Friday, April 1, 2011

Trade Waiting – Time Bomb

Time Bomb is an action comic paced so fast you’ll actually find yourself turning the pages with vigour. It’s a time travel sci-fi action tale about a secret team that go back in time to stop a long hidden Nazi bomb from being detonated accidentally. They plan to go back 24 hours but instead end up in the heart of WWII Nazi Germany. They can still achieve the mission goals but things are certainly more difficult. This comic is a whole stack of fun so hit the jump to see my thoughts on it.

Time Bomb

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art by Paul Gulacy
Colours by Rain Beredo

Time Bomb is a comic that will rock your world because the pacing doesn’t know how to do anything but impact upon you. The initial premise is set up in five pages. A drilling team in Berlin stumble across a buried, and massive, Nazi city underground. It’s instantly a concept that grabs your attention because it is so ballsy. Doing anything Nazi in a story is always going to toe the line of glorifying them – even when you so clearly make them the villain. Nazis have gone down in history as so personally vile that mere mention of them, or showcasing of their particular visuals, can still provoke many negative responses from an audience.

Palmiotti and Gray are thus smart enough to instantly sell us on this pulpy idea so you don’t quite take it seriously, though you still buy that the stakes are high. This tale takes on more meaning when the crack team assembled over a montage of pages setting up these characters and their skills is called in to fix a very big mistake. The first people down into the Nazi city set off an Omega Bomb that is going to pretty much wipe out humanity. I guess the Nazi’s had an inkling they were going to lose and they weren’t the sort to take it graciously.

Our intrepid team (which I saw one blogger describe as Clooney, Pitt, Liu, and Kanye), is going to be sent back in time just far enough to stop the missile being launched. It should be a simple mission but instead, of course, the team goes back too far. Every good time travel story knows you never send the person back to the right time, you play up the dramatic irony, and you always have issues with affecting the past affecting the future. Time Bomb plays with all these tropes when our heroes find themselves in the middle of Nazi Germany in WWII.

And this is just the first issue. Granted, Radical usually drop these massive first issues so that’s plenty of story to pack in but it’s still impressive. We get plenty of time to see the team get ready to go back in time, the science of the time travel is ‘explained’, and all the characters interact enough that we get a feel for them and obviously choose our favourites. It’s an effective set up and things only ramp towards more action by the middle of the book.

Once this story gets going, this is an action comic. You usually hear of cape comics, and indie comics, and crime comics, but it’s rare you really come across an action comic. It usually has capes if it has action but this plays out like a doped up exploitation flick that doesn’t know how to slow down. Even the rest of the characterisation is played out at warp speed. As much as any character beats may suffer for this, the overall comic does not. An action comics needs action and this knows exactly what to give and how fast to give it.

A concentration camp is liberated and we’re placed right into the action. This is even so far as one panel has the gun coming from the bottom of frame, as if we are firing at the Nazi scum willing to tap dance over so many minority civil rights. This book wants you to revel in the violence, condone it. Most moments of death are shown graphically on the page. We see every bullet wound to the head and Nazi war crime and atrocity. It’s certainly not for the weak of heart yet it doesn’t quite shift into torture porn territory.

Many could be forgiven for making some Inglourious Basterds comparisons as this feels like a Tarantino flick in so many respects. When the cast isn’t blowing away a German soldier, they’re posing for the camera and talking snappy. It’s not as funny as Tarantino, it goes for more of an old school war movie tone but with a modern sensibility of violence. And then there’s the time travel aspect. It ties into the whole narrative while providing a ticking clock within a ticking clock scenario.

Some of the cooler moments are created when Palmiotti and Gray play with the science of the heroes. They come from the future (2012) and so are given some theoretical weapons that certainly don’t exist yet. They get away with this easily because by having the team travel back in time to Nazi Germany they have already told the audience to relax and enjoy the show. If that doesn’t convince them then the energetic action certainly lulls us into a crazy satisfied reading coma.

