Nowhere Men appears to be the story of four men who jointly created and operate World Corp., a super successful, multinational corporation that has, presumably, changed the world through numerous revolutionary consumer products. Each of these men is a scientific genius of some kind, or purports to be so: Dade Ellis, a neurobiologist; Simon Grimshaw, a geneticist; Emerson Strange, an inventor; and Thomas Walker, a theoretical physicist. The idea that their disparate specialties can combine to do great things isn’t much of a leap, though from what we see of their personalities in this first issue, it does seem a little remarkable that they didn’t kill each other the first time they were in a room together.
The story opens, as the caption tells us, “some time ago,” in what is almost certainly the 1970s, for a glimpse of the early days of World Corp. This brief scene is accompanied by the highlight of the book, some delightfully retro World Corp. advertisements and a profile of its four luminaries. Before we can really do more than learn names, though, the story jumps to “years later,” long enough for a falling out over a gorilla made of rock and amethyst crystal, then, again, to “now.” And, “now” is kind of the problem.
The present-day plot has the most substance, and it’s unclear if the time jumps will continue in future issues or if they were just laying the groundwork. The present-day plot also has the largest cast – at least half a dozen characters, I think – and though I could tell them apart visually, they move in and out of scenes so quickly that I have little idea who most of them are. They are all World Corp. employees, but none of them are one of the four founders who grace the front and back covers, and who are the focus of the first chunk of the issue. Nate Bellegarde, fortunately, proves himself quite competent at giving each character his or her own look, so though I didn’t catch their names, I could at least tell them apart; books with much smaller casts have had more trouble with that.
My gripe, then, is that I’m not quite sure what Nowhere Men is supposed to be or who it is about, and in a premiere issue, that’s critical information. Is it about Ellis, Grimshaw, Strange, and Walker, who figure so prominently in some parts? Is it about the people who are affected by their decisions and legacy, like those in the latter half of the book? Is this a science drama or a Crichton-like techno-thriller? The pacing and script are chaotic, with every turn of the page introducing a new character or situation, or so it seems.
Nowhere Men feels like a book that prioritizes quantity over quality, hoping that if there are enough plots and characters in there that something will stick for any given reader. Don’t like mutant gorillas? Maybe you’d care for some lesbian romance instead? Or a mysterious gate-like device? Or an incurable virus? Or some insanity? Or some trippy, higher-consciousness stuff? It’s a mixed bag of components I could imagine combining into a compelling story over time, but rather than gradually bringing these things in over several issues, I feel like the bag has just been dumped out on the floor, and that makes this book tricky to recommend.