When Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins decided to make 2015 "the distant past" of their new comic, they flipped us all into a strange trans-temporal state where a sense of humor is a saving grace. Matt Kindt's elaborately complex and yet strangely intuitive award-winning series Mind MGMT, also from Dark Horse, has established his strange passion for the little details of fictional traditions that's the kind of fine texturing a little like Wes Anderson's obsessive ability to world-build and create a kind of spell over the beholder.
I'm not going to lie–when I heard about Past Aways, and began to realize that it was an opportunity for Matt Kindt to run rampant through science fiction in what was likely to be a similar vein, I already knew the potential for strangeness was virtually limitless. When I heard Scott Kolins was drawing it and checked out his artwork, then it dawned on me that this was also somehow a funny or at least zany approach to the subject, and I had to acknowledge that Past Aways had gone way beyond my powers to predict in direction. I just waited.
I initially saw some early artwork for Issue #1 of Past Aways, actually, and that's a very off the wall way to "read" a comic, with no text but in sequence. I had to kind of construct the narrative a little in my own mind, and that was difficult, but I knew I was laughing and turning the pages quickly. What kind of messed up world was I looking at? When/what was it? Who were these frazzled, strange characters and what did they have to do with each other? It seemed like they hated each other, and everything really. That has turned out to be a fairly accurate impression of Past Aways.
If you think you've seen stories before where there's an unlikely team snarking at each other and maybe even hating on each other, you won't have seen this kind of fine line between the two. An opening page to Issue #1 warns us of the tensions between the characters with inscriptions about them, and the fault-lines in these relationships are explained in a brief, punchy way that gives you a secondary reaction wondering if the captions aren't fully joking.
You see, things have gotten ugly for the characters of Past Aways–full on psychotic break down potential ugly and you can almost conceive of that as the story begins to piece itself together for the reader. These people have come from the future: Big deal, right? Over a million years in the future. Oh. That's a long time, a really long time. They're stranded. That's ok, we like our "shipwreck" type stories. They have no certain contact with their own time. Well, that's the start of an existential crisis, I'd imagine. And the time that they've shipwrecked in: our own stupid, superficial, time period with a few slight tweaks to make it odder.
But yeah, 2015 looks even more like a playground for shaven apes than we're prepared to admit. And so, we must ask ourselves, what would the world look like to someone from such a distant time? I can't even imagine the boredom or the loathing that would develop. Stop for a second and think about the things associated with the generation one below your own that you find irritating to the maximum and then unfold that infinitely. Yikes. And by the way, they can't die. They have to experience this, perhaps forever (I'm treating our generation as "younger" than theirs even though we would be technically "older" because we would no doubt seem less sophisticated).
"Perhaps someone is reading all of this". That's what Herbert, the "Documentarian" of the stranded in the 21st century team says in Past Aways. He's been given a frail hope that he may have found his purpose again. And it feels like it depends on us, the reader, to give him that. That's the only thing, we begin to realize, that could keep these people sane, that could keep them from becoming kind of an ugly smear on their own pre-history as they fade into oblivion. If they had a purpose, if their mission was no longer abandoned, if there was some hope. They seem to receive a sign in Issue #1 that all is not lost. By then, seeing their extremity and the strangeness of their lives, we don't want them to lose hope again, either. The comic is funny; it has to be. It delivers fresh perspectives on the trends of modern life, technology, and the obliviousness typical of modernity, but it also suggests the crushing weight of isolation for our team members, the dull void introduced into their lives by failure, and the absolute need to put on a pair of red goggles and somehow make things right again. And that is a very compelling opening for Past Aways. I could have predicted that, at least, well ahead of time.
For fans of Matt Kindt's other works, make sure to look out for the meta-material in the margins, caption descriptive boxes occasionally that give us a schematic-like breakdown of information, and, best of all, in my opinion–the occasional diagram of wildly fantastical things.
Here's our preview of Past Aways #1:
Past Aways #1 arrives in comic shops March 25th and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: JAN150085