Back in 2011, Vertigo began releasing themed anthologies at the rate of about two per year. Last October saw the release of the Halloween-appropriate Ghosts and this week we get Time Warp. Comics history buffs may recall a previous, short-lived Time Warp series, published by DC in 1980. This week’s installment marks the Vertigo debuts of Damon Lindelof and Gail Simone, along with a bunch of other nifty SF offerings. Here’s the official description from Vertigo:
Let’s do the time warp again! It’s time for another fantastic Vertigo anthology filled with spectacular sci-fi stories. Robots, deep space and lots of time travel twists by a bevy of comic greats and the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. Damon Lindelof and Jeff Lemire bring us a blast from DC’s past, plus another installment of the “Dead Boy Detectives” from Toby Litt, Buckingham and Victor Santos, Matt Kindt presents a stirring story of man vs. machine—and so much more!
Other stories include: “It’s Full of Demons,” by Tom King and Tom Fowler; “I Have What You Need,” drawn by Gael Bertrand, with Gail Simone; “The Grudge,” by Simon Spurrier and Michael Dowling, “She’s Not There,” by Peter Milligan and M.K. Perker; “00:00:03,” by Ray Fawkes and Andy MacDonald; and “The Principle” by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard.
That’s an impressive list of a creators for a book, so perhaps it’s not surprising that no single story stands out above the others. Still, if I had to pick a winner, it’d be Lindelof and Lemire’s “R.I.P.” Rip Hunter is a third tier DC character who’s been mostly absent since the New 52 began. Given that time travel is his shtick, his presence in this Vertigo book is appropriate and welcome, but simultaneously unexpected. Lindelof handles the conventions of time travel marvelously. The plot is a closed loop, without any of the logic holes that plague many time travel stories (including other stories in this book), but still manages to be exceptionally humorous in its logic at the same time. Lemire, more than any other artist active in comics today, excels at capturing human vulnerability (a description that sounds meaningless and banal, but is true nonetheless) and he continues to do that here to great effect.
A few other noteworthy stories:
King and Fowler’s “It’s Full of Demons,” an alt-history tale with not one, but two twists, lets the reader play a great game of “What’s Wrong with This Picture?”
Simone and Bertrand’s “I Have What You Need” doesn’t work logically, the way “R.I.P.” does, but it has its own logic of the heart. Bertrand’s art is perfect: the rotund shopkeeper and other protagonists have a Disney sweetness, while the villain feels like he was borrowed from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but with an a twisted streak.
“She’s Not There,” by Milligan and Perker, has an unfortunate, unfinished feel, but Perker’s art has a stylized, yet realistic, sensibility that makes it my favorite of the whole book.
Finally, Abnett and Culbard’s “The Principle” reunites the creators of the chronically under-read The New Deadwardians for a quickie buddy cop story that manages to suggests an entire universe of stories in the space of only a few pages. It also delivers the greatest line of the book, although quoting it would be a SPOILER.
Time Warp has it’s weaknesses. Some stories feel strangely out of place, which is disappointing, given the exceptionally broad parameters of the book’s theme. More frustrating is the lack of new talent. Anthologies are the prime venue for showcasing new creators, but with all the established names, apparently there wasn’t room for a single unknown. That said, those big names turn in some fantastic work.
Zac Boone wrote this review two months ago, with his future-viewer, but his future-blogging software overshot, so he’s still late. Follow him on twitter for more anachronistic thoughts.
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