17th May2021

‘Time Before Time #1’ Review (Image Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Declan Shalvey, Rory McConville | Art by Joe Palmer | Published by Image Comics

Is it me, or have Image been putting out some particularly good books of late? They’ve always been pretty consistent in terms of quality, and pretty diverse in terms of content, but of lately they’ve been hitting quite a few home runs. I wanted to review an Image book this time round, and it was quite tough to choose from all the great stuff out there, Geiger by Geoff Johns especially coming very close. This book jumped out the most though, with a blurb that promised future crime syndicates and time travel, can’t really go wrong there. I’ve also not read a book by Declan Shalvey I didn’t enjoy, so my hopes for this book are high. In these days of very crowded comic book shelves, you need to get noticed, and this looks a good bet.

1987. A Mum and her son are getting a briefing on adjusting to late 1980’s life. The Mum is obviously concerned about some mysterious Syndicate getting to them, the son most concerned by the fact there’s no wifi. Literally. Not been invented yet. Jump forward to 2140, the present. Tatsuo, who has just settled the Mum and son, is back home, where there seems to be a whole operation jumping all over the time stream. Not in a fun, Dr Who way, but in a practical ‘pick up and drop off’ kind of way. Tatsuo seems to be working for the Syndicate, albeit reluctantly, paying off some debt he owes them, and just wants out. There’s a reason people are paying criminal organisations to move to other times to live after all. Tatsuo decides enough is enough. With best pal, and fellow time jumper, Oscar, he decides to steal a time machine. A bit like Dr. Who after all.

Things, as they are wont to do when time travel is involved, don’t go exactly to plan. Firstly, Tat has an uncomfortable interlude where it becomes apparent very nasty people are paying to be hidden in time. Then, Oscar’s time jump goes very wrong, and he ends up trapped for many years in the distant future, only returning to 2041 as a very, very old man. Looks like Tat’s going to have to go solo on the stealing front. That’s the plan anyway. On the pretence of doing a job, he goes to steal the one working time pod, only to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun. Luckily for him, if you can ever be lucky with a gun in your face, it’s not the Syndicate.

It is instead a very agitated lady, one who seems as keen as Tat on getting out of this particular time and place. She essentially kidnaps Tat, forcing him into the pod and telling him to take her to a very specific time. The good news for Tat is that he gets the time pod to launch. The bad news is, a bullet hits it just as it launches. When it finally lands, Tat has no idea when or where they have ended up. He does find out something about his mysterious kidnapper though. She’s called Nadia Wells. Agent Nadia Wells. FBI Agent Nadia Wells. I get the impression that Tatsuo’s troubles are only just beginning…

This really felt like a TV pilot. That is of course a compliment. I could easily see myself bingeing this on Netflix. It reminded me in some ways of old time travel shows like TimeCop and Time Trax, albeit with a fresh lick of paint. It has that whiff of wish fulfillment we all have when it comes to time travel. What would we do if we could time travel? I liked the way the storytelling was kept nice and lean, not weighed down by too much exposition or explanation. The story is developing organically, and that makes for a nice read. The art was in a similar vein, quite simple in layout, feel and style but adding to the overall charm and feel of the book. It was solid throughout, though falling short of being a must read I felt. Very entertaining though.

I once thought about writing a time travel book, but wasn’t sure if there was any future in it. Ahem. I’ll stick to writing reviews.

**** 4/5


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