The past looms large

Publisher: Image
Writers: Declan Shalvey & Rory McConville
Artist: Joe Palmer
Colourist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

What I love about Time Before Time is that it recognises how important the passage of time is. That seems a weird thing to say about a book based on time travel but so often with time travel stores it’s about either the future and/or the past and how the two are affected by each other. Time Before Time treats the past and the future as the present too and that opens things up in a really huge way. There’s developments this issue that start to flesh out the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey nature of time travel and asks that eternal question in some ways – can you change the past?

There’s four threads of plot, well four and half in some ways. They all bounce off the events from last issue. We have a look at how Union agents, Gair and Simone, came to stumble across Kevin in an alleyway, Tatsuo taking a trip with Stan, the young man he relocated to the 1980s in the very first pages of the first issue who is now an old man. Things are intriguing as the syndicate led by Marston are still without the robot (Kevin) they were meant to deliver. Then there’s Nadia still looking for her family as Claudette takes her to see the warden. That’s a lot of plots but they all work and feel equally important. They all feel well served by the narrative.

I think my favourite sequence is that of Gair and Simone and the lead up to the moment where they met Kevin in the alleyway. How did they end up in 2042? And why? Well the why is that they are there to track down Tatsuo and Nadia. Once there we see what they got up to with panels in the style of a video diary charting things from their arrival at midnight on January 1st through the year until they reach the point where they get reports of a robot. It’s a great way of showing the passage of time without spending too long on it. It compresses a whole lot of time yet gives out everything that is important – mainly the boringness and how it spirals as time goes on.

It’s the art that sells it. There are so many great touches. There’s the obvious with Gair’s beard growing and Simone’s hair looking less perfect but the background detail is so good. The way the bins appear and move and eventually the rubbish piles up in bags. There’s the Post-It notes appearing on the wall at the back and the way they build up over time. The way we see the CCTV monitors through which they are hoping to pick up the fugitives moving about. One panel has Simone fiddling with them, another and she’s falling asleep at them. I love those little details and it creates a really nice sequence.

As is the car journey Tatsuo takes with Stan. it’s a very simple setting, the inside of a car but here the art is pared back. Simple car interior, simple colours too, but it’s all effective. It’s about two men who had a connection a long time ago and the way they muse of the nature of time travel. Stan was a young boy who ended up back it the 1980’s because his mother had heard what a great time it was. But it wasn’t a great time for him and his mother. They were sold a nostalgic dream. It’s so interesting to see this continuation of a story from the very first issue with a young boy upset there was no Wi-Fi, It parallels it. It wasn’t just the lack of Wi-Fi that was an issue.

Then there’s poor Tatsuo. he’s still racked with guilt over Oscar, being responsible for what happened to his best friend. What else has he done? He’s sitting next to one of those he relocated and it didn’t end well. You can really feel for Tatsuo who is desperate to get some sort of endorsement of who he is and what he’s done from Stan.

I’ll also add that there’s a lot of speech in this issue, especially in the car journey sequence, but the lettering never makes it feel cluttered. It never feels like too much speech or text. It’s a really good balance.

The Syndicate themselves are still up to things. Meeting mysterious people in warehouses. I liked the way colour suggested spotlighting. The neat way the light is emphasised just really impressed me. Along with the angles used for the confrontation. Never has finger pointing been so well deployed. Here the plot is kept simple but there is something at the end of the scene that really expands out the world and made me go – wait what? It seems there’s still a lot more to learn about the organisations fighting through time.

We don’t see as much of Nadia. Tatsuo gets the bulk of the emotional story this issue. She is still present in the issue though as she walks with Claudette. There’s a quick moment where Nadia has a bit of questioning about her choice to abandon Tatsuo but we’ll see if it lasts. While they walk the streets I do enjoy how closely the world of 2042 cleaves to our own. Screens in the street showing news, very like we have now. Then there’s the old CCTV cameras, which are rather important to the plot as it turns out.

I haven’t even mentioned Kevin who does appear. We get his meeting with Gair and Simone. I won’t spoil how it ends up the action in the art worked very well for me. Then there’s that ending which creates a whole other ball of problems for Tatsuo and spins things off in a new direction which does raise questions about the way time travel works and what we can do about it.

This is strong issue. There’s emotion, there’s plot and some great art sequences. Every time Time Before Time impresses me and this issue really did. It fills in gaps and makes good use of prior knowledge. The fact there’s a payoff from that very first relocation we see Tatsuo do is a very good example of how strong the storytelling is. Recommended.

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