Review – Real Science Adventures: The Nicodemus Job #1 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Story: Brian Clevinger
Artwork: Meredith McClaren
Colours: J.N. Wiedle / Shan Murphy
Letters: Tess Stone
Release Date: 25th July 2018

Whoa boy, where to start?

This first issue of the new Real Science Adventures tale, The Nicodemus Job, definitely climbs the rankings for use of tags and descriptors.  Equal parts action, adventure, historical (set in Constantinople on the eve of the Crusade), mystery, conspiracy, and crime caper, with a sprinkling of humour to boot. Oh, and science fiction too apparently. You would be forgiven for being a tad doubtful that all of this could be successfully shoehorned into a thirty-odd page book, but writer Brian Clevinger not only manages to do so, but do so incredibly well.

Without giving too much away, this issue follows Nicolas Fardas, a disgraced advocatus (kind of Roman-style lawyer) and drunk, who is employed to steal a number of books from the big bad Terazin Berikos. We don’t get to learn much about Berikos except through the expressions and reactions of Fardas’ ensemble as he gathers each in turn; and it would appear Berikos is a less than pleasant chap, so I’m definitely looking forward to their big reveal.

Although the introduction of the characters is justifiably brief given the confines the single issue, there’s enough to hang off with each having their own distinctive charm. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of familiar stereotyping here but it’s embraced and owned, an approach which adds to the overall charm of the book with a final panel sequence which seemed to channel Saturday evening memories as a child.

Speaking of endings, it isn’t flash bang here but a good set up piece which leaves you with a desire for answers to oh so many questions. As a post script we are treated to a number of pages of ‘prequel’ which expands on the relationship between two of our motley band, Sofana and Palatina. It’s simple and maybe just a little bit contrived but it brings out a touch of motivation and personality which helps to build upon the reader’s connection with the characters. It’s a nice touch which I hope continues in this series, although it may become cumbersome or unwieldy to tack on a bit of back story at the end of every issue so we’ll see how this is handled.

So what about the sci-fi? Set in the world of Atomic Robo, which I admittedly knew absolutely nothing about before diving into this, I was expecting a lot of weird and wonderful fantastical inventions. Instead, there’s a great deal of subtlety which surfaces only as a taster in this issue. The team have taken the approach that 11th century science fiction is essentially the same as it is now, with the focus the whole “people interacting with technology” thing. So what exactly does this mean? Is this a gimmicky hook to keep our interest with the promise of more to come? Only time will tell, it seems.

The overall appeal of this book is that it’s the complete package. The visual elements are a perfect fit for the story being told. With an almost comical style, which granted perhaps might not be to everyone’s tastes, which creates a feeling that anything can happen. Gritty realism of Constantinople and its 11th C. inhabitants would prevent that suspension of disbelief grounding the work too heavily and preventing the freedom and liberty to take this story where it needs to go. The lines and colours aren’t exactly whimsical, dealing with the drinking dens and dark places of a city on the brink of war, but are light enough to carry the tone forward.

A cracking start to a new series which looks like it’s shaping up to be a doozy. Fingers crossed I’m right.

Rating: 4/5


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster

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