I have a very serious question to ask: Are Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins just feeding us a load of hooey in Past Aways? Or even perhaps bullcrap, not to stray too far into generally acceptable profanity. Sometimes the joke just gets more elaborate until someone calls the guilty party out, and they are waiting for it. We've all been there–usually alcohol is involved. Someone starts telling a story and is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and as no one notices, they add elaboration upon elaboration until the sheer density of the construction is ready to crack and then finally someone says "There's no way that actually happened!!" And the storyteller actually seems satisfied that someone has noticed. Maybe I just have weird friends, but this is definitely a thing.
Well, with comics it's of course different because we're dealing with a fictional reality. We allow that. But what happens when two pranksters like Kindt and Kolins take the helm and are determined to get a reaction from you? They'll build their central storyline, continue to make it more and more ridiculous, all the while seeing what it takes to keep you on board, but then load in shovel-full after shovel-full of crazy incidental detail, that seems to be comprised of one gag after another. And yet?
There's a second scenario to that situation where your friend tells a story that gets wilder and wilder. That's when everyone starts laughing at how inventive they are getting and asking provoking questions. We're egging them on to see just how far they'll go and whether they can keep up the surface tension of plausibility as they go. Much like watching a high-wire act, we're noting the dips and minute movements of the balancing beam in their tone and expression. Because if they somehow pull it off, we have to applaud them as the king or queen of bullsh*tters. And there's a strange dignity in that. You beat our own detection systems–you tripped past our logic filters and convinced us of something we know to be untrue through sheer style and commitment to the narrative.
We actually hold a special place in comics for people who can do that. We definitely give them a nod of respect. And we often mock those who aspire but don't yet have the skills to keep us on track with them moving through a story. So, in what ways are Kindt and Kolins leading us up the garden path as we, joyfully follow their insane story?
Well, let's start with having giant alien or a-temporal creatures in the hold of a secret underwater base that seems unhackable in Issue #5 of Past Aways. You know, we accepted pretty easily the premise of a bunch of extremely angsty time-travellers from a million years in the future stuck on earth now when the series started, and maybe tittered a little at Kindt's neat notes about their weird technology and assumptions. How cute. It stops being cute when you realize you just can't say "no" anymore. Having given them carte blanche for several issues, you turn around and realize they are all about the high wire act and you're locked in as the audience, kids.
Because not only is all this madness going on with time-tears and creatures threatening earth by crawling out of those tears that this team has to kindly take down to save humanity, but they are arrogantly keeping them as pets in the smartbase hidden in waters filled with flesh-eating nanobot pirahnas (you heard me right). And oh, right–here's where things get serious, and I don't mean the part where they have to explode a giant Gamera-like creature bare-handed, but when there's a person attempting to break into their lair who can seemingly replay segments of time until they get things right. Video game style. I don't know if it was watching that super-entertaining sequence in its semi-repeat loop until the intruder figures out their security systems, or if it was the back cover of PastAways #5 that made me realize that I'm never going to call them out. Kindt and Kolins win. They can now infuse every layer of bizarre and crazy detail into this comic and make it work. Sure–I'll believe in a food replicator that can make anything intuitively based on the person, a machine that emits meaningless sound that stimulates euphoria, and a set of stairs that's self-aware and quite obsequious (all in Issue #5 alone).
Especially since Issue #5 seems to be introducing a significant element in whether or not this team needs to "go public" about their existence which they have hitherto worked very hard to prevent (like burying their base under water). That could drastically change where this story is headed if the 21st century becomes aware of their millennium-jumping tourists. Especially since we know what the 21st century is like–full of all kinds of fear-mongering, greed, and lack of foresight. I have to confess I'm a little afraid for their future and in one more issue we'll conclude this story arc and be ready for another, perhaps a little more anxiety-laden one. Suddenly I'm ready for a whole issue full of sidebar hoaxy machines explained by Kindt and constructed by Kolins. Bring on the Gamera wrestling as long as we don't have to deal with real and real stupid humanity. Keep on with that high wire act, guys.
Past Aways is published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Matt Kindt and drawn by Scott Kolins, with colors by Bill Crabtree, letters by Rob Leigh, and is edited by Brendan Wright. Issue #5 came out this week and Issue #6 arrives on August 26th.