If it doesn’t rain, it pours; as Sean Bennett is about to discover in the second issue of The Man Who F#$%ed Up Time. Released by AfterShock Comics this week, the time altering adventure story mixes aspects of many great time travelling stories in an attempt to create something new and fresh.
Does it succeed? Is it a breath of fresh air for the genre like previous AfterShock title The Revisionist? Or is it a mess of contradictions and plot holes like a certain MCU movie?
Telling The Time
This issue starts with the freaky cyborg future-police visiting Sean in his past to teach him a lesson in the present. Sean wakes believing it all to be a dream but soon learns it isn’t and the realisation of how much he has f#$%ed up hits him like a brick wall.
The opening ‘it was all a dream’ sequence is a way for John Layman to reintroduce the story to the reader. It builds to a large splash page to show off the effects of Sean’s time meddling. This is similar to a sequence in the last issue. From this point on it’s all a rush of action as Sean attempts to put right what he once did wrong, without the aid of a hologram* or anybody else.
There are elements of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the plot but unfortunately none of the style or humour. As Sean goes through the events of the first issue, undoing his rash acts, he shows some initiative in getting his hands on the time travel machine but then all his decisions are dubious at best. This leaves the reader wondering what sort of person Sean Bennett really is.
Layman is more interested in the plot, in creating interactions with the Sean’s from different time periods, than he is in building up the central character. Sean’s development is slow and most of it is reactionary. He is driven by fear more than anything else. But at least he does have some personality, the extras in this time farce have virtually no character beyond their initial characteristic. No-one features for any length of time other than Sean, which results in him being surrounded by two dimensional people who have a cliched role to fill and nothing more.
This is a shame because it means that the reader does not engage fully with Sean’s dilemma. The altered universe becomes more interesting because there is so much to investigate and nothing, or no-one, of any consequence has been lost in the transition. Layman obviously loves the idea of mixing up eras to create an alien world and the world’s Sean ends up in are spectacular. It would be more interesting though if there was a sense of loss for the original time line. Back To The Future is gripping and exciting because Marty’s home is one worth saving.
Art Of Time
The saving grace of The Man Who F#$%ed Up Time is the art work. Karl Mostert uses thin, detailed lines to etch out Sean’s travels. There is a great amount of detail in the panels and Sean especially has a real presence on the page.
The reading line through the panels is clear and precise, almost simple in its design. One of the things that helps this along are the clever page transitions Mostert uses. Sean Runs into the building at the bottom of one page and is still running, in exactly the same manner, in the centre of the top panel on the next page. The movement or eye line of the character leads the reader into the page turn so that the flow of the story is not broken.
The coloring is also detailed and descriptive. Bold and distinctive color choices highlight the central character, enhancing his presence on the page. Sean is recognisable instantly, even from a distance, because of the colors that Dee Cunniffe uses to identify him. Vary rarely does he clash with any other aspect in a panel.
Cunniffe makes the majority of the comic mundane in appearance by giving everything a realistic hue. The backgrounds of the science lab and the convenience store don’t pop with color, they are functional and expressive only in their ‘everyday-ness’. Where this changes is whenever the time machine is activated or there is something truly out of the ordinary on the page. In these moments Cunniffe bestows a vibrancy to the panel. He brings the moment to life, making it leap from the page and feel like it is part of a great science-fiction story.
Layman attempts to do this with his lettering. Occasionally he’ll change the expected shape of a speech balloon to make the text more important or noticeable. His placement of the speech runs parallel to the artwork, leading the reader through the page. Walking them from panel to panel like a child being led by the hand.
Visually, The Man Who F#$%ed Up Time is a satisfying read with some interesting comic book ideas woven into it. Unfortunately, the plot and characters do not enhance it beyond artistic fascination.
One of my complaints about the Avengers: Endgame movie is that it mocked previous time travel movies and then proceeded to be one of the messiest, ill-thought out plots of the genre. It was entertaining but made little sense. The Man Who F#$%ed Up Time is similar. It draws from an expressive and creative well but then dilutes the final product before serving it up. This comic is lacking subtleties and nuances that would elevate it above mere entertainment.
The Man Who F#$%ed Up Time is fun and daft. As long as you don’t think too hard about it, you should find it enjoyable. However, I fear that it is going to be easily forgettable unless future issues bring something spectacular to the table.
*Quantum Leap Reference. You’ll get it or you won’t.