Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review - Strange Attractors

Dr. Ian Malcolm was the somewhat eccentric character in Jurassic Park, waxing poetic on chaos theory and the fact that two droplets of water don't follow the same path. He also had a firsthand encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but that's neither here nor there. Still though, his knowledge of chaos theory is rooted in fact and it's that fact central the new graphic novel Strange Attractors from Archaia Entertainment.

The graphic novel is written by Charles Soule, with illustrations by Greg Scott, colors by Art Lyon and Matthew Petz and letters by Thomas Mauer.

In 1978, Dr. Spencer Brownfield saved New York City from itself, bringing the city back from the verge of collapse and ruin. And for 30 years, his small, minute and unnoticed adjustments to the city’s systems have, kept the city afloat. Or so he claims to Heller Wilson, a young graduate student that Dr. Brownfield has chosen as his successor. Dr Brownfield’s claims about “complexity math” and its application to the city’s patterns seem to be the ravings of a man broken by the death of his wife and daughter. Heller quickly learns that there may be some truths to Dr. Brownfield's theories, some of which border on just plane ridiculous.

Soule has infused Strange Attractors with everything New York City, which makes sense considering he lives in the Brooklyn. To say that the work is an open love letter to NYC is selling the work short, as it's much more complex than that. Dr. Brownfield's entire life is dictated by the notion that both life's simplicities and complexities can have astounding effects on the future. The fact that some of those events are what make NYC tick just happen to be a happy coincidence.

Therein lies the beauty of a work like Strange Attractors. It's a story that demands self-reflection on the part of the reader, asking that they think about their place in their environment. The fact that a city is aspiring to be a well-oiled machine isn't too far-fetched, but that flawless performance requires minor and major adjustments. Dr. Brownfield is just smart (crazy?) enough to believe he can cause those adjustments and his approach is one part theoretical physics/mathematics and one part on conspiracy theory. The whole of both parts is a fascinating read with interesting characters navigating everyday life.

Scott's art perfectly captures the NYC feel Soule relies on for the work. It's got the right amount of unfinished quality that keeps the reader moving along with the story, never allowing them to settle down. That's a good thing, because it really conveys the bustle that comes with being in NYC. There are some starkly illustrated panels with dramatic color pops by Lyon and Petz that frame key moments of the story. The panels really embody NYC, ensuring that every illustration is teeming with background life that feels realistic.

Strange Attractors isn't a book for the weak of heart. It requires a commitment on the part of the reader, but if they're willing to read and enjoy it, they'll find a really satisfying book. The science part of it isn't too overwhelming and the premise is very interesting. Everyone affects the world around them--whether they know it or not--and some people view their ability to impact the world as a responsibility. The outcome is a fascinating look at life's moments (big and small) and the intricacies that accompany something as simple as a cup being thrown on a soccer field. Life's full of consequences and as long as there's a steward to oversee them, everything will be ok.

Strange Attractors is in stores now for $19.95 as 128 page, 6.625” x 10.25”, full color hardcover. Interiors are below.


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