Story: Luke James Halsall https://lukejameshalsall.wordpress.com/ @LJHalsall
Art / colours / letters: Cuttlefish http://cuttlefishcomics.blogspot.co.uk/ @cuttlefishcomic
Publisher: Markosia @Markosia
When Luke sent me the link and I downloaded Out of Time, I immediately realised that I’d seen this comic before – I still can’t remember when exactly but I thought at the time I really liked the cover, so getting to dip inside is real treat.
Before we get into detail, let’s sum up: I’m reviewing the whole book here which is a collection of three issues, numbered 1, 2, and 4. This may seem odd, but as I only write spoiler-free reviews, you’ll have to read it to find out why this doesn’t make sense in a good way! You’re getting over 60 pages of story for your money here, so great value for a book you can download for under $4 (check out DriveThru Comics for the download). The guys were on the con-circuit hawking the book before it being picked up by Markosia after a meeting at Thought Bubble – just goes to show, it’s always worth making those connections at cons!
So, let’s start with the artwork – it’s the first thing you notice about a book of course, and in this case it’s a good thing. The artwork isn’t entirely conventional but is nonetheless fantastic and that’s coming from someone who really got into, and then out of, comics in the ‘90s – and we all know what that means as far as artwork’s concerned: ’90s style art this ain’t, and the book is all the better for it. The characters only occasionally have mouths, sometimes don’t have arms (but still have hands) and frequently miss out on the joys of noses but that only adds to the wonderfully stylised appearance of the book.
Backgrounds aren’t heavily detailed, colouring uses a really limited and largely unrealistic palette, and word balloons are funky hand drawn affairs. None of this, however unusual, is bad – every bit of it appears a consummate stylistic choice topped off by some really neat inks which are most successful when they are kept nice and simple. A slight criticism, and I’m working hard here to pull something out, is that I think both the inking and the colouring are slightly less convincing in panels where the palette gets too varied (in that you lose that really strong graphic element of shades of a single colour) or inks are too detailed (where inked shading goes further than solid blacks) – the middle section of issue one is an example, but this is pretty minor in what is otherwise really solid work from Cuttlefish. Does anyone know who this person is by the way or am I looking for a guy who squirts ink in my face if I approach too quickly from a jaunty angle at a con…?
Onto the story. As I say, no spoilers (although the book’s been out for some time and I’m not sure that the script is really built around surprises, so I think I’m pretty safe), so I’ll keep things relatively general.
The story is about a small team of employees at a company who offer holidays to different periods in time to rich clients – when I say different periods of time, I don’t mean dressing up in green tights, sticking a feather in your cap and pretending you’re robbing from the rich. No, we’re talking actual time travel – which, as everyone knows, is a mind bender of a concept and something one would be well advised to steer clear of as a plot device. Given that, you have to hand it to the nutcase that is Luke James Halsall for taking it on!
Halsall sails above the old time-travel pitfall of getting bogged down in the “major boring shit” of the mechanics of it all – his main tool for this nimble little authoring trick? The classic time-travelling-sofa; naturally. I know, but it just is, ok?
While the story gads along at a rare old pace, it isn’t full of any great suspense which is fine because what we have here is a tale that relies on the characters and comedy to entertain the reader. Just before we get to those features though, it’s great that the story “gets about a bit” with scenes both in antiquity and in the future, all well visualised by Cuttlefish. Different realities are also mentioned but not explored in this book: I’m hoping that’ll be the subject of a future publication!
In terms of characters, some are more successful than others, with Redmond, NC-1000 and Dave being the ones that stand out. The dialogue of these three really works to give you a sense of character and quickly established itself as the distinctive voice of each. The other characters are good supporting players but perhaps lack the more clearly drawn appeal of these three.
One issue that jarred slightly was that the characters often use language that feels a little less natural than is comfortable, with fewer contractions than you might expect (e.g. “…what we are saying…” instead of “…what we’re saying…”). For many people this probably isn’t an issue, but writing natural dialogue is a really tricky business and it’s something that I find takes me out of a story if it doesn’t quite flow which happens here occasionally.
As for comedy, I found the funniest moments of the book were those delivered by characterisation rather than dialogue written purely for laughs – both Redmond and NC-1000 have some great lines which are funny because it’s an insight to their heads rather than being funny per se. I’d definitely say that this is something to focus on in the future as it works really well here.
To sum up, Out of time, is a good book full of fantastic artwork, some neat story and cool characters. I’d certainly recommend taking this little beauty for a spin! I’m really looking forward to what these guys are cooking up next.