Writers: Declan Shalvey & Rory McConville
Artist: Joe Palmer
Colourist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
I have many questions about Time Before Time and one of them is how do you get pacing this effective? There’s three different story arcs going on but all are well developed. The plot weaves seamlessly through all of them across three locations and two time periods. It’s so well balance, so packed with world building and character development and yet never feels overstuffed. It’s just so well done that I remain impressed with the pacing every month.
We’re also near the end of the second arc and things are hotting up. There’s the future bearing down, the time war expands, desperate measures are taken and our heroes, still separated facing peril. There’s Tatsuo who has been kidnapped by Stan the old man who Tatsuo relocated as a child. Stan has the crazy idea of changing time and wants Tatsuo’s help and his time pod to do it. Nadia meanwhile is tracking down the Warden in an attempt to find out what happened to her family, Both situations are personal and relate to the characters’ pasts in different ways.
Also personal is the time war. Marston is now employing the help of The Consortium who control much of the 30th century. This gives a whole new dimension to the time war shenanigans. There’s an interesting 80’s vibe to The Consortium. Their leader Garrett does look like he’s dressed for a Prince music video. One of his subordinates appears to be wearing pink lycra. It’s definitely a look. Even the subordinate characters have a clear design and are instantly recognisable. The female subordinate dressed like she’s about to hit the disco. It’s the attention to little details like that which make the art so good.
Also excellent is The Consortium ship design. It’s utterly bizarre. Vaguely UFO like but quite bulbous with huge round windows it looks like a futuristic vehicle but also seems to have some similarity to the time pods. It’s just a nice bit of design. The interior is also ridiculous in the best ways with large open areas and big windows that aren’t obvious from the outside and some very old style furniture. Again it’s the details.
The details in the plots are also well done. There’s some really interesting moments for both Tatsuo and Nadia. Tatsuo goes through the physical wringer as well as an emotional one. It’s fitting that in a story that relies so much on time travel pieces from Tatsuo’s past actions slot into place. We’ve seen how what happened to Oscar was part of his actions, we’ve seen how Stan has grown embittered and upset (and yes a little unhinged) after Tatsuo relocated him back when he was a child. Tatsuo has been trying to run from his past but ironically the past cannot be escaped so easily and pops up in present.
Nadia meanwhile learns some further truths about her family that means her journey can’t end here. She came to this time and place to find her family but is now faced with the revelation that her family aren’t there. She’s put her faith in a future with her family in some form or another but like Tatsuo the past, or the past of the present, cannot be changed so easily. I am very interested to see where Nadia will go next. She pushed Tatsuo away and relied on Claudette but with a new threat appearing for Nadia at the end of the issue will that be enough?
As always the action with Nadia is well drawn. Her kicking in the door of the Warden’s house are some of my favourite panels. The lettering of the onomatopoeic ‘WHAM’ interacting with her action is excellent. The interrogation scene between her and the Warden is very tense relying again on those panels to show character reactions and doing it so well.
The reactions also work well with poor Tatsuo as he tries to persuade Stan that the past cannot be changed (an interesting look at the fact that there are some rules in this world). Tatsuo’s face in the car shows fear. The framing of Stan threatening Tatsuo drawn from Tatsuo’s perspective works really well. Stan goes from confused looking old man to real threat very quickly. A lot of that is due to the art.
We also finally get more of Kevin as his plot intersects with Tatsuo’s. I had moments where I was worried for Kevin but I am glad to see he and Tatsuo interacting again. I have been waiting for them to meet up again and I was not disappointed. Kevin adds a touch of levity to proceedings before he drops a really rather heavy bombshell. I had suspected what he says but still it was a moment that left me reeling a little.
Overall this issue is as good as the rest. That sounds like faint praise but honestly Time Before Time is such an excellent book that the highest praise I can give it is that each issue is as good as the last. As I said the pacing of this issue is pretty much pitch perfect. You honestly don’t get books as good at balancing time as this. The end of the second arc looks like it will be an emotional one. This issue has set us up for some really tense and emotional beats to come.