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The Five Fists of Science (Image Comics, 2006; OGN)

It has been a while since we’ve had a weird science book!

The Five Fists of Science—which is one of Matt Fraction’s earliest comics—sees Mark Twain and Nicola Tesla and their giant steampunk automaton up against J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison’s eldritch schemes.

I’ll wait here while you let that sink in.

Exaggerated personalities drive Five Fists. A who’s-who introducing the characters points out, for example, that other than skulking in the shadows to use science to punch bad guys, none of Tesla’s other quirks are invented. In contrast, Andrew Carnegie, Fraction admits, pretty much was a good guy; but they needed a cohort for Morgan, and Carnegie did sell his interest in Carnegie Steel to Morgan to set the stage for U.S. Steel’s creation. And Mark Twain comes across as a surly old man who is tired of being broke. Which does sound about right.

The steampunk, eldritch, and occasional cryptozoological elements of The Five Fists of Science’s art drive the books’ visual style. Sanders’s designs are pretty restrained and realistic. Even his yeti is tasteful and restrained. There are times when his colors are very dark, to the point that it’s difficult to parse what is happening on the page. But those moments are few and far between.

The Five Fists of Science is a single graphic novel, so it’s a pretty easy commitment. If you like weird science and alternate history, it’s worth a look. It is not as out there as something like The Manhattan Projects (although I would welcome some kind of Five Fists/Manhattan Projects crossover), but it is a fun, quick, contained read.

Collected in

  • The Five Fists of Science (OGN)


Writer: Matt Fraction | Artist: Steven Sanders | Letterer: Sean Konot

WE3 (Vertigo, 2006; #1-3)

Marvel 1602 (Marvel Comics, 2003; #1-8)