ethical Champions.

Black Science, Vol. 7: Extinction Is the Rule
Rick Remender, writer; Matteo Scalera, artist; Moreno Dinisio, colors
Image Comics, 2018

With all of the series I’m trying to keep up with it was bound to happen sooner or later: I actually read Vol. 7 before realizing I hadn’t read Vol. 6 yet. So I revisited it after Vol. 6, and I’m pleased to report that although the series has become increasingly trippy and complex, it is still somewhat linear. This volume begins with Grant reconnecting with his father (plus childhood scenes with his brother Brian), in a series of bucolic scenes that provide a quiet relief to the frenetic action of the main story all through this arc. No world has survived an invasion by even one of the alien races that showed up in the previous volume–so things don’t look promising. Kadir is trying to fix this world in time and space (where he is the hero and has Sara) by moving it out of the Eververse into the Neververse–outside the dimensions which the Pillar has revealed. Grant wants to stop him (with the aid of Pia, who has reclaimed the intellect he gave up), and Chandra comes back into the picture to oppose him. In the dramatic conclusion, it appears that Kadir has succeeded. Talk about a cliffhanger!

Paper Girls Volume 4
Brian K. Vaughan, writer; Cliff Chiang, artist; Matt Wilson, colors; Jared K. Fletcher, letters
Image Comics, 2018

It’s Y2K! Head for the hills! The craziness that Tiffany dropped in to on New Year’s Eve ,Cliff Chiang2000 in the previous volume just keeps ramping up in this arc. There’s a war between two factions from the future–with giant robots–but most people can’t see that. They see all the worst predictions coming true about computer systems failing, power outages, etc. Vaughan has fun with that by quoting a different actual Y2K prediction from 1999 at the beginning of each issue. The girls meet the cartoonist who has been leaving secret messages in her comic strip. She’s not a time traveler, but met one years ago. She tells the girls abut The Battle of the Ages, which pits the old-timers (who want to prevent any interference with past events) against the young rebels (who want to fix problems in the past to make life better). This finally explains most of what the girls have been going through, although it doesn’t necessarily tell them how to return to their own time. Oh, and Tiffany meets her future self (and her future husband). At the conclusion they revive a fallen robot and escape…to what looks like far into the future.

Extremity Vol. 2: Warrior
Daniel Warren Johnson, creator/writer/artist; Mike Spicer, colorist
Image Comics, 2018

The war between the Paznina and Roto continues, and both sides are driven to desperate measures. Thea and Rollo stumble across a group called the Essene, pacifists with members from both clans. They maintain an extensive collection of ancient technology, a big draw for Rollo. He organizes an excursion to find another battery to power his friend SHILOH, the battle robot. Rebooting the robot winds up not being the boon he expected, as the mysterious beacon–the function was unknown, but the Roto were convinced it would be world-changing–turns SHILOH into a gigantic engine of destruction. After a massive battle, Thea (the Artist of the first volume’s title), abandons her Warrior status to become a Peacemaker. The conclusion is bittersweet at best: there is considerable loss, and it seems unclear if anything has really changed, which was disappointing. I was again struck by the Paul Pope similarities in the art. One element is the use of actions as sound effects, e.g. “Toss” and “Grab!” One of the two-page splashes used a vertical format, which is unusual.

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 4: The Mask of Night
Created and written by Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col; Art by Andy Belanger
IDW Publishing, 2014

It’s been awhile since I read Vol. 3 of this, so I had to refresh my memory a bit before diving into this (in e-comic form, probably part of a Humble Bundle). The previous arc ended with several characters on a boat escaping from Prospero’s island after his defeat by Shakespeare. The one is a pirate story: Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, and Shakespeare are prisoners of the legendary masked pirate Captain Cessario and his first mate Viola. They become pawns in a deal with the new terror on the water, Titus Andronicus’ forbidding war ship The Lavinia (captain Young Lucius is an actual cannibal as well, for an added note of horror). A good pirate story is fun, and there is some real character growth as well. But it felt like Vol. 3 was the climax of the series, and this was an unnecessary Afterward.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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