Alasdair Stuart writes for Bleeding Cool;
Theremin launched this week and continues Monkeybrain‘s tradition of turning out wildly diverse books to a ridiculously high standard. This time around it’s the story of Leon Theremin, or at least a version of him. Theremin, whose storied life is discussed in the back matter of this issue, was the inventor of the most science fiction-y musical instrument in human history. Played by moving your hands around two antennae, it’s the sound of every slightly rubbish UFO from the ’50s upwards. Here’s Theremin playing one and here are four things about the book.
1.The name’s Theremin, Leon Theremin.
I don’t normally subscribe to the ‘judge a book by it’s cover’ school of thought but this is wonderful. Look at the skewed angle, the science fun, the theremin, Moscow, the airship. This cover just screams ‘Spy fi adventure is GO! Anything can happen in the next 24 pages!‘. Then there’s Theremin himself, one part Bond, one part David Niven, one part that other famous time-traveling scientist. Apparently he wears a bow-tie too. Turns out they’re cool now.
2.The End Is The Beginning Is The End
This is how we first meet Theremin. Well dressed, urbane, unflappable, murder in his heart and a science fiction gun in his hand. The murder’s presented without context and the questions just pile up the more you think about it; what did Lenin do? Was Theremin driven to murder? Why does Lenin accept his fate? Where did Theremin get the gun? This is the end of a story, but how did we get here?
3.Jumping Out Of The Page
Curt Pires‘ script pulls off a couple of really smart structural tricks and this is one of them. That top, monochrome image is actually a panel from a previous page, with Theremin leaping out of it as he makes his time jump, using the comic pages to represent his universe and the Red to represent the space between. It’s . It’s not entirely new ground, JH Williams III has played with this a fair bit and Warren Ellis has written about just how bendy time in comics is, but it’s really, really clever and very smartly executed. Top marks as well to Dalton Rose for the artistic gymnastics and Ryan Ferrier for some very subtle, effective lettering.
4.The Moscow Projects
With the second volume of The Manhattan Projects out this week, it’s really nice to see the ‘government mad science projects have unforeseen consequences’ trope digging in. Theremin’s a more grounded work than Manhattan Projects so far. Interestingly, the time traveling Theremin isn’t the first weird thing in this version of the world. After all, as you’ll see in the issue the gentleman giving the speech has some very unusual head gear and Lenin’s playing with something that looks a lot like Theremin’s science fiction gun when we meet him for the ‘first’ time. Science is feral in this world and Theremin’s time machine looks to be just the latest in a string of advances. Although it is the coolest sounding…