The creators of M-Theory pretty much state their intentions right on the cover, which is clearly an homage to the EC sci-fi comics of the 50s. This title is chock full of retro elements that wouldn’t be out of place in those books of old: aliens, monsters, robots, and space rangers armed with ray guns and jetpacks populate these pages. Sadly, the theme doesn’t continue on the artistic side, which doesn’t reflect the EC style in any way and is a big letdown.
With so many ingredients thrown into the mix, writers Dwight L. MacPherson and Bruce Brown unveil no fewer than three plotlines in the premiere issue in this mini. The first involves the fallout from America’s first contact with aliens in, you guessed it, Roswell New Mexico. The second takes place in Princeton’s science department during Albert Einstein’s tenure there and in the third we are off in deep space with the aforementioned spacemen. Presumably these threads will all dovetail together by the end, though how they will be able to coherently accomplish this in just 3 issues remains to be seen.
The lead character of the Roswell section is Friedrick Goetz, a jaded and cynical inventor with his own robot sidekick in tow. Goetz witnessed the arrival of the aliens firsthand, although in this version of events they didn’t crash but rather landed safely and were subsequently blasted out of existence by the trigger-happy U.S. army. Before dying, one of the aliens transfers its consciousness into Goetz, giving him instant knowledge of an entire otherworldly civilization. Over the next five years, Goetz toils in a secret underground research facility replicating the aliens’ technological marvels, but he is bitterly certain the government will never allow the average citizen the benefit of their use.
In the Princeton section, Agnes Font is a young physicist who has built a “quantum receiver” capable of communicating with other dimensions for her master’s project. Now I’m all for equal opportunity, but it seems anachronistic to have one of Einstein’s contemporaries be a cute young female, but then I wasn’t around in the 50s so maybe I just have a wrongheaded idea of gender roles in that time. Anyway, in a classic “be careful what you wish for” scenario, Agnes’ device succeeds in making contact with an alien consciousness which reaches out from wherever-- but when their minds meet she’s overwhelmed and passes out.
In the third and most action-packed section, three unidentified dudes in spacesuits travel around space blasting just about everything that crosses their sights. As I read along, I had in my mind that perhaps these were U.S. soldiers utilizing the tech that Goetz was developing, but really that’s just guesswork on my part. It’s never mentioned who these guy are, what they’re up to, or even if they’re from Earth. Their “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude is reminiscent of the army in the Roswell scene, so maybe that’s meant to be a hint.
Mike Barentine’s pencils killed a lot of my potential enjoyment of this issue. I realize there are not many artists around today who can compare to Wally Wood or Al Williamson, but at least an attempt should have been made to emulate the EC art style in some way. Barentine’s zany Mad Magazine-style cartooning is not only not attractive, it makes the whole project seem lightweight and disposable, as if the creators are saying “you weren’t planning to in any way take this seriously, were you?” If someone put a blaster to my head and forced me to say something positive, I would point out that Barentine draws good distinctive faces, but that’s about it.
Behind the scenes, the situation with M-Theory seems as messy and disjointed as what’s between the pages. After issue two had already been solicited MacPherson and company decided to part ways with Shadowline and Image over compensation issues, the result being that issue one is the only one you are likely to see on the stands anytime soon. Now I notice that issue two (but not one) has been posted on WOWIO, so it doesn’t seem likely that any kind of profit is going to be turned on this thing.
It’s a pity that I don’t dig M-Theory more, it has all the elements of a fun little retro tale, but the creators don’t seem to be saying much new or interesting with them. And the art simply isn’t my thing. I appreciate the effort, but I would only give the finished product a 6/10. It’s too bad they couldn’t get Al Williamson out of retirement to draw this, but then again they probably couldn’t afford him, especially if they’re going to be giving the issues away for free.