Bright, boisterous artwork hides a sinister undertone in this temporal anomaly of a comic that harkens back to a more light-hearted era, even as it hints at a darker future for its eclectic cast.
In what could be one of his most easily accessible books to date, Matt Kindt (The Valiant, Mind MGMT) teams up with the ever-popular Scott Kolins (The Flash, The Avengers, Beyond!) for a mindbending and somewhat cynical twist on the traditional time-travel story.
In Past Aways, out now from Dark Horse Comics, the pair explore the emotional mechanics of temporal displacement as they chronicle the quest of a group of dysfunctional chrononauts desperate to find their way back to their own era.
Time travel seems to be a hot topic in the realm of funny books of late. Mark Millar and Sean Murphy’s middle-of-the-road Chrononauts shipped the other week and Rafael Albuquerque’s Ei8ht – also published by Dark Horse – arrived in print to rave reviews. Even American TV network the CW delved into the dangers of temporal paradoxes in last week’s episode of The Flash, as a young Barry Allen thought he could have his cake and eat it too.
What’s fascinating about Kindt and Kolins’ treatment of this classic science-fiction plot device is that it has less to do with rubber science than it does iconic dysfunctional non-team superteams like The Defenders. In this way, Past Aways does a bit of time-travelling in its own right, evoking the clashing personalities and tendency towards misadventure that was a hallmark of the early issues featuring Marvel’s perennial B-listers.
Battling an extensive laundry list of psychological illnesses, from blatant narcissism to psychopathy, the members of the Past Aways seem incapable of reconciling their feelings of loss and alienation with their mission as temporal explorers.
Rather than banding together to delve into the mysteries of their new era and perhaps find a way back to the future (their present), the team exists as a collection of individuals intent on coping with their bi-polar conditions, suicidal tendencies, and homicidal urges in the most self-destructive ways possible.
Kindt builds a diverse cast that’s easy to relate to. Their motivations are believable, their reactions to their extreme predicament realistic. In many ways, their inherent selfishness, misplaced sense of entitlement, and unshakeable belief in their own superiority is more of a comment on the enduring solipsism of the human condition than on the future. It seems that despite 1.2 million years of evolution and technological advancement, human beings are the same old self-centred, insecure bags of flesh we are today.
Kolins’ artwork provides the perfect counterpoint to the thread of emotional darkness stitching the Past Aways together. His use of clean bold lines and dynamic page layouts is supremely easy on the eye and helps to subsume the shadows lurking just off-panel. Ultra-talented colorist Bill Crabtree’s bright colour palette does a lot of the heavy lifting in this respect, creating an aura of familiarity and spectacle as both artists strive to create – superficially, at least – a visual tone that evokes the bombastic, improbable four-colour comic-book realms of the Bronze Age.
Simmering with biting social commentary and stunning visuals, Past Aways walks a fine line between the light and the dark. There’s humour and even hope here, but also depression, distress, and abject despair. Kindt, Kolins, and Crabtree achieve a fine balance between these emotional poles while giving their readers one hell of a ride through the present day – thanks to a bunch of deranged explorers from the far future.
Matt Kindt (W), Scott Kolins (A), Bill Crabtree (C) • Dark Horse Comics, $3.99, March 25, 2015.