TIME BEFORE TIME #1/ Script by DECLAN SHALVEY & RORY MCCONVILLE/ Art by JOE PALMER/ Color Art by CHRIS O’HALLORAN/ Letters by HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHAOU/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
The year is 2140 and the human race’s best days are in the past. With the resources of the Earth spent, many have begun dreaming of better days rather than trying to build the better future some believe is just around the corner. Enter The Syndicate; a criminal organization with access to highly illegal and highly dangerous time-travel technology from the future. For the right price, The Syndicate can set you up with a new life any-when you want.
It’s a good deal for those who can afford what the Syndicate charges, but it’s not so great for Tatsuo – a low-level fixer who acts as a ferryman, steering those who pay into their new lives. Given that the time machines are stressful on the body and slightly radioactive even when they work properly, piloting escapees is not a job that can be done too often. There’s also the matter of the debt Tatsuo owes the Syndicate that will keep him working for them forever, assuming his body or the time machines don’t wear out first. That’s when Tatsuo has a crazy idea about stealing a time machine to go somewhen else, beyond the Syndicate’s reach. Unfortunately, that’s far from simple for many reasons, and Tatsuo’s life is about to get a whole lot more complicated before he can enact his plan.
Dystopian literature is a dime a dozen these days and there’s a lot of science fiction devoted to the power of nostalgia and how far people will go to use futuristic technology to recapture past emotions. Despite this, Time Before Time manages to distinguish itself with a well-paced story that seems new while trodding some well-traveled ground. This is largely due to how well Declan Shalvey and Rory McConville develop Tatsuo in establishing his conflict. Precisely how Tatsuo became involved with the Syndicate is unexplained, but the story shows us how he has just enough morality left to feel bad about one of his ferryman jobs, which requires him to help a murderer evade capture.
The artwork by Joe Palmer does a fantastic job of establishing the bleak setting and depicting the squalor of 2140. The color art by Chris O’Halloran subtly denotes the changes in time and mood, with hot colors punctuating tense moments and exciting places, cool greens denoting more peaceful time periods and cool blues, greys and purples dominating the scenery while hinting at the dreariness Tatsuo feels. These emotions are further punctuated at key points by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s amazing lettering.
Time Before Time is a truly timeless work, sure to appeal to fans of dystopian science-fiction. I don’t think it will win over any who aren’t already fans of the genre, but this is a solid opening chapter for what promises to be a great graphic novel.
Time Before Time #1 releases on May 12, 2021.