One of the most intriguing commentaries on futurism-as-modern-culture is, without question, 1939’s seminal short film, “Dog Gone Modern.” Now, by “seminal short film,” I of course mean “children’s cartoon.” Formalities aside, as you will see in this glorious Russian version, it stars the loveably dimwitted Two Curious Puppies (of obscure Looney Toons infamy) as they rummage through a model-home made perilous by Rube Goldberg machine-like modern convenience. And not only is “Dog Gone Modern” - as most Merrie Melodies joints are - a comedy of errors, it also sums up the adventurous fun that has so far been key to Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins’ Past Aways. Really, the similarities to “Dog Gone Modern” pretty much end after the first few pages of issue two, when the titular team’s leader, Arthur, shows his fellow recalcitrant future scientists around their secret headquarter digs, complete as it is with similarly temporally-displaced flora and fauna, futuristic weapons, relaxing holo-chambers and even a Roomba! THE FUTURE IS NOW.
As the team settles in, we are shown snippets from the future lives each left in their personal pasts when falling stranded in our present. As you might expect, they are filled with love, bloodlust and loss in equal and resounding measure; not yet fully defining every member, but doing a great job in chiseling away at the facets of what makes each one’s plight unique.
At the same time, Past Aways #2 is more about the questions it posits than those it answers, as we are left with a classic comic book “is this adventure doomed to fail before it can even begin” scenario, made perhaps more distinct, given the chronologically wonky nature of this story. Because of that, and the way this creative team so effortlessly jumps between a fun exploration of what makes the future so intriguing and this team so engaging, Past Aways #2 continues to set this sci-fi series apart from other, superficially similar fare.
As in its first issue (and in what has become a telltale Kindt speciality), the margin notes in Past Aways #2 are fantastically entertaining little asides, which not only further help shape the world with inane biological threats and technological breakthroughs, but also ramp up the tension, and even downright fear, of the unknown. Once again, Kindt has crafted something literally on the periphery of his story, which you don’t necessarily have to read to enjoy the story proper, but definitely makes it a much more robustly entertaining and informative experience.
In terms of art, this is really my first experience with co-creator and artist, Scott Kolins, whose work here rounds out the experience nicely. When I first saw the concept for this story realized - I believe in a previous Dark Horse Presents short - it was with Kindt’s art, and I originally thought it would have been perfect with that visual direction. But taking nothing away from what might have been, I’m now glad that Kolins is on-board. As opposed to Kindt’s scraggly style, Kolins brings cleanliness and order to the pages of Past Aways #2, not to mention a strong sense of expressiveness and individuality to his characters. Then again, he achieves something similar in his focus that he does in his wider shots of the world he and Kindt are building.
As I mentioned before, a majority of what happens in the beginning of this issue takes place in the background, and Kolins does a bang-up job of bringing everything that populates this lair - from the armaments to the people - to life. Combined with colorist Bill Crabtree’s jauntily bright palette and Rob Leigh’s often incredibly integrated letters, the overall effect is one of incredibly imaginative detail. It does falter in a few rushed panels, which seem out of place (see Herb’s emotional interaction with a hologram), but that last battle our heroes undertake with the unrelenting juggernaut is a thing of beauty, and a testament to the artistic team’s attention and talents.
I honestly wasn’t sure about Past Aways, picking it up mostly on the integrity of Kindt’s name value. However, in this, its all-important sophomore issue, the entire creative team has proven that it is a story with greatly engaging character depth and a bevy of narrative and artistic grooves, all of which will keep me coming back. It’s great, doggone modern storytelling, and I’m one curious puppy who will be back for more next issue.