I don’t know how it happened, but we blinked and ended up suddenly in a new golden age of comic book science fiction. Maybe it has to do with the whole “end times” vibe that’s been creeping into our pop culture consciousness since Terrence McKenna came down off the mountain, bearded, tripping and mad. It also doesn’t hurt when Hollywood sinks a trillion dollars into a movie who’s theme is literally “THIS IS THE LAST YEAR EVER” (*for everyone except John Cusack and Lance Henriksen).
For whatever reason, right now some of the best comic book science fiction in our post millennial ‘verse (hey firefly is reuniting, I can bust out the browncoat slang) is coming out right now. More importantly than that, it’s being done by the independents. While the big 2 scream hollow nonsense about marketing gimmicks disguised as story ideas the independents are killing it, as far as fun, enjoyable, smart, interesting and more importantly, different science fiction comics are concerned. Image is enjoying the BKV one-two punch of critical/commercial success as Saga #1 enters it’s 36th printing (guesstimate based on wild speculation and gross, emotional fandom) but over at BOOM they are quietly bringing a real science fiction renaissance through the work of writers Humphries, Spurrier and as of this week Abnett & Lanning.
The Hypernaturals is the book I’m talking about and if you didn’t buy it on Wednesday, then take your money and shame over to ebay because this is a book that you want to be getting in on the ground floor with. Hypernaturals feels like the culmination of so many different tried and true sci-fi and superhero comic themes, but doesn’t at all feel stale, tired or uninspired. Instead, it’s a marriage of Legion-esque space heroes meeting Milligan’s superheroes-as-celebrities of X-Force with a dash of Morrison infused space opera but all diced and chopped and stewed in a pot by master chefs Abnett & Lanning, who balance the whole wild ride out with their absolute mastery of character, pacing and heady UK scifi sensibilities.
It takes place in a future so far away that our conventional time keeping methods are irrelevant and gone, for it’s the year 100 AQ as we’re told straight away via a computer interface that was prescient when Grant did it in Invisibles Vol. III over a decade ago but now resembles the wizarding square of future science most of us carry in our pockets. We quickly learn that this future world is a lot like our world, there is still celebrity gossip, sports scores, weather and business news. What we’re lacking however are Hypernaturals, groups of super powered individuals who coincidentally enough have been gathering for five year stints on said team ever since the singularity 100 years ago (A for ANNO and Q for Quantinuum, the new godlike computer that controls EVERYTHING) (seriously, everything).
The story begins with the newest team of Hypernaturals disappearing, along with, as we soon come to find out, a fairly scary chunk of a population. We move back and forth between the Hypernaturals team of seven years ago and present (future) day, getting glimpses of an enormous battle with one of the most instantly likeable/hateable villains in recent comic history, Sublime who is so smart he can’t talk without smoke filling his space suit. (Because he’s on fire? Like, “Look out! I’m so smart, I’m on fire!”. It works. Trust me.)
The story has all it’s hooks out, like Dustin Hoffman cutting class to watch I Know What You Did Last Summer, THAT many hooks. We know that the Hypernaturals beat Sublime seven years ago, but if that’s true, then why is his enormous fingerprint LITERALLY etched into the side of a planet. What happened to the 21st Hypernaturals team? All the classic story start stops are pulled out, we’ve got a fallen, washed up hero in Hatch Gorman (a character with a name so Philip K. Dickian I wouldn’t be surprised if he wakes up to discover he’s not real or that the Nazis won) who’s the ex-lover of current Hypernaturals media liaison, ex-Hypernatural herself, Bewilder (who is involved in a relationship with the current, years younger head of the team for an extra layer of love triangle drama and tension). There’s Thinkwell, who most resembles the so-passe-they-have-to-be-
On top of all this, we have a book with zero ads (until the back and they’re just promos for other BOOM goodness) and lots of fun extras, like an interview with Bewilder and recruitment ads for the team itself. It’s a $3.99 book but it’s well, well worth it. You as a comic reader have a remarkable opportunity to get with a great book that’s just warming up and if you like that, don’t forget to check out Spurrier’s “Extermination” and Humphries’ “Higher Earth” for more BOOM Sci-Fi perfection and fun.