The final act seems to lose its way slightly as the heroes spend more time posturing and spouting off personal beliefs than they do progressing the narrative forward. Certain leaps in logic are made, and one twist telegraphs itself fairly obviously, but when it culminates in being able to type the following sentence it’s most likely all worth it – the heroes spend some time enjoying kicking Hitler’s ass. That’s just as much fun to write as it was to read. This is escapist fantasy of the highest order. The meshing of war/sci-fi/time travel/ensemble action tropes ensure that if there is one thing you’ve seen before it is paired with something you haven’t.

In the end, the conclusion might not completely make sense but it feels right. It might have been too easy in places but it’s still fun. This is popcorn comics at its best because it’s cheesy and flashy but still overly enjoyable.

Gulacy keeps the action flowing smoothly and handles future and past environments with skill. However, I’d almost go so far as to say Beredo’s colours actively work against the art. The lifeless colours and overly shadowed work rob many scenes of their heart, which is a shame. You can still enjoy the art but I can’t help wonder how much better it could have been with someone else’s palette.

Verdict – Buy It. Time Bomb is a phenomenally fun comic. This is relentless action that keeps the pages turning and the manic glee of creation flowing into your brain with every panel. By the time you get to the end, you will have received more than your money’s worth of a solid story. It stands alone, it delights, and it’s well worth your time.

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Arctis J. said...

didn't i once read an article on here codemming racial insults?
it's fine as long as you're the one using them, isn't it?

Arctis J. said...

found it

Matt Duarte said...

@Arctis: I looked over the whole article, and the only one I noticed that you could be referring to was "kraut". I wasn't aware that it was a racial insult, since I was familiar with it used in music for "krautrock" and the punk rock band Kraut. I knew that it was a term that was used to refer to Germans, but I thought it was something similar to "Yankee" for Americans (a slang term, but not exactly offensive in of itself).

If you can confirm that "kraut" is indeed the word that offended you (since you didn't outright say which one it was), please let me know and we will edit it out.

Arctis J. said...

@Matt Duarte:
Yeah, it was kraut, which is short for Sauerkraut and is still widely used in the UK and other english-speaking countries as an insult against german tourist. It's equivalents can also be found in other countries and languages like the netherlands.

Matt Duarte said...

@Arctis: Alright, it has been removed. I apologize if it offended you in any way, and thank you for pointing it out for us.

I didn't write this review, but like I said above, if someone had asked me what "kraut" meant, I wouldn't have considered it offensive (like "yankee"), and I'm sure that Ryan thought the same thing. We'll keep it in mind for future articles.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Arctis - Hey mate, sorry if the term caused offense. I put Kraut in there two-fold - I agree with Matt that's it more used along the line of Yank or Jerry, that sort of thing. It's slang but I rarely see it used as an actual racial slur (which doesn't mean it's not and so I'm fine with others feeling that way), and also in the context of the sentence it was more intended to be matching the intent of the characters. This team isn't just shooting down a German soldier, they're busting up some Krauts. That would be their viewpoint as that's how the Americans viewed, and called, the German soldiers.

Kraut is the direct relational term to Limey, and that gets used plenty and usually without massive offense.

However, in summation, you took offense, alerted us to this, and we're happy to change it.

Maxy Barnard said...

Man, I loved this, more for Gulacy's sick art than anything else. The man has evolved more and more over the years from someone above a hell of a lot of artists to... well, to being damn near the best for ill art that just looks unlike anything else.

Great review too, but you already knew that, Ryan.

Though you have just offended me by using the word Limey. FACT

Kirk Warren said...

Fun fact - Brits (is that politically correct? United Kingdomians?) used limes to stave off scurvy and Germans started using limey to describe them because of it. Germans used sauerkraut as their vitamin c food of choice on long voyages and became known as krauts for it. I did not think these were derogatory before Arctis brought it up, but probably werent used as nice words in WWII either, so probably should have realized that.

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