Advance Review: Past Aways will be available in comic shops March 25, 2015.
The first issue of any new comic holds an inequitable amount of weight on its shoulders. Not only do readers need to get to know a group of unfamiliar faces, they also have to get used to the rules of a brand new world. This is especially true of science fiction titles, where the rules of our world often do not apply at all. Luckily for everyone, Matt Kindt is no stranger to speculative world building. From the creator of Mind MGMT comes Past Aways, Kindt’s newest Dark Horse collaboration with Scott Kolins on art and Bill Crabtree on colors. It’s the story of five time travelers from 1.2 million years in the future who find themselves marooned in “the primitive 21st century.” On paper, it sounds like generic sci-fi. However, because this is a Kindt title, there has to be kicker, and Past Aways has one hell of a kicker.
Time travelers can’t die.
Herb, the group’s documentarian, has this to say about our world:
“Everyday existence is crude. It is full of conflict, egos, discomfort, and irreconcilably opposing views on virtually every topic. To put it bluntly, living here is a struggle. It is so very different than what the history blasts taught us.”
The Past Aways come from a different time, a better time. One gets the notion that life is, if not perfect, at least more idyllic than it is now. Imagine falling from that kind of utopia back down to what we call Earth. It’d be the equivalent to what Adam and Eve must have felt in their exile from heaven, and the team on Past Aways do a wonderful job of showing us just how far our protagonists have fallen. On the cover page, we see Art, the team leader. Kolins portrays him in an dynamic action pose with a grin on his face and signature short cool guy hair blowing in the wind. As Kindt writes, “everybody loves him.” Then, the first time we see Art inside the book, we see him on the toilet with long disheveled hair and a distinct lack of cool guy allure (He does have John Lennon glasses though, so +1, I guess).
The other members of the Past Aways haven’t fared much better. They’re lost souls, and throughout the book, we see all five of them engage in self-destructive behavior, either attempting to take the lives of their teammates or their own lives. It sounds bleak, and it is, but the real beauty of Past Aways is that it never takes itself too seriously. Kolins’ line work is jagged and energetic. Crabtree’s colors are vivid, making even the most hopeless moments just a little brighter. The title opens with a double fakeout, as the first page depicts this insane looking monocular cockatrice-esque dinosaur stepping on the Pantheon. Kolins’ pans out, revealing the Pantheon to be a tiny model. Suddenly, the dino doesn’t look so threatening. Then, we get a money shot of our alien friend shooting lethal acid from his butt and melting a guy who just happened to be taking a selfie at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a poignant little moment of black humor, and most amusingly, it’s the first glimmer of hope for our suicidal heroes, who realize that new things are coming back from the future, and if that’s possible, then maybe it’s possible for them to find a way out of the past.
Past Aways is everything a good first issue should be. In under 30 pages, Kindt, Kolins, and Crabtree manage to lay the foundations for a story that is simultaneously irreverent and poignant. I think Kindt will have a lot to say about the way we primitive 21st century denizens live our lives in the weeks to come. What do you think, Steven?
For me, the standout piece in this first issue is absolutely the artistic pairing of Kolins’ and Crabtree. Kindt’s story, standing on its own, would be a shockingly tragic and humorless tale, but that energy that you described gives the story legs to run into lighter areas and even giving the story its comedic tone. That’s not to say that the story is too dark for my tastes, in fact this strikes me as a very harmoniously contrasting creative pairing.
Along with establishing explicit individual personalities for each of the five main characters in their post-crash situation, Kindt has done an excellent job hinting at the potential strife within the team. By the end of the issue I wanted to both A) reread this issue because there is plenty to chew on, and B) get the next issue to see the mess of human interaction when all five of these intense personalities are brought together.
I only had two qualms with this first issue, and the one of them is admittedly nitpicking, so I’ll just get that out of the way first. The format of the text box that Herb, the documentarian, uses is incredibly awkward both in terms of the story and from a more purely aesthetic perspective. The text boxes themselves are a bubblegum pink that certainly stands out against whatever other colors Crabtree puts into the artwork, but the sheen at the top and bottom of each box is just enough to make it slightly awkward to read. Yeah, like I said, nitpicking pretty badly with that one.
The other complaint I have is that we didn’t get to see the accident that led to them being stranded, which means that understanding the situation these vibrant characters are in hinges on the paragraph of text on the title page:
“When an unknown error sends them much farther into the past than anticipated, five deep-time explorers crash-land in the Hawaiian rain forests of the primitive twenty-first century. Their ship destroyed and their chronobeacon shattered, the team find themselves hopelessly lost 1.2 million years in the past, with no way home.”
This is the crux of the plot, and while I agree with the decision to put much more focus on developing characters than plot, it would have been nice to have see this one particular juncture drawn out immediately following the first splash page of the group.
So much of this book was done so absolutely right that it becomes hard to dwell on either of these things. There’s plenty left to be explained about how time travel works in this story and how they found themselves in their current individual states, but the characters and motivations are far more important to hooking an audience’s attention…and they certainly have mine.