“Time Bomb” is a muscular action-packed graphic novel that sets up the tic-toc urgency right away. Set some time in the near future, a New World Order crew happens to be working on a subway tunnel in Berlin when an old platform collapses to reveal an intricate Nazi bomb shelter fit for hundreds of people. No sooner have they fit their minds around that, than they discover a doomsday missile. Someone gets too close to this missile and it’s activated. Meanwhile, we cut away around the globe and meet the leading characters. In Manhattan, Jack is flirting with an assistant. In Italy, Ken must kill his lovely lover when it turns out she’s a spy. And on an island in the Caribbean, Peggy and Christian are finalizing a divorce. He says, in desperation, that his infidelity was a moment of weakness. She says, with a click of her pen, that her signing the final papers is a moment of clarity. Shortly, all four of these characters will be briefed on the impending end of the world unless they take part in a top secret mission to go back in time.
What the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (“Jonah Hex”) do so well is make this wild scenario believable with a great mix of fantasy butting heads with the mundane. The Brandenburg Gate may have just split in half but that doesn’t keep tourists from bickering. The mission to save the world may have neared countdown but doesn’t stop Peggy from taking one last toke on a joint. It’s that authenticity that keeps us believing in the characters and keeps us hooked. Artist Paul Gulacy (“Master of Kung Fu”) pulls it all together with his unique street smart style. Nobody in this comic looks like they haven’t gone through or created some kind of hell. Gulacy is also sensitive about the characters. Jack and Ken may look issued out of the same academy but they have their own viewpoints. And when it comes to Christian and Peggy, they could someday have their very own sitcom. Gulacy is careful to express Peggy’s every frustration with her ex’s vulnerable ego.
The goal of the mission was supposed to be to travel back a few hours and make sure no one gets anywhere near the Nazi underground. But, instead, the team travels all the way back to Nazi Germany. Not exactly a safe place to be. And, as Christian, an African American, keeps pointing out, especially not safe for him. But, after some fumbling, the team gets in the game. Before they know it, they have liberated a concentration camp. It’s only when Jack begins to impersonate a Nazi officer that they realize how over their heads they may have been all along.
Palmiotti has fond childhood memories of watching, “Where Eagles Dare,” the action movie starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton about Allied agents infiltrating a Nazi fortress. He talks about it in a great interview with him and Gray at the end of this book. Palmiotti says his goal was to bring that sort of excitement to “Time Bomb.” That’s for sure. You can definitely feel that love for the genre. When you get those scenes of one character or another up against it, you can enjoy being lost in the moment.
Some of the best moments, in any story, are when you have a character up against the odds. One good one is when Christian is given an order to create a major distraction, total mayhem with all the explosions he can handle. With Hitler and his entourage lining up in Nazi limos to enter the secret compound, Christian blocks their way. He stands right in front of their path and says, “That’s right…your worst nightmare! A black man with guns…but not just any guns...” He seems to be doing well until he runs out of ammo. There are a lot of these kind of moments whether it is Peggy yelling at all the “psycho bastards” hell bent on world domination or Jack bitch slapping Hitler. Yeah, Hitler gets bitch slapped. And that’s only one of many memorable moments in this book!
“Where Eagles Dare” is what brought this book to life. But it also reminds me of “Inglourious Basterds” inasmuch as each new generation needs to claim the World War II action genre as their own. When you see a young punk kid from Brooklyn take a baseball bat to a Nazi officer’s head, in “Basterds,” your senses process present and past with a jolt. The kid looks like he’s from the past and yet he’s got a vibe about him that is today and, in that way, the present can experience a cathartic moment embedded in the past. In other words, when you need to see Hitler bitch slapped, it’s done right in “Time Bomb.”
“Time Bomb” is published by Radical Books as a collected story and is $14.95 US.