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‘Past Aways: Facedown in the Timestream’ - Advance Trade Paperback Review

I know a number of people who, when confronted with any sort of story involving time travel - from Primer to Back to the Future - will say, “I don’t understand time travel stories. They’re confusing.” If this accurately reflects your own attitude towards time travel, then stay far, far away from Past Aways. It will have you scratching your head practically from the first page and only gets more complicated from there; however, if you’re more like me and eagerly devour time-travel fiction in any form you can find, then this is definitely the comic for you. The story is strange and intricately crafted and a whole lot of fun from beginning to end.

A group of five time travelers were sent on a simple observation mission. There’s Art (the intrepid leader), Phil (the AI) who is programmed to look, act, and feel just like a human, Ursula (the psychologist and the team’s emotional support), Marge (the muscle), and Herb (the historian). Their mission was supposed to last just 24 hours, but a crash has now left them stranded 1.2 million years in the past—a barbaric, pre-historic time known locally as the 21st century.

Cut to one year later, and the team has all gone their separate ways. Now, however, a large time rift may hold the key to sending them back to their own era. A time rift which keeps spitting out a wide variety of dangerous monsters, from dinosaurs to killer robots, which only our team of Past Aways is equipped to fight.

This comic uses a lot of unique and interesting conventions to relate the story. For one thing, the present storyline is intercut with brief glimpses into each character’s past (in the future)—but not enough to give us much actual backstory on who these characters are - just enough to shed some light on some of their motivations. Most pages are also peppered with footnotes, containing explanations of various pieces of future technology that the team is seen using—as well as a few explanations of 21st century technology for those reading from the distant future.

Finally, each chapter ends with an excerpt from Herb’s travelogue, wherein he describes his attempts to interact with this primitive culture. This includes attempts to order “food” from a “restaurant,” “buy” a “book,” and go “trick-or-treating,” among other things. Each of these activities is described as being at once horrifying, repugnant, and oddly appealing. The descriptions can be pretty hilarious.

The uniquely complex and compelling story by Matt Kindt is complemented perfectly by Scott Kolins’ art, which gives us vivid depictions of creatures and technology from all across the timestream. If you’re a time travel fan, I highly recommend this comic.

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