Popped into OK Comics (a place I need to do a blog post on) recently to see what they’d pick out for me this time and I came out with a couple of interesting numbers, the first of which was this fantastically titled comic / graphic novel by Jason. It’s a quick read, you can comfortably read it in half an hour for example, as there is a sparseness to both the illustration and the narrative which, as someone new to the comic world, is something that takes me a bit of getting used to. A novel telling the same story would be packed full of text, characterisation and description whereas Jason boils everything down to the bare bones, but in doing so invites you the reader to build the body around them, to fill the space with thoughts and reflections on what is happening. As there is often so little on the page you can tend to whizz along and I found myself having to force myself to slow down to savour the word and the images, like drinking a nice wine, don’t gulp it down let it settle on the tongue and savour the flavour as it develops. So my new method was slow the pace and fill the space and once I’d adopted this method the comic took on new levels for me.
The story opens in a strange world that is essentially the world of today but one in which violence is ever present as assassins loom large, hired to kill everyday people for the generally annoying things that happen in everyday life, a noisy neighbour, someone getting promotion instead of you, a failed relationship etc. The central protagonist (nobody is named in the story apart from Hitler) of the story is himself an assassin, an assassin who’s relationship is failing, but who’s business is booming and who has a steady stream of people queuing outside his office to employ him to kill the annoying people in their lives. One of these people though has someone more serious in mind, he’s invented a time machine and wants to employ the killer to travel back in time to kill Hitler in 1938, thereby preventing the second world war and the subsequent Genocide.
There is a potential snag however as the machine uses so much energy that it takes 50 years to create the energy for one trip back in time and to have enough energy to return to the present day and the inventor has been waiting up until this moment to have the energy for the machine to work. There is an interesting moral ambiguity here in using a contract killer to kill a mass murderer before he becomes a mass murderer. The assassin accepts the mission but gets overpowered by Hitler who jumps in the time machine transporting himself to the present day and leaving the assassin stranded back in 1938. At the same time as Hitler is now living in the present time the assassin is also there, and looking to find him but he’s now an old man having waited 50 years to get back to the point at which he was originally sent back in time. He enlists the help of his girlfriend (who is now like his granddaughter) to see if they can find Hitler. I won’t reveal what happens next as unsurprisingly there is a twist, however something to think about is that despite the second world war not happening the world is still a violent place so with or without Hitler man’s inhumanity to man remains intact.
With the protagonist effectively having lived his life again over the previous 50 years and Hitler not embarking on his plan for world domination, both have second chances which I think is a key theme that Jason is trying to portray and perhaps to ask questions of ourselves that no matter what mistakes we have made we possess the ability to change, to create our own second chances. This is particularly effective when we think of our relationships and how we treat those closest to us, perhaps if we looked to understand more and condemn less we would not become so annoyed by the things others do, we would be happier people and there would be less conflict. Despite the sci-fi time travelling shenanigans I think that this is what Jason is trying to say and that the comic is really a love story and reflection on relationships.
This is a comic that is a short read but don’t think that this means it doesn’t contain some big themes, dry wit and clever ideas as it does. What it really does very cleverly I think is to allow you the space in which to explore them.