Time travel, for a price. And if you can afford it then the likes of Tatsuo, a down-and-out loser in life forced to work for the Syndicate in order to pay off his debt in new sci-fi thriller, Time Before Them #1 by Declan Shalvey and Joe Palmer. Until the day he Strats thinking of stealing a time-travelling pod and hiding from it all. But, with so much bad luck, will be ever get a break?
The future is a dire place to live if Rory McConville, Declan Shalvey and Joe Palmer’s Time Before Time #1 is to be believed. It’s the reason so many are spending their lifesavings on being relocated in the past by the likes of Tatsuo. A travel agent with a difference and a debt he must clear. A debt that has forced him into a career that is slowly killing him with each trip he takes to various points in the past. And a debt one feels he’ll never pay off given the suggests made in the opening pages of this new sci-fi time travelling series. Just as he get close to regaining his life, another time-travel enabling pid breaks down and he has to pay. A vicious cycle designed to keep the likes of Tatsuo in a life of servitude.
But, what if he stole one for himself?
That’s the premise for this intriguing new sci-fi thriller. A working class stiff working a dead-end job that he hates who sees a way out. Sound familiar? And, as the issue progresses, the readers unease with Tatsuo’s employees – the Syndicate – grows more and more. After all, anyone can travel back in time, no questions asked, if they have the money. A system open to abuse by future criminals, and other shady clients, that’s for sure. And if the unfolding plot line wasn’t clue enough, the dark hues of Chris O’Halloran’s colours over Palmer’s Mike Mignola-esque art is a further clue that the future being depicted here is a grim one indeed. A Blade Runner-like dystopia that relies on pilfering resources from across the time stream to carry on functioning. Very reminiscent of the aforementioned film in its locations and vision of 2040/2041, just not as over-developed and more relatable to readers. More in line with the kind of futurescapes you’d find in 2000 AD, a comic McConville has contributed for in the past. It’s why the whole, affair has a very British quality to it all. And I like it! It makes for a refreshing change to the more high concept US style stories to appear in US comic books.
I must admit, while this book is reminiscent of so many iconic sci-fi stories of the past, the story being told here really is worth the price of admittance. I was drawn in by the central concept of a man trapped in a life he wants to escape and a flawed man at that. An everyman easy to relate to on so many levels. And a life that just gets worse with each tune of the page too. How can anyone not want to root for Tatsuo? Especially when witnessing his catch-up with best friend, Oscar, who has been rescued from the future. It would seem Tatsuo is never too far from one personal tragedy or another.
That, and one asshole of a boss. Now, who can’t relate to that?
Time Before Time #1 has plenty of twist and turns to sustain the readers engagement and there really is never a dull moment in this oversized first issue. What with the tine-travelling, dodgy boss and grim future, it’s a gripping read you won’t want to put down. Entertaining, relatable and original. Shalvey proved his artistic chops a long time ago, but with this he’s piling on even more evidence that he’s just as great a writer as he is an artist, with a good deal of little bit of help from co-writer Rory McConville, of course. The crisp, no-nonsense artwork of Joe Palmer really fits the bill for this dark time-travelling tale that only gets more complicated for our hero by the last page. An enthralling read and maybe your next favourite new series?
Time Before Time #1 is out Wednesday 12th May from Image Comics