The last volume of “Black Science” marked a surprising turnaround. Instead of continuing to show how things got worse for its dimension-hopping travelers, things focused entirely on leader Grant McKay’s character and how he finally realized what he’s been doing wrong and how to make it right again. That trend continues in vol. 5 as it heads straight into farce from the get-go. Grant arrives in the fantasy-based dimension his daughter Pia has been living in for the past few years as their savior and proceeds to immediately ruin the peace she has managed to broker between its warring tribes. Things only get worse (and more darkly comic) from there as Grant gets drunk and makes a fool of himself at a royal dinner and then steals the horse of Pia’s fiancee in an effort to find the powerful artifact of a witch in order to make things right again. Parts of this could read as depressing as this series have ever been, but writer Rick Remender and artist Matteo Scalera pitch the tone in just the right way to make it all more fun than you’d expect. So when the time comes for Grant to make an unexpected sacrifice to make things right, the sense of tragedy involved really hits home instead of feeling like another instance of the characters being ground down for the sake of drama.
As good as the first two-and-a-half issues collected in this volume are, the rest find the series reverting to its old tricks and tone once Grant and Pia make a stop in their home dimension. It’s bad enough that Kadir has set up shop with Grant’s wife, but we soon find out that someone else has been waiting for the scientist’s return along with the Pillar. Things only get worse from there and the volume ends on the kind of depressing note that had me thinking about giving up on the series at one point. However, that was the point where Remender and Scalera managed to turn things around and get me involved in “Black Science” again. So they can clearly recognize when things have become too bleak and a re-adjustment of the tone is in order. That’s what I’d like to see when vol. 5 comes around. I know they’re capable of this, it just remains to be seen if they know that they’ve reached this point again.