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‘Time² Omnibus’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by
Howard Chaykin
Published by Image Comics


Well, damn. How long has this book been in the making?

Let’s see, I bought the first two chapters of this Omnibus when I was 11 years old and I’m 46 years old now. I still have the copies of the originals.

Suffice to say, I didn’t quite understand the stories when I first read it. I liked American Flagg! where this universe was introduced but my young brain couldn’t grasp the story the way that I can now. I did like the artwork, I remembered that much. But now was the time to reread it all in one sitting. I couldn’t wait to dig in.

This time around, it was much easier to understand it (hooray to public education and the teachers I had) and I loved it. The opening chapter is from the American Flagg! special that introduced the world.

The plot of this story is relatively simple: Raul, the talking cat from American Flagg!, has gone missing. Reuben Flagg has to go find him. Flagg is led to the world of Time², which is a hodgepodge of all things Chaykin. What I mean by that, it seems to be a place that is an intersection of all of Chaykin’s favorite things.

While Flagg looks for Raul, we get a makeshift tour of this place. It is a pretty colorful place that seems to have almost a jazz setting, both in look and attitude. The story here goes down pretty easily. The tour gives us a small sampling of this world. It is pretty cool, though not as expansive as later chapters eventually get. It is a pretty pat ending too, but sets up the universe enough for the reader to readily dive into the actual books, a taste at best of what is to come.

The first chapter of the trilogy comes next, subtitled The Epiphany. Chaykin introduces characters in an extremely rapid pace. He introduces backstories that are mentioned but never explored. It is unlike any other comic book narrative that has come before or since. It is wonderful and refreshing. Instead of just reading the book, you actually have to immerse yourself in it. If you do, and let it wash over you, you’ll be fine. That’s what I did and it worked perfectly.

The plot points that are given to us is that musician Cosmo Jacobi has been killed. We get another tour of the world as the various characters react to that. It is fun to be introduced to them all, whether they are suspects or not. Who killed Cosmo? What did they do it for? Does it even matter? From this, we are introduced to the “main protagonist “ of the series.

Maxim Glory is that protagonist. He has recently returned after being away for five years. Where did he go during that time? What did he do? What is even his job? These questions aren’t really answered for us. Which is great. There are insinuations but nothing force fed to us. Maxim meets up with his old flame Pansy, and they start looking into Cosmo’s death and a mysterious will that everyone wants to get their hands on. There is also a killer on the loose rampaging throughout the place.

The mystery unfolds and we get a different sort of climax from this chapter than expected. The story has an ending for sure, but the feeling of the piece is what I remember most. The graphic style of Chaykin’s work really flourishes here. There is something underneath it all and that is pure unadulterated joy. It serves this chapter of the story well and does so too for the remaining chapters.

The second chapter of this book is called The Satisfaction of Black Mariah. It is the strangest chapter of the book, and perhaps the strangest chapter of Chaykin’s entire career. Maxim Glory and Pansy are still the protagonists but their characters have changed a bit. Chaykin again leaves us some clues of how that happened but lets out imaginations fill in the blanks rather than spoon feed us .

Cosmo Jacobi is back as well, this time he has been reincarnated as a robot. People want him dead as there is an anti robot movement going on. Maxim defends him, however, as Cosmo’s music has never been greater. Once things settle in we see that some of the objects in the place have become sexual. There is a scene in this chapter that has a car having a sexual encounter with a character. It is one that I can never forget, for better or for worse.

Chaykin pushes his artistic prowess with this chapter along with the writing. This is definitely a mood, and it does hit some strange notes. Overall, it is a strong chapter of this book, and the last few pages especially venture to new territory. It is exciting, fun, experimental and just plain exhilarating as a reader to just allow this to wash over you. You give your trust to it and it does not let you down. Unless you were expecting standard fare, of course.

The last chapter of this book is called Hallowed Ground.” The story is pretty simple, as there is going to be the breaking of new ground, or a sort of “urban renewal” happening in this world. We get to see the various characters like Maxim and Pansy intersect one last time. Is there a plot trying to stop this from happening? Can it happen? Will all of the characters be sucked up in the tornado of what is occurring In this world?

Much like the other chapters, you just have to let this one wash over you as well. If you do and surrender yourself to it, you will be rewarded: I’ve read reviews that say something to the effect of “Chaykin doesn’t make it easy for his audience,” but that is utter nonsense. The ending of this was pretty impactful, at least for me. The last lines of dialogue wrapped this up perfectly.

I just enjoyed what Chaykin was giving us: a rare and joyful treat.

Maybe this book isn’t for everybody. Whatever. I loved it and can’t wait for subsequent readings in years to come. The only downside for me is that I won’t be seeing any further adventures with these characters or see anything further in this world. That’s okay, as it wraps up so perfectly that I really can’t imagine it any other way.



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