Nowhere Men #3: Secret of Mixed Success

Science is the new rock and roll, which means it's just as messed up as any Behind The Music episode.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

I've gone on record saying that Eric Stephenson & Nate Bellegarde's Nowhere Men should be this year's Saga, the book critics everywhere adore and tell you to read. The first two issues have been taking what's easily a standard genre trope – scientists secretly experiment on unsuspecting subjects to enhance their physiology for super-powers – and laying it out in a fascinating way, bouncing back and forth over decades to chart the ascension and dissolution of a rock-star quartet of high-minded scientists who start out wanting to change the world and wind up hating each other and drowning in their own mistakes. The tagline of the series has been "science is the new rock and roll," and that just means it's as messed up as any Behind The Music special, but just on a grander scale.

Nowhere Men #3 focuses more on the people who escaped their quarantine on World Corp's secret space station and have been scattered around the globe with no sense of what to do next. First of all, some wreckage of the space station itself is discovered in the Sahara, threatening to blow the lid off World Corps and the above rock-star scientists' secret shame (well, only Emerson Strange and Dade Ellis would be ashamed. Simon Grimshaw would be proud of it, and Thomas Walker long since left the band before this would've happened.

Next, we have "Dan Abnormal," the guy who engineered the risky escape, with three women who are none too pleased with finding themselves with him in some frozen wasteland, considering how Holly is bleeding out, her girlfriend Dr. Queen is furious, and Karen is the only one who seems to actually be cold. Perhaps fortunately, they are discovered by a crew of mystery people in protective suits and faceless masks – the prototype look for Evil Scientists, but they seem friendly enough.

Then, Jackson and Adra are searching around the cruddy old abandoned refinery somewhere for a clue of where they are, lamenting the human scab pile named Kurt they had to let lie for fear he was too dead and too heavy to move. Turns out, Kurt has finished his metamorphosis into a burly red monster with crazy super-strength – you always gotta have a massive, malformed brick-house in any good super-guy story, and it comes in handy when they are attacked by what appears to be some kind of Lord Humungous version of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

In the face of all this chaos, a flashback to the Fab Four of Science appearing on the Dick Cavett show in the halcyon days of fame, fortune and inspiration, as a counterpoint to how it all turned out, then a jump ahead in time to an elderly Strange caring for an infirm Ellis, the man who was the true conscience of the World Corp braintrust. Then a jump back to the guy who discovered the space station junk in the Sahara, who may or may not have been exposed to whatever viral agent caused the mutations in its former inhabitants and may or may not be spreading it to the world at large just by getting on a plane. Finally, we get an article that is just a reprint of a letter from Grimshaw complaining about the sheer uselessness of the media, and interspersed with all of this are World Corp ads much like the kind you see in business magazines or airports, bringing an element of realism to the proceedings. If actual corporations were in the business of forcibly mutating people for science without their knowledge or consent, this is kind of what it would look like. The face that the World Corp logo looks a lot like the old Warner Brothers logo from the '70s and '80s helps that notion out quite a bit.

Stephenson's tweaking of the typical set-up is intriguing, focusing as much on the legend of the scientists themselves as their unfortunate victims – if they are victims. They don't seem to know exactly what's happening to them, but it's unclear exactly how much they signed on for in the first place. There's a good chance the 'fine print' caught some of them up when given a chance to work for the esteemed World Corp organization – and the resulting infamy and potential worldwide contamination may either bring about the next evolution of humanity or simply the downfall of a once proud company… or perhaps both.

Nowhere Men is still something you can step up to on the ground floor. Get after it, folks. It's going to go to some interesting places, never you fear.