Thursday, May 29, 2014

CBR Time Masters


It's #TimeTravelThursday,

Join me for another Time Travel-related review!

More BWA-HA-HA reviews in these links below!

Comic title: Time Masters
Art by Art Thibert & Jose Marzan Jr
Written by Bob Wayne & Lewis Shiner 

Published by DC Comics
From 1990/2008
Lineup Time Masters/DC Universe
Format: Trade paperback collecting TIME MASTERS #1-8 and some material from SECRET ORIGINS #43.

What if you could travel back in time and play with history? But, for the purpose of this example, say you could only travel once via a different method each time?

Sounds gimmick-y enough? Well, and what if you had to stop an immortal secret society from shaping up history into their own hands... all the while using those time travel restrictions...  Yeah, now that's a challenge!

After the creation of The Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby in 1957 at DC Comics - predating the Fantastic Four by Stan Lee at Marvel! - that series receiving an impressive success, DC decided to debut several more science-fiction series.

Amongst those were notably Cave Carson, the spelunker-adventurer, and what concerns us today, the time traveler Rip Hunter!

After a couple of appearances in '59 in "Showcase", the character was finally given his own series that ran for 29 issues in the 1960s. Then in the mid-1980s, Crisis on Infinite Earths happened. Most of the past DC Universe was erased, things started anew and a lot of "silly" Silver Age concepts were forgotten... until some creative teams decided to bring those elements back, piece by piece.

Rip Hunter and his Time Masters where given a second change in 1990, in an 8-issue mini-series simply  titled "TIME MASTERS". It was written by Bob Wayne and Lewis Shiner, with art by Art Thibert & Jose Marzan Jr..

This helped define the character again as well as the "new rules of Time Travel" which the editors were trying to get rid of with their new clean slate. While another future version of Rip Hunter was appearing in other books, in parallel to those stories we had another slightly "younger" version of the inventor of the time travel technology helping both Booster Gold in his title and appearing in Grant Morrison's Animal Man. All this thanks to time travel!

In 2008 DC finally collected this long-requested Time Masters series from 1990.

Time Masters is sort of a modern retelling of classic Silver Age comics. Which means we get a lot of other old school figures that DC tried to erase with "Crisis" back in the day. Finally reintroduced here for a new audience at the time, including Cave Carson, the Metal Men's creator Doctor Will Magnus, Dr. Fate and more!

Time Masters works as new retelling of these old Silver Age concepts and a Rip Hunter origin book, exploring the rules of time travel in the then-new DC Universe.

Rip was employed by Dr. Will Magnus, working on a way to travel through time in his lab in New York. Trying to rebuild the Time Sphere he was supposedly the creator of at some point in the future, which Booster Gold brought him. When one day someone sabotage Rip's lab before he's able to come up with finale proper method for time travel...

Rip uncovers a whole conspiracy of immortal DC villains headed by Vandal Savage and his Illuminati (for some reason they won't attempt to kill Rip directly, but the finale issue reveal why...). Rip has to put a stop to these so-called Illuminati and prevent them from reaching some key figures from history (although since those take place in the past... that means they've always already done so.. or were to be stopped by Rip no matter what.. and it already happened?).

Before we get some time-bending tales of time travel shenanigans, Rip establishes the very complicated rules of time travel in the very first issue. Rip has only been able to develop two methods of time travel so far... and you can apparently only travel through time once per method, due to the immense stress to one's body while doing so! But Rip can't travel through time anymore.

So Rip Hunter comes up with a rag tag team of adventures, since he won't be able to travel in time anymore he will send crew members one by one. Chief amongst those is Jeff Smith, Rip's old friend from the M.I.T., Bonnie and her young nephew Corky Baxter. But Corky can't travel through time due to an accident he has early on and gets bitter the whole story (until a much darker turn..).

During the course of this story we also get some familiar faces of the DCU such as members of the Justice League International, the Martian Manhunter, Superman and Green Lantern.

Our Time Masters use the Time Pack backpack to go back to investigate proof of the Illuminati manipulating events of history in the past. We get some dinos, raptors and a T-Rex, our heroes start to form a solid group of adventurers as they test time travel methods while Rip is working on a third definitive way to go back to the past.

Dr. Calvin "Cave" Carson, a geology professor, makes his first post-Crisis appearance and joins the gang.

Each chapter title is a reference to cult songs.

Our heroes finally find a way to the future... only to find the Illuminati working for the good of mankind?

Maybe they should simply stop all this...

And it appears they can't really ever change the past effectively, making Rip come to terms that time travelers can't change the past! Time is like a river always following a course, you can throw as many rocks as you want.. Was this all pointless?

Rip goes back to prehistory to kill Vandal Savage in the past before he ever became immortal from the radiations of a meteor...

The story finally ends with a twist cliffhanger! The ending was never properly resolved or ever alluded to (but you can easily imagine another version of Rip Hunter saving himself from there - now that would be a twist!). 

Bob Wayne & Lewis Shiner originally intended for the story to have a sequel.. It was planned but was never actually made...

Time Masters features a lot of vintage DC characters. Obscure guest starts in most of these issues, long time DC fans will have fun recognizing Tomahawk, Scalphunter, Viking Prince, Bat Lash and Jonah Hex!

This mini-series brought Rip Hunter back to the frontscene pre-52. After a quick cameo in Booster Gold's original on-going series, fans enjoyed his appearance enough to warrant exploring the notion of time travel again.

Time Masters was the occasion to revive a 1960s concept along later 70s figures in the then-present 90s.

It's a great tale! A race against time itself to defeat Vandal Savage across history, each Time Master only able go back in time once and with a different method each time. Which helped limit the risks of creating anomalies in the space-time continuum.

With time travel limited because Rip wasn't able to recreate the Time Sphere that allowed Booster come from the future, back and forth several times. Using a new gadget each time helped get solo adventures for each characters.

All of these restrictions regarding time travel in the DCU were imposed post-Crisis. DC Universe. We even get a brief allusion to that time Animal Man came to Rip looking for a time travel device (even though it's the first time AM and Rip ever met here, they allude to past retconned encounters).

The art is great overall, kinda simple in retrospective but pretty realistic and full of life.

The book also features an introduction by renowned DC writer Geoff Johns, discussing they many series relaunches following Crisis. Years later Geoff Johns himself would use Rip Hunter as a main character in the event series "52", and would follow that with a new modern Booster Gold series, revealing the "Rip Hunter" name was only an alias. Rip Hunter would finally be revealed to be a descendant of Booster Gold actually!

Overall, a pretty fun book, if you like time travel and all the implications it brings up.

It's a great premise. Stories of secret societies manipulating our history are nothing new, there's been decades worth of conspiracy theories, the concept has been used so many times to death...

But here it gets pretty interesting, mixing up with the DC Universe rather well.

There's perhaps a lot of unnecessary angst and melodrama, but I call this a product of the time. It brings the Time Masters into a new light, turning this innocent scifi series into a gritty and more mature take of such a silly Silver Age concept. It's certainly a darker book than its predecessors...

All in all,

I give it:
2 / 3 Plastic-trophies!


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