Some comics seem to be nothing but clichés. A strong male hero puts on a costume and fights evil blah blah blah -- we've all seen it a million times. The very description of a comic like that is so boring I sometimes fall asleep as the book is being described.
Other comics almost seem to explode with ideas. They seem to overflow with interesting concepts and thoughtful settings. They seem the product of hard work, creating a fully-realized world that excites rather than bores; a comic that forces the reader to pay attention and rewards the reader for that attention.
You guessed it. I'm describing First Law of Mad Science #1.
Sometime in the future, a genius scientist named George Baker is known as the greatest inventor of his age. I'd call Baker a Thomas Edison type, but as anyone who reads RASL knows, that's not necessarily a flattering comparison. Baker has the sort of reputation that Edison had in his day, though, and his newest and greatest invention is revealed in the early pages of this comic.
Baker has invented cyber-eyes, "retinal implants which allow the user to experience the world in a completely new way. With the ability to see beyond the visual spectrum, to zoom, and even to record," as Baker describes them.
There's just one problem that becomes obvious after a year of the eyes being on the market: they allow owners to see something odd and weird and inexplicable; some kind of oozing gelatinous thing that seems to have thoroughly nefarious intent.
But the eyes are just one small part of the story. I was fascinated by Baker's robot daughter R.A.I.Ch.E.L., who seems to act like a normal human teenager but who looks like a robot. We're given no hint of what her story is, and that's somehow very satisfying. It makes sense for a man like Baker to create a creature like her, and that's all I really feel like I need to know.
I was also fascinated by the strong family feel of this book –though the family is unusual even for comics. Baker's wife Emma seems to be a bit of an explorer, a female Indiana Jones as the writers describe her, fully the equal of her husband. And their son Hank, a normal human kid, has a strange glowing hand and some very strange problems.
There's lots of other stuff going on here -- some spelunking, maybe some corporate espionage, and a whole lot of interesting science. But this comic never seems cluttered. Writers Mike Isenberg and Oliver Mertz keep the story focused on the key events and do a fine job of populating the periphery of our vision with other storylines. That's an uncommon skill for a small press comic, and it's awesome to see.
Daniel Lapham's art is also really impressive, small press or not. He's called on to present large vistas and small human emotions, and succeeds at presenting both. His art casually invokes the future while keeping its attention focused on normal people.
I gotta admit, when I saw the strange title of this comic and leafed through it quickly, I didn't expect much from First Law of Mad Science. But once I started reading it, I really got excited by the thoughtfulness and cleverness of the vision on display in this comic.
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