I just finished reading Charles Soule's OGN Strange Attractors (a hardcover from Archaia). I know it's been mentioned on the board, but I couldn't find a discussion thread, so let's talk about it here.

The story has an intriguing premise: Heller Wilson is a brilliant mathematician who is looking for inspiration to complete his thesis, which involves using chaos theory to explain how New York City recovers from disasters. He tracks down Dr. Spencer Brownfield, a disgraced academic who did early work on modeling and manipulation of complex systems. Brownfield takes him on as an assistant, then proceeds to show him how he uses mathematics to operate on reality. He claims to be actively manipulating things to help the city to repair itself.

Wilson is convinced that Brownfield is a genius, but he's not so sure of his sanity. His daily actions are a series of seemingly random activities: he releases a rat in a diner to get it closed down for health violations; throws paint on the sidewalk to disrupt a crowd; moves trash around in Central Park; and so on.

More later. Who else has read this?

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No, never heard of this one.

Wilson's thesis is rejected, his girlfriend Grace leaves him--his life is falling apart. When Brownfield tells him that the city faces a major crisis, Wilson refuses to help. He has seen Brownfield's file on him, and realizes that he was being manipulated. Brownfield begins the operation alone. When he succumbs to the heat, the police find a note telling them to call Wilson, and that he will know what to do.

Wilson (who has reunited with Grace) decides that he's seen Brownfield's theories work too much to ignore the call for help. Brownfield left a large cash reserve, so they hire a group of volunteers and set the plan into motion.

I like the butterfly effect stories, generally. The Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder and both filmed versions of The Lathe of Heaven. I may eventually check this out.

Really exciting climax, as the whole group completes their tasks on schedule. Wilson himself makes a mad dash to finish the last one...then just when it looks like the adjustment is over (but the reader knows there is still a major unresolved problem) he saves the day by following his instincts. And there's one final surprise, as he fully inherits Brownfield's mission. It's a great story, which reminds me why I like self-contained graphic novels. Soule tells a complete, original story with a satisfying ending (although I suppose that sequels would be possible).

Although the visual artists do not get co-creator credit, Soule praises them in his Introduction. The Complexity Maps used in the story are a potent visualization of the complex mathematics that underlie the story. Creator Robert Saywitz gets a few pages at the end of the book to explain the process of their creation, complete with process examples.

The creators may have taken inspiration from Alfred Bester's story "The Pi Man", which has a similar premise.

Soule doesn't mention any specific artistic inspirations in his Introduction. He does make a lot of the love of New York City shared by him and his collaborators. So it's a kind of reverse of Brian Woods' Vertigo series DMZ, which showed the city in collapse, even though the love came through as well. In Soule's vision the city may always seem to be teetering on the edge of one form of collapse or other, but there's a scientist guardian angel "keeping this marvelous machine going."

Sounds pretty interesting.  I'm going to have to look for this.

Soule's name is popping up everywhere at the Big Two lately.  I think he has around seven (!) ongoings at Marvel and DC, although some are a bit down the road and others will probably be dropped.

I read it and loved it. I actually wrote it up for the Village Voice's "Best Of" issue last year.


That's right, I'd forgotten about that. You linked to it at the time. Too bad you didn't get a byline!

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