I’ve been neck-deep in comics for six months now. They’ve basically become my life. Before that (I’d rather not say how long before that), I majored in history in college. These two facts, though seemingly innocuous, are the perfect introduction to this post.
Basically, Time Masters was right up my alley.
Telling the story of Rip Hunter and friends, Time Masters chronicles Rip’s journey through time to stop Vandal Savage from creating the Illuminati, a secret society akin to the Knights Templar who effectively controls all major world decisions.
(Also, yay, I totally know who Vandal Savage is! I’m getting pretty good at this comics stuff.)
The catch is, the known forms of time travel only allow for a person to use each one once. Essentially, a person can make one trip to the past or future, and then back to the present time, and that’s it. There’s no crazy bouncing back and forth through time a la Doctor Who.
The overall story about the group trying to stop the Illuminati and Savage was entertaining, but the real draw for me was the fact that each issue took place at a different point in time. My inner history nerd was pleased that not only did these stories take place in the past, but that the writers seemed to take the time to make sure their historical narrative was at least somewhat realistic. Seriously, they even had an historical adviser while they were writing. Can someone tell me how I can get that job?? Historical adviser to comics, yes please.
While the historical tie-in was brilliant, it was even more impressive that they tied the story into the overall DC universe’s history.
Such as when one character visits ancient Egypt and meets Nabu, the predecessor to Doctor Fate. This tie-in was wonderfully done, and connected the story to the larger DC framework.
Yet one more instance where reading all of the earliest comics and learning character backstories has paid off.
Although a fun romp through time, the story also addresses more serious issues. None is more pointed than when young Corky commits suicide, shortly after being informed that he can never travel through time again:
Not a lot of time is dedicated to this part of the story, but it’s powerful nonetheless. Corky is a young drifter, orphaned and with no real direction in life. He seemed to secretly hope he could join Rip Hunter’s ragtag band of heroes, and resented the fact that he was never formally invited. After learning that he had already used up his one and only trip through time, it seems it was just too much for Corky to bear. Feeling he had nothing to live for, Corky hangs himself within the time sphere, a means of time travel.
This isn’t the first time suicide has been addressed in a DC comic (the most notable occurrences being among superheroes after the Crisis on Infinite Earths event), but it’s the first I’ve seen involving such a young person. While the other deaths were tied to older superheroes, here we see an ordinary boy, feeling he has no reason for living. It’s a sad yet realistic tale, though I can’t help but wonder what the writers were trying to prove by including this detail. There is little discussion of the tragedy after it happens, and it serves no real purpose in the story. Were the writers trying to reach out to young readers who may be feeling similarly, showing them that there could still be things to live for? Or was it merely a commentary on an all-too common reality of the day, in which too many children feel their lives are going nowhere and that they have no other out? Although vague, at least the incident makes the reader think.
Overall the story was really good. Ultimately, the group realizes that as evil as the Illuminati is, they will eventually be the only hope for humanity, and so must be allowed to exist. The basic moral of the comic is, “You can’t change the past. You can only change yourself.” It’s a rather profound statement for such a comic, but one that holds true no matter what time period you live in. If only other comic book characters realized this, they might create better lives for themselves.