The idea of time travel has been a staple of the fantasy/sci-fi genre in general and comic books specifically for…well, probably since the first future time traveller went back in time and was accidentally discovered by a struggling author who then just pretended to invent it. No matter how many times it’s used, I love it. I’m ALWAYS a sucker for a good time travel story. So, with thoughts of time travel on my mind, I figured I’d look at two recent time travel series I really enjoyed – Marvel’s Deadpool & Cable: Split Second done by Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown as well as IDW’s Bebop & Rocksteady Destroy Everything put together by the team of Ben Bates, Dustin Weaver, Damian Couceiro, Ryan Browne, Nick Pitarra, Giannis Milonogiannas, and Sophie Campbell.
Since I love time travel as a plot device I’ve often boasted that I understand time travel better than any actual science that really exists. Slipping through the time stream isn’t something to be done casually or lightly and its effects can simultaneously be massive and subtle. I get it. So, when time travel is actually invented, I’ll be happy to offer my consulting services. However, as of late, I’ve been forced to reexamine my presumed expertise. Time travel has become a plot device that’s used in increasing complexity by comic book authors. And, while I’m never actually worried that the time travelling shenanigans in any of the books I read will actually end up destroying everything they still fill me with a large amount of anxiety as I read them. And for that, I give credit to these authors who are putting new spins on something I thought I understood so well.
The Terminator movies? I love ’em (well, the first and third (I KNOW but I thought Judgment Day was overrated, I never feared the T-1000 compared to Arnold and, for me, a Terminator movie should invoke fear of the Terminator)) and I get how it all plays out. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander? It’s become my favorite book series of all time. I love the characters, the story, the writing, and I totally get how the time travelling exploits play out. Back to the Future? It twists around a little but I get the McFly/Biff relationship through the ages. But Deadpool & Cable: Split Second gave me a bit of pause. And if that prompted a little head scratching and a bit of anxiety over the consequences of time hopping, well Bebop & Rocksteady Destroy Everything left me uncomfortable and uneasy.
Here’s the thing. I easily and naturally invest myself in the stories I read. So, stories that are implying MAJOR and perhaps unalterable consequences to the very fabric of reality tend to unnerve me. So it’s not that the stories themselves were anxiety riddled per se, but rather letting my mind run over all the possible consequences of jumping through time – as these series presented them – made me nuts. I got so nervous! And, because of that, I loved both of these comic books even more. It also was exciting to find a new level to a plot device I enjoy so much.
What made me unsettled, is the fact that they both upended my confidence with knowing how to handle time travel without, you know, destroying existence. Time travel is essentially like the most extreme version of a leave-no-trace hike you can find. But both of these series threw that logic out and amped up the stakes for sliding through time. Let’s look at the dialogue on the first page of Bebop & Rocksteady Destroy Everything #2 shall we? The Turtles have found what appears to be the bones of Bebop and Rocksteady in the Natural History Museum…in an exhibit from the Cretaceous Period. As they try to puzzle out just what’s happened, Donatello discusses the effects of time travel with Renet, a Time Master and guardian of the time streams.
Aaaaahhhh!!!!!! That freaked me out! I’ve been obsessing over this idea a lot, going back in my head thinking about allllll the time travel stories I’ve read or seen and allllll the implications this idea could have. Each time Rocksteady and Bebop would jump I’d become more uncomfortable. This is CRAZY. What’s so nuts is that it makes perfect sense and comes with ramifications I can’t even begin to fully fathom. That’s what’s exciting about both of these miniseries. They give me all of the time travel fun I’ve always loved while also adding new dimensions to my understanding of the concept of time travel.
In Deadpool & Cable: Split-Second, Cable comes to stop Deadpool from killing a scientist, Dr. Carl Weathers, who’s invented a crude prototype for a time harness that allows the wearer to travel through time. It’s an odd mission…since Deadpool just saved Weathers from a Hydra assassination attempt. It’s worth reading the series just to see how all their attempts at stopping the assassination play out. The short bits as they try again and again and again are some of the funniest Deadpool moments I’ve read. He and Cable have always contrasted so well, Deadpool’s irreverence and chaos with Cable’s focus and restraint.
As their adventure continues, Cable becomes more and more unwell as they keep jumping through time trying to find this assassin. All the time traveling, it would seem, has begun to splinter Cable’s mind. Deadpool learns that the Time Variance Authority wants Cable dead, blaming him for the ever-increasing fractures in the time stream. They tell Deadpool, “By eliminating variant Cables across multiple temporal planes, you will stabilize the timelines.” Deadpool replies, “Yeah, even for me, that makes no sense at all.” It doesn’t…but it’s fun anyway and the time jumping commences through three issues featuring many different times and incarnations of Cable.
The series does an excellent job of lampooning the idea of time travel while also immersing the reader in the wild ramifications of messing around in time. Cable warns the assassin, “You don’t realize what you’re doing! You’re creating a pocket temporal anomaly! You can’t…keep time-porting…within such a finite…locality.” At one point, as Deadpool foils an assassination attempt on Cable and muses, “I really hate time travel. For example…if Cable saw me doing this when he was twenty, why didn’t he remember me when we first met?”
With Bebop & Rockstready Destroy Everything, we find the Turtles dim-witted adversaries moping around after getting kicked out of the Foot Clan and losing yet another fight with the Turtles. They stumble upon a time scepter and start joy riding through time. Trust me when I say THINGS GET INSANE. The Turtles and Renet enter the time stream to try and prevent Bebop and Rocksteady from doing more damage and set right the things they’ve wronged. The comic is easily one of the most ambitious time travel storylines I’ve ever seen and they chaos they rain through time only intensifies over the five issues.
I got soooooo itchy reading this. It started to drive me nuts! My mind, as I said above, was lost in the potential ramifications of the story. I can honestly say I love that this was a miniseries where the next issue came out the following week, not month. I was too anxious. Waiting months for the resolution would have killed me! This miniseries also featured the inventive twist that each time period/pocket universe was drawn by a different artist. So each time the Turtles popped out of a time tube they looked a little different. It really gave a unique feel to the series.
So, while my time traveling knowledge has been expanded in mildly crazy intense stressful ways by these two miniseries, I’ll happily ride that wave. As I’ve said, I love the time travelling trope and Deadpool & Cable: Split Second and Bebop & Rocksteady Destroy Everything are welcome additions to this subgenre. I just find the idea of time travel so much fun. And, while these stories may’ve freaked me out a little with their new and unnerving implications about time travelling, they are each certainly a lot of fun. I just love thinking about time travelling and speculating on, if I had the opportunity, where I could go. But, until that technology pops up (which I hope it does (unless what Renet told the Turtles is right then no thank you!)), I’ll have to be content with these fictional romps through time where my inner history nerd and inner sci-fi/fantasy nerd can come together and have some fun. It’s always a pleasure when my love of history and my love of all things nerdy can merge!