By Ben Boruff
AA Squad is a simple comic, but its characters ask big questions. What is the value of history? What is the nature of the butterfly effect? Is Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" wrong? Does my life matter?
AA Squad is about a ragtag group of time travelers who work to repair time-related problems. The team's collective personality is closer to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than the A-Team, and they move and speak like an academic version of the Ghostbusters. The characterization in AA Squad's first issue is limited, but writer Rob Wolinsky provides enough information for readers to begin drawing connections between Double A Squad members and the characters of John Hughes' The Breakfast Club. Riley is Brian (with a hint of Allison Reynolds); Anitah is a blend of Claire and Allison; Isaac is John Bender; and Liam Bean, the comic's most intriguing character thus far, is Andrew "Andy" Clark. Some readers may argue that Liam is closer to Brian, but Andy's leadership qualities match Liam's confidence. Andrew stands up to Bender, and Liam challenges Issac. Put simply, the characters of the Double A Squad, like the characters of John Hughes' 1985 classic, are simultaneously formulaic and compelling.
Chunlin Zhao's artwork is polished. Thick-lined, Nickelodeon-esque characters move in front of glossy backgrounds. Several pages feature large panels with expansive backgrounds and small-scale characters, which is fitting for a comic about time travel: compared to the grandeur of history, a single person seems small.
The first issue of AA Squad seesaws between comedy and drama. Some panels are aggressively reflective, and others seem silly—almost slapstick. Some moments contain a bit of both. This issue features a one-page "advertisement" for a "time mat" that eliminates commercials. That entire page is either an unexplained gimmick or an impressively ironic mid-issue flashback—and I can't decide which. The comic's Kickstarter page explains the "time mat" further, and I imagine future issues of AA Squad will do the same.
In a 2016 video essay, YouTuber and pop culture critic Lindsay Ellis accused Disney's Hercules of having a "tone problem." Ellis explained that the film "is a comedy—arguably more than any other Disney movie that came out that decade—at least as far as the marketing goes. That wouldn't be a problem or even noteworthy except that this has some of the darkest stuff in all of Disneydom." AA Squad suffers from a similar problem. The artwork and some of the dialogue are typical of more lighthearted narratives, but some of AA Squad's panels are surprisingly somber. A page featuring a melancholic inner monologue—"I wasn't restoring the timeline. I was scrubbing its toilet"—follows a panel in which a tiny robot transforms into a tiny robot poodle. The first issue of AA Squad, though entertaining and thoughtful, is jumbled, but I am still excited to see how the second issue responds to the first issue's cliffhanger.
AA Squad #1
Writer: Rob Wolinsky
Artist: Chunlin Zhao