A modern fairy tale about a reclusive maths genius who controls New York via a series of complex equations may not seem the most engaging story for a comic book, but Strange Attractors manages to pull it off with this heart warming read that will keep you enthralled to the very last page.
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Writer: Charles Soule, Artist: Gregg Scott, Colouring: Rat Lyon & Matthew Petz,
Lettering: Thomas Mauer
Price: £1.99 per issue or £7.99/$10.99 for the collection Available via: ComiXology
This 5 issue series from Archaia Entertainment sees Maths student Heller Wilson introduced to reclusive maths genius (and discgraced Columbia professor) Spencer Brownfield in an attempt to help him finish his thesis on complexity theory and land a cushy job in a think tank. Brownfield’s ideas on how a city manages itself with complex equations seem unorthodox at first, but as Heller becomes further involved in his madcap schemes to control the city he begins to question whether Brownfield is the genius he claims or just another New York crazy! With Brownfield claiming that he controls the city to orvent it from collapsing into anarchy Wilson needs to figure out if his loyalty to Brownfield and his theories will do more damage than good, and how does this all connect to fellow Maths grad Jenkins who takes a leap from a faculty window in the opening chapter?!
Available as single issues or a 5 issue collection via ComiXology, Charles Soule’s story mixes modern fairy tale with complex maths to create an utterly compelling read. It feels like a mix between A Beautiful Mind and the The Fisher King, as we learn more and more about Brownfields unorthodox theories and his even more unorthodox notions of controlling the city. Because this is a comic book we instantly side with Brownfield and make the leap of faith that he is telling the truth, but this isn’t just a straight forward story and Soule leaves us guessing right to the end about Brownfields true intentions.
It may seem like lazy reviewing to compare Strange Attractors to movies rather than other comics, but its difficult not to as this feels much more cinematic than comic-like. As well as looking like a smart art house movie, it reads like a Woody Allen-esque love letter to New York, but with a mathematical undertone instead of jazz and angst, and really could only work in a city as steeped in modern mythology as the Big Apple.
The story develops slowly, building from issue to issue with a dialogue heavy tone, that never feels laboured but draws you in to the characters and their lives with aplomb. The visual tone of the book is as reverential as the writing with artist Gregg Scott’s epic landscapes of new york juxtaposing expertly with the intimate detail of street level characters (especially the gardener) and has echoes of the widescreen style of Bryan Hitch (but with less rubble and destruction!) This gives the book a smart and mature look and feel that the subject matter requires, as does the colouring from Rat Lyon and Matthew Petz, which is both classy and muted, and so manages to balance the scenes perfectly, making it feel wistful and enigmatic yet still very current.
A book like this thrives on its believability though and the mathematical theory at the core of the book is much more than just a McGuffin. Although it feels very much like madeup mumbo jumbo, it has a basis in reality and Soule manages to use this to flesh out his story without it ever coming to dominate. By using real life complex diagrams created for the book by Robert Saywitz and by visualising it at key moments, even the moth math-phobic reader can take on the story and embrace, and they will be amply rewarded as a result.
A truly absorbing modern fairy tale that doesn’t require an intimate understanding of complex maths to enjoy. It’s heart warming tone echoes throughout, making it feel like a story written by a writer and artist who have a true connection with their characters, subject matter and locale, which means the reader can’t help but form one too.