Even though I generally don’t believe in them, I’m a big fan of conspiracy theories. Fluoride in the water, Area 51, hypnotic infomercials, the exclamation point - all that weird conspiratorial shit is pure gold! For that reason, Paranoid American’s Time Samplers has become something of a labor of love for me. Love, because as its publisher’s name implies, this book drips with the promise of an unseen, all-controlling illuminati and its subversive grip over the minds of what is, for all intents and purposes, the 99 percent. The labor part of my attachment to this book, however, comes from the fact that it’s almost too much of a good thing, in more ways than one. The writing in Time Samplers #3 book is unquestionably excellent. The dialogue is sound and fluid, the verbiage and cadence are intricately well-constructed; it’s just good, solid, entertainingly adroit writing. The only problem is, that to a larger audience, this will come across as too verbose, too exposition-heavy. And to be fair, for a book with a page count under 30, it feels more like a graphic novella than a floppy issue.
This thing is dense, heavy and made more leaden by premise, making its sometimes heavy-handed message that “we are all being controlled” pour with the viscosity of curdled milk, with big chunks plopping about the place in floods and splashes of information and story. Again, the whole is not spoiled, as the lyrical pace of this narrative waltz is an impressive little dance, but it trips up after trying to impress the crowd with too many steps all at once.
It’s also been four months since Time Samplers #2 hit the stands, and in a framework so thick with the dismantling of societal structure and other heady high concepts, it’s hard to justify this much narrative back-up. Something with so dense a core needs a quick and easy delivery system; ironically, not unlike a vaccination. This issue is also an origin story, which are always tricky.
Basically the setup is that the good Doc once worked for a mysterious, over-governmental body called The Council(luminati), researching new and exciting ways to control the world populace via sleeper agents to manipulate global change to their own ends. Cal and Lex grew up as subjects within this system, with Doc overseeing their progress. Unfortunately, his dark foil - the nefarious Colonel Zarota - conducted his own experiments with a much-less “humane” rubric, taking under his wing the easily-pliable young girl Luna.
Shenanigans ensue and we snap back to the present, where now-recovering druggie “time-travelers” Cal and Lex admit to still being agents of The Council, but not for the reasons you might think. Seeing Luna’s manipulation by The Council last issue into inciting a riot to destabilize the global economy, Cal, Lex and their pawnshop owner buddy Carmot attempt to save their friends ... with unenviable results.
And that’s the short version! Between this limited adventuring, there is a whole lot of message-sending by Paranoid American and the writers: You’re being controlled by commercials, music, movies, the water, your job, sports and money. It also details, quite interestingly, where everything goes wrong for society, focusing on the American educational system’s quashing of creativity and imagination in favor of what society deems the more “successful” route.
In so doing, it taps into the same themes as some of my favorite sociology novels by author Daniel Quinn; speaking of whom, if you like the concept behind Time Samplers, you should definitely check out his books Ishmael, The Story of B and After Dachau. So I dig the hell out of the conceit in this book - crazy mind control experiments on the Pineal Gland (sadly, not a sexual euphemism), psychedelic agents subverting an evil empire, sexy hipster kung fu sleeper agents? Bring all that shit on!
However, while I admire the team’s commitment to lining its book’s pages with tons of story, I feel like Time Samplers would work better if further distilled into something more palatable, or at least given more room the breathe. I would argue that they should learn from their enemies; after all, Truth - like lies - needs the sugar of entertainment to help its medicine go down.
Speaking of taste, the art for this book isn’t really flavored to mine. Some of it is innocent, cartoony fun, but the majority feels rushed, with little background art and pretty basic character work, definitely relying on the story to move it along. Of course, if artist Colacitti went too detailed, it would make the overall effect that much heavier, so I can see him sacrificing some of his page furniture for speech bubbles.
I really did enjoy reading Time Samplers #3, and if you’re willing to endure its rather hefty slog, you’ll find some very interesting ideas. Like I said, though, this one requires a substantial commitment for its labor to become love.
Writers: Thomas Gorence, Erik Konocis, Julius Freeman Artist: Nicolas Colacitti Publisher: Paranoid American Cover Price: $2.99 Date: 10/02/13