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Playback: STL Reviews Time Bomb #3, Abattoir #2

Review by Sarah Boslaugh

Time Bomb #3 (Radical)
56 pgs., color; $4.99
(Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray; Artist: Paul Gulacy)
Abattoir #2 (Radical)
28 pgs., color; $3.50
(Writers: Rob Levin & Troy Peteri; Artists: Bing Cansino & Rodell Noora)

Time Bomb, a 3-issue miniseries from Radical, mixes the science fiction and war genres with a little speculative fiction as well, and the result is a lively story that has all the expected elements and yet does a little something extra with them. In issues #1 and 2, a group of archeologists discover a hidden city beneath Berlin which was to be the Nazi Party’s refuge of last resort, and which also contains a bomb capable of wiping humanity from the face of the earth. (Talk about sore losers—if I can’t rule the world I’ll make sure nobody else can enjoy it either, so there!) Except, oops, they accidentally activated the bomb and so a team of four scientists and military specialists has to pop into a time machine and go back 24 hours to disarm it. Except, double oops, the A-team accidentally goes back 65 years instead and finds themselves in the middle of World War II and definitely on the wrong side of the lines.

As issue #3 opens, commander Jack McCrea is being held in an underground prison (by a beautiful blonde, of course) while the other members of the team are still above ground, outfitted in Nazi regalia and trying to finish the mission and also rescue him. This concluding issue is packed with all the things you’d expect from the a war comic with a little sci-fi mixed in, including fistfights, explosions, human bullets, mad scientist lairs, and rock hard bodies stripped to their underwear (and in one case beyond that point). Adolf Hitler himself even makes an appearance. Artist Paul Gulacy has a nice feel for just how far to push things: even when the story is at its most improbable, he draws it so you want to believe that it’s true. There’s a hyper-real quality to many of his frames with everything being just a little more clean and precise than it could be in real life, a choice which fits well with the slightly hysterical tone of the storytelling. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little hysteria: cross a war comic with science fiction and subtlety is not likely to be the result. You can see previews of Time Bomb, read interviews with the creators, and more at the series’ Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/timebombpage.

The setup with Abattoir, a 6-issue horror miniseries, is that real estate agent Richard Ashwalt is saddled with the job of selling a home where a horrifying incident (involving a clown and a chain saw at a kid’s birthday party) took place. So when an apparently motivated buyer appears, you’d think he’d jump at the chance to unload the place, but no, he has to be a righteous citizen and question the motives of the aptly named Jebediah Crone, who looks and acts like something out of your worst childhood nightmares. As issue #2 opens, Jebediah is paying Richard’s family a friendly little visit, sort of like the debt collector in D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner” who doesn’t get tough about the money you owe: he just sits in your parlor until you cough up the cash to pay him off so he will leave.

That night, Richard has nightmares or flashbacks or something involving corpses and monstrous Dali-esque eyeballs in a creepy old house. In the morning, he quarrels with his family and is first informed by his boss that the firm sold Crone the house and then chewed out for his lack of results (the boss doesn’t say “Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only” as Alec Baldwin does in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross, but his meaning is clear). Then Richard finds himself implicated in a murder related to his dream or flashback or whatever it was, so he’s really not having the best day. This is a good interior issue that complicates the story and sets up plot threads for the remaining four issues to resolve before ending on a dandy cliffhanger involving a Twilight Zone type of mirror that shows you not the scene in the room where it is but something else entirely. The art by Bing Cansino and Rodell Noora is tasty, if that makes sense within the horror genre: no matter what it’s showing you, even fairly creepy stuff, you just want to see more of it. The fantastic elements are a little better served than the realistic stuff, which is kind of minimal and workaday, and the dream-hallucination sequence is particularly good, with lots of small, oddly-shaped frames scattered against a background of blood smears on solid black.

Abattoir was created by Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw franchise and it feels like it’s halfway to a feature film or television mini-series already. It’s a good read if you like graphic (but never gratuitous) horror with a psychological dimension. You can see previews of the art and read some interviews about Abattoir on its facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Abattoirpage.

 

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