So, yeah. This book’s all about the science.
Not, like… real science, mind you. In fact, we’re not even talking about realistically-speculative near-future science. No, this book is really more about the kind of science that funnybooks do better than just about any other medium. It’s about MAD science.
Oh, it’s handled pretty realistically. There’s a horrible lab mishap leading to a boardroom meltdown, and a think-tank infected with a mysterious virus that leaves them stranded under quarantine. There’s even a couple of magazine-style prose sections that fill in background on the characters and the world around them. The art is pretty grounded in reality, as well, and the characters all talk and behave like real people. But at the end of the day, you’ve still got a mutated gorilla running around killing dudes in jumpsuits.
If you want to know what the story’s really about, I’m not sure I can tell you just yet. This first issue is divided (neatly, and right down the middle) between what appear to be two separate narratives. First we’re introduced to, essentially, the Beatles of science. We meet them as young men, at the start of their joint careers, then flash forward to the bitterness and division that haunt them years later. Their precise goals are left undefined, but there’s a definite sense that something’s gone wrong.
Then we jump to the afore-mentioned quarantined think-tank, and their predicament as the unknown virus does its work, causing strange transformations in some, but leaving others with simple flu-like symptoms. Their connection to the Science-Beatles is not entirely clear. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to treat the two separate narratives as one story, or two.
But either way, I liked this comic a great deal. Writer Eric Stephenson is the publisher at Image Comics, and much of what I’ve liked in so many of that company’s recent releases is also on display here. His writing is crisp and lucid, with dialogue that never seems forced. Nothing is over-explained, and he lets Nate Bellegarde’s artwork carry much of the storytelling load. Bellegarde is quite the find, as well, I think. His work still has a few rough edges, but for the most part it’s a clean, realistic style that’s just as adept at the big MAD SCIENCE scenes as it is the smaller character stuff:
Another nice aspect of this issue is its graphic design, credited to the lettering/design house Fonografiks. This is not something we see that much of in comics, which makes it all the more striking when somebody does it well. And Fonografiks has done it very well on Nowhere Men. They handled the magazine pages inside, as well as providing some very striking full-page graphics that seem to serve as title pages for the issue’s two stories. That front cover up above is a nice example of their work. I like the stark whites juxtaposed with the bright colors, and that logo has a very clean, very contemporary feel, too. Maybe even better, though, is the back cover:
It follows the same scheme as the front, but is even weirder. The blank faces are such a nice touch.
It’s worth noting that all the issue’s credits, as well as the price, barcode, and indicia, are attractively arranged under the above image, leaving the interior of the comic completely free of anything that’s not part of the story. This serves to make the issue a more immersive experience, though I suppose it also isolates the fiction in some ways, adding to whatever confusion I might have over what the story’s about in the specific.
Ultimately, though, I don’t know that the specifics matter all that much. I think that maybe the first ads for Nowhere Men say everything you really need to know: