Rarely does quantum physics directly equate to fun, but new comic from IDW, String Divers by Chris Ryall (story) and Nelson Daniel (art) hits the right notes from the off. Ashley Wood’s (Zombies vs. Robots, The Crow) cover piques the interest as a figure wearing breathing apparatus but not waterproofs or similar yells ‘String Divers Dive!’ The tagline of ‘effect requires cause’ draws the science fan in closer.
We’re introduced to a colourful team on a green crystalline world with snappy dialogue and stylised posture. We soon learn that each colour is a class – grey is tactician, red is stealth, etc. – so a bit Power Rangers maybe? Our team are attacked by bugs. But all is not what it seems, as some kind of tear in reality opens. After a gruesome incident and plenty of action scenes incorporating a DNA helix and a microscope, the rest of the players are brought into focus. This lab is below CERN and this is Project String Diver. It is populated by engineers, techs, designers, the director-general and the brilliantly named Miller Carnivale as the Unapplied Physicist. Now some exposition as the world-building ensues. The nature of the colourful Divers is revealed and physics is discussed, along with nods towards the Big Bad Threat.
The final few pages visit a cruise liner on the Baltic Sea as we’re drawn towards events unfolding in issue #2.
There’s a famous quote (well, famous if you’re a science geek) attributed to Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman: “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. I suspect writer Chris Ryall (Mars Attacks: First Born, Zombies vs. Robots) gets that. While there is a bit of ‘technobabble’ it isn’t overwhelming or trying to teach the reader about the complex concepts surrounding quantum mechanics and string theory. Instead, most of the dialogue is snappy and occasionally almost irreverent. Not a huge amount of narrative development occurs in issue #1 (there are essentially 3 scenes), but as an introduction to this world, the few main events work well and exhibit both imagination and potential.
Nelson Daniel’s (Judge Dredd) character design is spot on. The two main character groups are distinct; the science team build upon established clichés but are effective, especially Anne-Sylvie Lagrange – she just looks like a project director-general, all stern and confident. Meanwhile, the divers look oddly creepy. Almost otherworldly, reflecting their mission. The panelling is occasionally dialogue heavy – lots of speech bubbles and no room for anything other than the talking head. The action scenes are frantic and sit comfortably within the context of the story.
Interspersed are pages of what looks like digital art, by Wood, featuring intriguing interpretations of characters met and others perhaps to come, with the slogan “we like to play”. Sets the tone up nicely and a welcome innovation next to Daniel’s drawn pages. For the uninitiated, it transpires that Wood is the director and overseer of this comic book and this is a tie-in with Wood’s 3A Toys’ line. Having no knowledge of this until after the first read, it wasn’t an obvious distraction.
There is a lot to like about String Divers and I would hope that those who don’t even have a passing interest in string theory would pick this comic book up. It is vibrant, fun, intriguing, drawn with a sense of humour and not too lecturing. Dive!
Title: String Divers
Reviewer: Ian J Simpson