I wanted to change things up for this next Filling Up The Corners. In fact, I mentioned turning this column into something more varied in my New Year’s post. Well, here it is. Comics have been popular for quite some time, for those non-rock dwelling people who wind up watching a Marvel movie or two each and every year… we all know this. Personally, I enjoy watching the movies, but don’t feel encouraged to jump into the sprawling storylines spanning months or even years in comic book form. A friend introduced me to more “contained” stories, and in my journeys I have come across a storyteller I think everyone should experience at least once. That person is Rick Remender.
I’m not in the know when it comes to comics, so I can’t claim to be a Rick Remender Expert. So, in preparation of this article, I did what anyone would do in 2017 and googled him. I knew of him in my own little nerd bubble, but nothing else. If you check out his wikipedia page, you will see that Remender has worked for a variety of comic publishers. He has an extensive list of Marvel credits, with X-men standing out, and has worked quite frequently (and equally so) with Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics. My experience with Remender has been with his Image work, as the stories they publish are, perhaps, my favorite.
I had been reading a couple Rick Remender stories for awhile, but hadn’t considered myself a fan of his yet. I enjoyed his work, but it was mostly a coincidence than a driving force in my choosing a comic. An employee at an FLGS near me, Alternate Worlds, recommended Low after I inquired about it (I was intrigued my the art on the cover). Reading the forward, I got a decent idea on what I was going to read. In it, Remender details how, when he was growing up (perhaps too young to have this idea) he learned that the sun would one day grow into a massive fireball and wipe out life as we know it. It hit him hard, and he had a “holy shit… that’s deep” moment. It was that feeling that prompted him to write Low.
Prepare yourself for a rapid fire overview of sorts as I quickly cover Low and Remender’s other work published by Image Comics – the subject material might explain the kind of tales Remender weaves. Low is set in the far distant future. For some reason or another, the temperature of the world grew inhospitable for humans and so we went underwater, away from the sun and buying some time while we find a solution. What solution is that? Fire a bajillion probes into outer-space until one finds a suitable world to colonize. It’s been a hilarious amount of years, so much so that the days of humans living above land are seen as legend to everyone. Not only does Remender cover all that in a narrative sense, he also uses this setting to handle aspects of holding onto hope (whether too much or too little is detrimental), free speech, the importance of family, and more.
Moving on, there is Black Science, which I picked up essentially around the same time as I did Low. In Black Science, a team of er… scientists, have finally done it! In a sci-fi nerd’s dream come true, Grant McKay and his team have solved the mystery of multiple dimensions and have developed a machine that can jump to an infinite number of worlds with the intent of finding cures to previously incurable diseases and resources to answer the demands of a growing human population, and that’s just thinking inside the box. As you can guess, things don’t go so well, and Grant and his team find themselves stuck in a chaotic whirlwind of dimensions, trying to keep their team together and finding their way home, all the while hoping they don’t create a problem that ripples throughout the multiverse. Reading it summarized like that, it all may sound hokey or cheezy to you, but rest assured it’s done in a very mature and thought out manner and, like most of Rick Remender’s stories, it’s all about the characters. Lost loves, shitty parents, narcissism, the cost of choosing career over family (or vice versa), those are the subjects Rick Remender tackles, and he does it while allowing readers to briefly look into a myriad of worlds. What perhaps helps Black Science stand out above something even like Low is that you get to experience a little bit of everything from high fantasy, to alternate history, or just some really weird, cool stuff. Each arc feels entirely different from the previous, but there’s a strong through line between all of them that makes for a wonderful story.
Last but not least is Tokyo Ghost, the most recent of these stories (and the shortest – it was very contained and just ended several months ago after 10 issues). Tokyo Ghost can best be compared to Wall-E if it was a R-Rated and the humans were still on Earth, but still hooked into the web and everything being at their fingertips. The world in Tokyo Ghost is disgusting, people are watching their favorite streams while their deepest darkest secrets are just as out there and public to see. For instance, you see a character watching a reality show, among the insane number of panels (only few of which cover said show) you see cute puppies, product placement, their favorite porn video, and on and on it goes. It’s a bleak, albeit rather extreme, take on what our world can turn into if we truly dive into technology as Tokyo Ghost suggests. The story follows two constables, Led Dent, a massive wall of a man who can perform a surprising amount of overly violent carnage while still watching his favorite cat videos, and Debbie Decay, his lover/partner who has vowed a sort of technological abstinence, refusing to “plug-in” like everyone else. They prowl the streets of the Isles of Los Angeles circa 2089, following the orders of the only type of sadistic a-hole you could imagine in a world like this. He’s just awful. Enough said. Obviously technology and our reliance on it as a civilization (and society) are the big issues at hand that Remender explores. He does take scale it back at times to analyze how such technology can strain a relationship as well as identity issues, self-esteem, and so on.
I wanted to cover the three above stories to give you the sense of what a Remender story is. While the worlds he physically explores are drastically different from each other, the questions Remender asks (or dares answer) have a slight connection between all of them but still stand out enough to not feel samey. As wild as his narrative can get, or as dark, his stories ultimately boil down to what it means to be “human” and he does it in a way that I really haven’t experienced in many other mediums (not just comics).
My hope is that reading this will interest you in picking up a copy of any of the above stories or something else entirely, even if it isn’t Remender. There’s a lot more to the Comic Book World than the superheroes we see on the big screen every summer – not to short change those at all, I enjoy them for what they are. But comics have the ability to tell stories that don’t always work out in other formats, which the same can be argued for every other medium. Point being, if you haven’t given it a shot, maybe some of Rick Remender’s comics can pique your interest, and even if you stop there… that’s not so bad, because Rick Remender is f***ing awesome.