Will You Live To See The "Dawn Of The Gearheads"?

 I didn’t really know how I felt the first time I finished reading the first issue of Scott Morse’s new IDW series Strange Science Fantasy, only that I’d liked it a lot. A second read-through convinced me that I loved it. It feels less like a comic than a piece of unique art that just happens to be in the form of a comic book, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious or off-putting. I’m not saying it’s for everybody—I can almost imagine that, had I been in a different mood when I read it, I might not have cared for it at all—but it most definitely felt like something deeply felt and weirdly personal that had been successfully married to a particular pop sensibility. If that’s not art, then I’m not sure that I know what art is.


The first issue of this six-part mini reads like Rebel Without a Cause meets The Road Warrior, as directed by a coked-up Ralph Bakshi and then adapted into an E.C. science fiction comic. In a dystopian drag-racing-obsessed world, a mortally injured gearhead is reborn as The Headlight, an inspiring figure and leader of hot-rodders whose face has been replaced with a helmeted porthole of blazing light. The Headlight and his followers seek to smash the old order and create a new society, enlisting the aid of some technologically tricked-out animals like the “V-Eighp”. Hints of a larger metaphor appear, then are dismissed just as quickly—a guy dressed like a superhero is run down at one point, and The Headlight deals some righteous justice to “the fat cats, those who dined on the muscles of the dreamers”. These blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em asides linger in your consciousness just enough to give the reader a taste of the artist’s own ideas about this stuff, without hanging around long enough to belabor the point.


And the art! Oh man, this is one crazy-looking, gorgeous book. Morse’s animation background informs every panel of this book, from the rubbery forms of both the gearheads and their hot rods, to the shocking vibrancy of the colour scheme. There’s even a one-page strip by Paul Pope! On both a narrative level and a visual level, Strange Science Fantasy is a comic that you experience more than you read. You can’t really sit and think about the story or the characters, because, well, there sort of aren’t any. It’s more like listening to a really great song with totally bizarre lyrics, that you then listen to a few more times trying to figure out just what the hell the songwriter is trying to say. You just don’t know why, but you just know you like it. Or you don’t, as the case may be. Like I said at the top, it’s not for everybody, but it was kind of just what I needed at just the right time, I guess. Does that make sense?