Review: ‘Strange Attractors’ Is A Love Letter To New York City

By Patrick A. Reed

Author Charles Soule has been getting quite a bit of attention from comic fans and press lately – he has a few well-respected indie projects under his belt (Image Comics’ “Twenty-Seven” and SLG’s “Strongman”); he’s the new writer of DC’s “Swamp Thing” and “Red Lanterns”; and it’s just been announced that he’ll be taking over Marvel’s “Thunderbolts,” beginning with issue #12.

And today, May 15, Archaia released his new hardcover graphic novel, “Strange Attractors.” And it’s one of the coolest, headiest, most interesting comics I’ve read in a long while.

It’s the story of Heller Wilson, a young mathematician at Columbia University, and Dr. Spencer Brownfield, a disgraced former faculty member. When Wilson seeks out Dr. Brownfield in hopes of getting the missing piece for his thesis, he might be discovering the secrets of how New York City works… Or he may be dealing with the delusions of a madman.

Because what Dr. Brownfield has done in the decades since his dismissal is study and model the systems of New York City: the traffic flow, the travel patterns, the waterways, the sanitation. He has taken his observations, combined them with experiential experimentation in his day-to-day life, and used chaos theory to create complex maps of how NYC functions – and he has quite possibly figured out how to control and manipulate events to maximize the city’s potential.

That’s a hell of a set-up. And Soule revels in the possibilities, teaming with hand-picked collaborators to bring this story to life. Greg Scott’s art captures all aspects of the five boroughs: the brilliant vistas of Central Park at midday, the waning light of afternoon in Washington Square, the mood and shadow of Midtown in the witching hour. Robert Saywitz is the man behind the maps that feature prominently in the story, weave through the backgrounds of pages, and crescendo with a beautiful double-width fold out at a vital point in the narrative. Working together (along with colorists Art Lyon and Matthew Petz and letterer Thomas Mauer), these creators find a perfect rhythm, and make a book that vibrates with energy and promise. It doesn’t require you to know New York City to enjoy reading, any more than you need to know the subject of a singer’s affections to enjoy listening to the music – the emotions are universal.

This is Charles Soule’s love song to his city, and it strikes a chord and makes you want to sing along.

“Strange Attractors” is out now from Archaia Entertainment.

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