May 28, 2011

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Baltimore Time Travel Anthology

Written and Illustrated by Various Authors
Self-Published

Last night I had the pleasure of stopping by the release party for this anthology mini-comic at Atomic Books in Baltimore, Maryland. Co-released with a zine on snocones, it was a very well attended event. I missed most of the party, but I was able to grab a copy of the anthology itself, which was of course the point of going.

The general theme of this anthology is time travel, though the idea is very loosely interpreted at certain points. We have clear cut use of time travel from some creators and others that I just can't quite seem to figure how they manage to work the idea into the narrative. In a few cases, time travel is a metaphor, which is a neat idea, but I have to admit the science fiction fan in me was a bit disappointed that more stories were not like Jonathan Eaton's absolutely hysterical "Hitler Kitty," where a hungry stray ends up changing history.

Now of course, not all good time travel stories include tabbies turning murderers into mommies, but my idea of a time travel story involves doing something that relates to moving about in the time stream in a way that is not currently possible. As a result, I admit my reaction to this collection is a bit mixed.

There are definitely some cool stories in here that use the theme quite well, most of which tend to be towards the front of the book, Eaton's story, of course, is the best, but there is also Kim Te's dangers of being a time travel mechanic, Gavin Schmitt's portrayal of a time travel paradox (complete with some great secret agent names), Melody Often's subdued approach, and Emilja Frances' almost heartbreaking idea of what time travel could be. Had the anthology contained almost entirely stories in the vein of these, I would recommend it without hesitation, as they are all quite good in their own way. They show off the power of a themed anthology, because while no one would miss the concept, the execution is vastly different in every case.

I liked a few of the other stories in the anthology as well, but their link to the theme was very tenuous. Josh Van Horne tries a choose your own adventure that's a cute idea but is more about tripping than traveling. Tim Yingling's story would make a great Twilight Zone episode, with a gotcha ending that fits perfectly but is time travel only in the conventional sense. Finally, Monica Gallagher uses an imagined revenge across the ages, which is a cool trick, but not time travel in the traditional sense.

Baltimore Time Travel Anthology is a little weak on theme but very strong on enthusiasm and effort. As with any anthology, there are stories I liked and stories I didn't, and if you put ten people in a room, we'd all have our own different opinions on which worked best and which did not. I really wish this had been a bit more tightly edited for theme, but if you like reading mini-comics and want to get a feel for those in the Baltimore area, this is a great way to do it. I only wish they'd have included a biography page or a way to link these artists back to their work and websites. Perhaps that can be added to the project website or in a future edition.

If you want to pick up a copy of this in your future, you can go to Atomic Books in Baltimore or pick up the book online.