Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Arpad Okay. It’s elusive, like the rock stars it contains. Four men break out onto the scene, shake the pillars of the world, and then disappear just like this book did. It took 2 years for 6 issues to come out and it’s been on hiatus since 2013. This year Nowhere Men is back, and revisiting the first volume has only rekindled my passion for the series. “Fates Worse Than Death” is an utterly singular comic book. Nowhere Men is proof some things are worth the wait.
Eric Stephenson’s story is about a team of scientists fractured by time. Once they were the name on everyone’s lips, the big-time innovators, only now their projects are on the brink of collapse. Of course, super-genius science experiments do not quietly disappear. They fuel a gradual shift in the book, from industrial espionage to scientist superheroes. A tights book with a dynamite angle: What if super powers were contagious? So the book ends up being about two teams, really. The four friends at the heart of the World Corp. company, the Beatles of science. And the Away Team, infected with a lynchpin World Corp. secret by mistake. There are easily a dozen characters in Nowhere Men, and tracking them all is effortless because each one is unique and fully formed. Even when they are eight feet tall and magenta, they are written with real humanity.
Nowhere Men is a folio, a case file, collecting all the evidence and arranging it to show how all the pieces fit, to reveal the inexorable trajectory of fate. The story is told in short bursts, featuring each team interspersed with magazine article interviews and book excerpts and advertisements for World Corp. products. But a poster for a movie about one of the World Corp. founders starring Michael Caine and directed by Stanley Kubrick tells you things about their fame that exposition cannot. Pop culture references are buried throughout, from Akira to XTC, with (much to my delight) many pieces of the puzzle hidden in seemingly casual asides.
If the boys are the Beatles, then the book on the whole is Apple Corps Ltd. An artist’s eye applied to production as well as product. It has an astounding amount of detail paired with a zen attitude towards preserving empty space. The art of Nate Bellegarde is clean, crisp, distinct, direct. A balance well struck between busy and clear, a less cluttered Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot (replete with lab geeks and unlikely monsters). Everyone is gaunt and angular, textured faces with lively eyes. Nigel is Nowhere Men‘s approach to a robot, and while he is closer to Asimo than anything as atomic as the Big Guy, the book could not work without his little contribution.
The survivors of the World Corp. collapse find themselves, not at an end, but a precipice; their weird tale poised to become much, much stranger. “It’s the oldest story in the universe, when you think about it: There’s a big explosion and then things really start to happen.” The intermission before the second act has lasted several years and I am dizzy with anticipation. Nowhere Men in 2016 will be illustrated by Dave Taylor instead of Bellegarde, which just goes to show what a singular comic the first volume is. Science is the new rock ‘n’ roll, and “Fates Worse Than Death” its debut album, unrepeatable, destined for cult status.
Ask for “Fates Worse Than Death” at your local retailer, or purchase it online.