The highly anticipated series by Matt Kindt and David Rubín is finally here, and Ether is ready to analyze the scientific underpinnings of magic as if Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange were transported to the pages of Steve Ditko. Is it good?
Ether #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Boone Dias enters the Ether for the umpteenth time, lamenting the prerequisite banter with the magical realm’s gatekeeper. It’s not all banal, though, as the mayor of this fantastically familiar place has beckoned for Boone’s presence. A horrible crime has been committed, one that only the Earth man and his painstaking empiricism can solve.
We finally flash back to Boone’s beginnings, when he first started to insist that the magical is not so mysterious and, like anything else, it is “explainable” and “measurable.” A female onlooker is struck by his stance and has to learn more, proving the old adage that chicks dig reason. Stay in school, kids.
Is It Good?
Ether isn’t the first time we’ve seen a “science meets magic” story, and while the science guy is usually enlightened from his silly desire for demonstrability, there’s cause for the more rationally-minded reader to be hopeful here. Like any good scientist, Dias isn’t out to debunk the wonders around him; he thinks they’re “fascinating”! The word even becomes a Spock-like catch phrase in Ether #1. Boone is indeed a bit of an ass, as Glum the gatekeeper continues to remind him, but he also uses simple scientific deduction to solve the problems the magically-minded citizens can’t. And he’s praised for it! Score one for the good guys.
Kindt’s story itself is a little-exposition heavy, something that’s hard to avoid in a first issue. Dias goes all Silver Age by calling out “the most dangerous of [his] adversaries,” but the setup is more camouflaged when he tires tremendously toward the end of his stay in the Ether. The flashback seems a bit out of place, as it might have been more impactful to end on the adversarial cliffhanger.
Rubín’s art fits the story for the most part, though some might find it too “cartoony.” Dias is drawn slightly differently, a great way to set him apart from the world he’s visiting, but the steampunk-like gadgets are a curious inclusion for a serious scientist. The colors are where Rubín really shines. Dark shades for the reality-grounded pilgrim; beautiful pastel, complementary colors for the Ether.
Ether #1 so far fulfills its solicited promise of analyzing the magical with a critical eye, illustrating the usefulness of oft-maligned empiricism through a Sherlock Holmes-style detective story. The potential return of respect for the importance of observation? Fascinating!