Writer/Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Plot: In this concluding chapter of the four-part mini-series, Bobby Hennigan, the human transformed by alien nanites into the deranged but all-powerful Singularity, finally meets the alien Masters whose plans for the now-devastated Earth are finally revealed. With the remnants of humanity forced underground by the hostile nanites filling the air, the small group of humans (known as the Specials) who are immune to their effects, are the last, slim hope against total extinction. Their quest to go to the dead city, and infect the nanite system with a virus, comes to an end.
Comments: Ben Templesmith is, along with David Mack (Kabuki), among the most innovative artists working in the popular comics medium. Templesmith draws upon and synthesizes the work of such multimedia artists as Ashley Wood (Lore) and Dave McKean (Arkham Asylum) to form a style very much his own. His use of abstractions and rough sketches in conjunction with touches of photos (or at least of photorealistic drawings) is what propelled Steve Niles’ fairly standard vampire story in the three Thirty Days of Night series to great heights of atmospheric horror. While Templesmith did some writing prior to his success on Thirty Days, many have hailed Singularity 7 as Templesmith’s writing debut.
The cover to Singularity 7 #4 captures one of the strongest effects in Templesmith’s arsenal: a hand-drawn face disintegrates into a glaring yellow flame that hits the eye with such intensity that one suspects for a moment that there must be a battery-operated light implanted between the plies of the sturdy cardstock all IDW books sport. When seen in contrast to the rough gray field that provides the ground of most of Templesmith’s panels, this inventive use of light reveals itself as a narrative technique rather than just a flashy trick. The opposition of light and dark in the art tells the story. In this issue, the journey leading to the meeting of the Specials, the rogue Gosiodo Devik, the Singularity, and the Masters is marked by alternating light and dark groups of panels. The Singularity is always bathed in a warm, feverish glow, while the Specials and Devik inhabit a cold, gray chill reminiscent of the snow flurries of Barrow, Alaska, in Thirty Days of Night. These panels alternate with increasing frequency throughout the book, until the final four pages, two of which are blinding yellow, and two of which are slate gray. The final disposition of the colors provides a visual resolution to the story’s conclusion, in which the Masters arrive and a four way confrontation seals the Earth’s fate.
Unfortunately, less can be said for the quality of the story itself. The plot is boilerplate sci-fi, deeply indebted to the Wachowski brothers (the cover of issue #3 even displays a mass of black and red robotic tentacles familiar to anyone who has seen The Matrix). This seemed less of a problem after the brilliantly executed setup in the first issue. The valiant struggle of humankind against malevolent mechanical entities is certainly a story that speaks to our fears, and one that can be approached from a number of interesting angles (as it is in The Matrix). However, Templesmith’s characters don’t have enough definition—outside of their deftly rendered appearance—to inject the story with emotional depth. Were the Specials a group readers already knew from previous adventures, Templesmith could get away with the short-hand development. As it stands, it’s difficult to feel the drama of their situation in more than a vague way.
This is not to say that the series has not been well worth buying. Regardless of certain weaknesses in story telling, the tale spun by the art alone is quite stirring. The rendering of the singularly hideous Singularity is something this reviewer will likely see in his nightmares for some time. Templesmith has said in interviews that he wishes to be “complete creator” on more of his projects. Having more space to stretch out and develop compelling characters, as David Mack has done with Kabuki, would benefit this endeavor. Hopefully we can look forward to watching Ben Templesmith develop as both a great artist and a great writer.
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