Friday, March 29, 2013

Time Warp, Verigo's Latest Sci-Fi Anthology

Time Warp, new from Vertigo
Anthologies can be very hit or miss with the material in them. You can get fantastic short stories sandwiched between comics so bad you wonder what the hell the editor was thinking. And sometimes you get something like Kramer's Ergot 8, which was 100% unexpurgated gibberish. Time Warp, new this week, is the latest science fiction anthology from the rather moribund Vertigo, and it is quite good.

Time Warp is a follow up to the previous one-shots in the series, May 2011's Strange Adventures, October 2011's The Unexpected, May 2012's Mystery In Space, and October 2012's Ghosts. Each of these 80+ page anthologies have featured contributions from some of the best independent creators working in comics as well as new team-ups of DC talent. A couple had the initial chapters of larger upcoming Vertigo series or serialized multi-part stories, but for the most part the stories were self-contained while thematically similar in each issue. As a whole, the anthologies have been fun but containing equal amounts killer and filler.

Time Warp breaks the mold by having only one weak story among the nine presented, that being a part of a Dead Boy Detectives serial. There's quite a bit to enjoy in the rest of the issue. The opening is an amazing Rip Hunter Time Master tale ("R.I.P.") written by Lost creator Damon Lindelof and illustrated by Sweet Tooth's Jeff Lemire. Lemire's style here is perfect for the dinosaurs and time sphere mashup and Lindelof's script is concise and wonderfully, logically (and emotionally) plays with multiple Rips through to the final R.I.P. The next short story, Tom King and Tom Fowler's "It's Full of Demons" is a heartbreaking tale of madness through a distemporal alternate history lens, and one of two utterly different Kill Adolph Hitler stories (the other being the closing tale, "The Principal" by New Deadwardians' Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard).

Andy MacDonald art from "00:00:30:00"
Gail Simone turns in an unexpectedly moving short story about a candy shop where the chef's creations will let you live "ten perfect minutes of your life," Gael Bertrand's art whimsical and stylish."The Grudge" by Si Spurrier & Michael Dowling is a completely and deliciously absurd tale of scientific one-upmanship through creative and sophomoric insults written across decades by two scientific rivals. "The Grudge" is a really funny, really absurd, oddly tragic, inventive short story.

"She's Not There" by Peter Milligan & M.K. Perker is a tale of spousal control not even limited by the bonds of death followed by "00:00:30:00" by Ray Fawkes & Andy MacDonald, a story I really liked. In a future war in space, when all seems lost, pilots can hit a time dilation field, giving them minutes of local time in just seconds, allowing them to complete mission objectives before being destroyed. But one pilot utilizes her time for more than just her duty, resulting in a lasting cultural change.

The penultimate story, "Warning Danger" by one of the best cartoonists working in mainstream comics, Matt Kindt, breaks away from the time travel theme shared by the other stories in the anthology. Like a mashup of Kindtian artistic flavor and Brandon Graham-like inventive sci-fi labeling, Kindt tells the story of a future war fought between just two combatants, enhanced and upgraded by years of research and billions in R&D. Two combatants, fighting on behalf of their respective worlds, the victor deciding the outcome of the entire war. Like the battle it portrays, it ends quickly but with a hint of the potential for abuse that such an arrangement could have.

If you've been enjoying the more frequent but more uneven anthology Dark Horse Presents, you should pick this up. A really solid jumble of time travel stories from a bunch of great creators, all for less than eight bucks.

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