What would you do if you could leave all your troubles in the past, literally? If starting over again was as easy as hopping in a rickety metal box, pressing a few buttons, and starting life anew in a completely different century? That’s the question posed in Time Before Time, a brand new series written by Declan Shalvey and Rory McConville with art by Joe Palmer.
Described as “Looper meets Saga,” Time Before Time follows resident time smuggler Tatsuo who works for the Syndicate, an organization who helps send people to a time before the world apparently went completely downhill in 2140.
Unlike other time travel stories, Time Before Time doesn’t really waste its time trying to explain its version of the concept of time travel. And for that, I commend it. Rather, it just puts readers right into the heart of its world, and its central character, Tatsuo.
Tatsuo, who after working with the Syndicate for quite a while, has grown tired of the physical and mental effects constant time travel has on his body. Every time he makes a jump, he feels himself getting sicker. So after losing basically his only way out of his debt to the Syndicate, Tatsuo decides to steal a time pod with his best friend Oscar. Of course, the two soon realize that running away from your past isn’t as simple as changing your future.
Tatsuo is instantly a likable and relatable protagonist. In a world where time travel is seen as an unconventional job for the Syndicate and its smugglers, Tatsuo (“Tat” for short) is a young man who feels stick in his dead end job. An irony that feels that much more bittersweet as the story progresses, and the catastrophic effects of time travel start to make their way permanently into his life.
Time travel in pop culture is usually seen as the last resort. The be all end all game changer that the main characters typically use to right wrongs they’ve made in the past, or stop these wrongs from ever happening. Of course, in those stories, something usually goes wrong and their future is irreversibly changed in direct response. It’s the whole idea behind the “butterfly effect.” Kill a butterfly in the past, and your future turns into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with no oceans and a sinister “big brother” corporation constantly watching over you.
The interesting thing about Time Before Time is that from the jump, we’re already introduced to the worst possible future. The oceans have all dried up, the Syndicate pretty much runs things, and society is apparently in shambles. To make matters worse, time travel (that aforementioned last resort) is now just a glorified relocation program that seems to always come with a catch.
Nevertheless, Tatsuo still believes traveling back to the past is the answer to his prayers. Whether that’s true or not has yet to be revealed, but one things for sure; his life is about to change in a way that not even time travel can fix.
Time Before Time #1 issues a gripping story that clearly goes deeper than its time-travel aspect. A dark, Blade Runner-esque neo-futuristic setting with vibrant, striking colors serve as the backdrop for a tale full of action, suspense, and tragedy. It will be interesting to see where and when Tatsuo’s story goes next.