With respect to their collective other works, which are by-and-large pretty goddamn great, I feel that Scott Kolins and Matt Kindt’s Dark Horse book, Past Aways, may not be getting the level of attention or acclaim that it deserves, comparatively. And honestly, that’s kind of a shame, because while it may not seem it from its solicits or even its cover, this is some of the most creative, genuinely entertaining and intriguing sci-fi adventure stories in a sea of the stuff on shelves today. Jumping back and forth between the future time from which our titular crew has been stranded and our “backwards” present (their past), we get a deeper glimpse into what makes the characters, as well as their team dynamic itself, tick. And it is, in turn, some fun, emotional and revelatory stuff.
Of course, split between the fucking brutal trial-by-survival of my favorite series character and resident “heavy,” Maggie, and the traitorous turn that has soured the relationship between team leader Arthur and his not-what-he-seems chum Phil, the fray in this team is only half the story.
The other half sees the recently re-formed faction do its best impression of 1987’s classic, InnerSpace, by battling the interior organs of a gigantic, time-lost robot. In the process, not only do they (and we) learn something about them, but about the meandering automaton, as well; and it may have more in common with them than anyone might think, or be comfortable with.
In its telling, Kindt and Kolins practice their usual shenanigans in Past Aways #3, with oft-fun and ridiculous liner nots explaining the book’s “technology” and threats to the team. This time, the book boasts a bevy of innovations and good times, including retractable electric swords, hallucinogenic antibodies, rocket-propelled wrist-rockets (not a masturbatory euphemism) and a truly tragic ending that makes you honestly question the inherent goodness of their era and the project with which they are affiliated.
If there was any doubt before (which there wasn’t), Kindt continues to prove himself a master storyteller, stirring in a few new twirls to a tried-and-true approach to the “lost in time/space” adventure team, mixing the harrowing but ultimately jaunty “battle” with a ginormous robot with an interpersonal patchwork of pathos. That marriage gives the story more depth than you might immediately expect, and makes Past Aways #3 an enjoyable read because it challenges the unknown in so many delightful ways.
I’m still generally new to his stuff, which I know is a travesty, given the length and breadth of his career, but Kolins once again shows how great he is for this story. His clean, just shy of cartoony style really puts over that fun feel in Past Aways, and in fact does a great job of belying it's perhaps deeper message. His character and technology designs, too, are perfect for a guy like me, who eats up his sci-fi-meets-superheroes verve like fucking candy. Altogether, it’s entertaining stuff that makes everything feel fresh and new, yet grounded in something brilliantly nostalgic.
With all of the similar-seeming fare out there currently, I really, really hope people are giving Past Aways a chance, because I’ve had one helluva ball with this series and expect the same for anyone else smart enough to pick it up and check it out!