The description on the back of the graphic novel Titan states that “Professor Peter Tytan… taught archaeology to largely unengaged students and lived a largely unassuming life.” That’s something I’ll have to take the back cover’s word for because it’s not shown (or even stated) anywhere in the actual book. And it would have been handy to have that back story for the character. Instead we start off with the “professor” being beat down over an apparent drug deal and continue off on the most incomprehensible comic I can remember reading, starring a character that seems nothing like any professor I know, and who seems like a less credible archaeologist than Indiana Jones.
Now, when I say that I couldn’t follow this story exactly, I feel I should explain that I’m not the kind of person who has trouble following complex plots. Neither am I an intellectually deficient person. I’m not saying I’m a genius but I do have a masters degree that required understanding some pretty darn tough ancient texts. So I’m left with the conclusion that, like the example from the back cover, the rest of the story is just missing important explanatory parts that writer Michael Tymczyszyn has in his head but didn’t include in the story. Granted, this isn’t a complete story in itself. The final page says that it will continue in another volume. But when I read an entire graphic novel and there is still no cohesive story developed yet, that’s a problem.
What I can tell you is that the story takes place in two kinds of settings. The present day portion of the story, portrayed in a noir black and white, centers on the Peter Tytan. While his back story is that he is apparently a professor, pretty much nothing of this is shown. Rather, the reader joins him at the end of a beating that resulted from some drug deal and next thing we know he’s running off like Mel Gibson in Payback, beating the crap out of people like an experienced street fighter. The story doesn’t tell how he’s acquired these fighting skills, nor a lot of other information that would be needed to make us actually care about this little vengeance crusade that he goes on.
The other portions of the story are flashes back into history, presented with the some outlining style for the characters but with sweeping paints rather than the simple black and white to differentiate the two flipping story portions. Which point in history and where varies from ancient warrior times in Asia to the Crusades in the Middle East to mid-twentieth century America. From the story I follow that Peter Tytan is having these visions of the past, or is time traveling and becoming a key figure from each period. How he’s doing this isn’t explained or even mysteriously hinted at in any way that led me to care. It just kind of… happens.
Perhaps the story would be more interesting to me if I was more familiar with the particular points in history that it moves to, but I doubt it. If there are some witty references to specific historical minutiae included in the story I didn’t catch them, and I doubt the majority of readers would.
As for the art itself, the approach of flipping back and forth between the two styles works well and the figures themselves and angles are also put together nicely. It’s not something I’d want to see a lot of, but if it were paired with a good story I could see myself enjoying it for a full graphic novel like this.
Overall Titan grabbed my attention when I first glanced through the book with it’s two switching art styles, but the story is a mess with a character that’s a fighter mislabeled as a professor and a time travel storyline thrown in that doesn’t bother with any explanation as to how or why it’s happening. Perhaps the next volume will bring everything together to make sense of it, but I won’t be there to read it.
I like to try and promote comics from independent studios but this one I just can’t. There are better independent comics out there.
Bill Janzen started collecting comics at about seven years old. Like many, Bill stopped collecting comics during the ’90s, but was drawn back in when his wife Beth, thinking his childhood hobby was cute (and not knowing what she was starting), suggested he should pick a comic book and try to collect it from start to finish. Years and thousands of comic issues later, Bill still loves superheroes. He lives in South-Western Ontario, Canada and when he’s not writing reviews for Comics Bulletin or stopping bullets with his mind he is also the pastor of a Baptist church.