Past Aways #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Kolins (regular edition)/Kindt (variant)
Editor: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99 US
When I first learned of this new title, I was immediately interested, given the involvement of artist Scott Kolins. His is such a distinct and strong visual voice in comics storytelling, I’m always up for more work from him. Unfortunately, there was also something off-putting in the promotional material for this series: the title itself. The punny nature of “Past Aways” makes me think the play on words is the starting point for the story instead of an actual plot or cast of characters. It feels like Kindt came up with “Past Aways” and worked his way backward from that. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s the impression I got when I heard of the book. Nevertheless, I wanted to see what the creators had in store here, and unfortunately, the title pretty much sums up the plot on the nose. I could live with that, but after reading this inaugural issue, I found I wasn’t interested in spending time with these characters. Almost all of them are unpleasant in some way, and that makes it hard to care about what happens to them.
A team of time explorers from more than a million years in the future have been stranded in the 21st century for years, and they seem to have resigned themselves to life in our backwards and seemingly savage culture. But a shocking and deadly development in Greece alerts the team leader to the possibility of returning home. For that to happen, the members of the team — now scattered about the globe and feeling disenfranchised over their losses — must come together once again, not only to make the most of a new chance to go back to the future but to save mankind from displaced threats from elsewhen in the time stream.
I’ve always enjoyed Kolins’ rough linework. The loose nature of his art has always managed to instill it with an added degree of energy. It seems more… kinetic somehow; it’s probably one of the reasons he had such a long and successful run on The Flash and related comics for DC. I like the diversity he brings to the individual character designs here, and I was especially struck by the stature and imposing quality he’s instilled in Marge. His portrayal of Arthur as a grizzled, unclean, recluse specifically reminded me of the sorts of characters one would find in Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis stories (Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan #1, I’m looking at you). Where the design work goes astray is when the characters are geared up. Arthur and Phil are identical figures in their uniforms and helmets, and it makes for a slightly confusing sequence. Bill Crabtree’s colors really add a lot to the energy of the story as well. Everything “normal” seems muted, but the time-displaced tech and creature bear bolder, brighter tones that separate them from the mundane.
Writer Matt Kindt is clearly taking pains to ensure this first issue is as accessible to new readers as well, which is a wise choice, but one of his methods ends up working against the reading experience he’s trying to offer. There’s no shortage of little footnotes throughout the book, meant to explain what future tech the protagonists are using and who these characters are. Those little narrative asides keep pulling the reader’s attention away from the story, and little of it actually seems like vital information. Perhaps he’s trying to establish a dispassionate, cold tone for the future elements to contrast with the clear intensity of the emotional states of these time-displaced characters, but it doesn’t quite click.
Kindt’s script does a solid job of establishing an emerging threat to the present in this inaugural issue, but what he doesn’t do is give the audience a reason to keep tabs on his cast or care about what they’re doing. Almost the entire lineup of the team is gruff, hostile or off-putting in some way. Even Ursula seems unlikable, given her suicidal tendencies, which come off as weakness, as though she’s given up on the adventure just as we’re joining her on it. I get what the writer is trying to do here. I see why he’s brought an edge to these characters, why he’s embraced dysfunction as his starting point. It just didn’t really hook me, and with my mild scorn for the cutesy title, he and Kolins really needed to draw me in to get me to read more — in the future. 6/10
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