Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time Masters

The mini series that reimagined the Time Masters from the Silver Age counterparts.


Since I brought this in trade I'll review all the issues at once. There is a short story before the actual Time Masters section begins called "Adventures inside Earth" which doesn't add much to the main plot. It's just a nod to Cave Carsons' work and shows how he gets the treasure he has later on. To sum up Time Masters: Rip Hunter is trying to master time travel in order to prevent the impending nuclear disaster he learned of in Booster Gold VOL. 1. The Illuminati (led by Vandal Savage) isn't pleased with his work and from the shadows do everything in their power to stop him. Rip has built a team of sorts who each have their own minor subplots and he visits many places in DCs' timeline to uncover the truth about the Illuminati while trying to perfect time travel. DC heroes show up to either offer their support or not help at all.

This isn't a horrible series, it's dated to be sure and is never fully fleshed out. I believe the planned sequel would have smoothed out a few of the rough edges but some things simply aren't developed well enough to begin with giving the book a rushed feeling. The main villain of the book is Savage but there's very little contact between Rip and him making most of their struggle be at a distance with others working in their stead. Most of the characters feel unneeded taking away valuable space that could have been used to explore the plot or the main characters. Tony for example is a newcomer that gets drafted into the story once Corky catches her trying to steal their car. She's a expert hacker that they decide to hire on the spot once she accidently uncovers their plans for time travel. Having her along makes little sense as they never question if she's there to take them out and her skill could easily have been given to someone else.

Cave Carson (Rips' former teammate from the Forgotten here in old canon ) is a character that I've read a few times but I have yet to see done well. What I mean by that is his presence seems to always act as a red flag that something has to happen to make him needed. Digging through the earth just doesn't seem as important as other things that go on around him making him a awkward addition. I will say that Cave a least gets a exciting moment but after that he basically fills the same function as the other Time Masters with slight drama because he used to date Bonnie. The dynamic is simply used to bring a sense of conflict that never amounts to anything.

Daniel Hunter is Rips' cousin in this who has two roles: providing money and staying in the past to connect old DC stories. In fact the second half is why the Hunter family has money to begin with as he decides to save up a tidy sum. A younger Rip looks at a book his grandfather says was given to him by his grandfather with a note from Daniel in it. This is one of my favorite details in the story that actually says a lot about Rip and time travel in general. "Realistically, we must understand that we can not change time. We must also accept the fact time will change us." The journey does change many of the Time Masters and it's a nice subtle nod to Daniel changing too. But it also raises the question of how Daniel Hunter fits into the family tree. Is this implying he's not only Rips' cousin but great-great-great-grandfather?

Jeff Smith changes races and really there was never that much that stood out about the character in any version of the character. I recall him constantly being tired in the Showcase reprint and being Rips' best friend. Jeff acts as a voice of reason here--one of the few Rip listens to--but also has feelings for Bonnie which makes him act kind of odd. His interest is mostly shown in the background but despite his claim to love her it seems to be a purely physical attraction much like Caves' relationship came off as. Jeff, like the rest of the Time Masters, isn't keen on Rips' idea to kill to achieve their goals but nevertheless goes along with him as much as he can.

The Baxters are kind of strange in this version. Bonnie is made more "desirable" here which translates to every male in the cast except Daniel and her brother having a thing with her. The introduction to her character is Bonnie arriving at Caves' office to have sex with him...I'm not even kidding about that one. Things quickly turn awkward since he has to not only break up with her but fire her since the school board/class think his research student is taking advantage of him. To make it up to her Cave manages to get her a job working for Rip. Bonnie seems to go through men pretty fast and the closest we get to an explanation is when Rip and her talk. With her parents gone, Corky living on the streets with a drug problem (mentioned never seen) and she's had a rough life. I don't see what the attraction with Cave was and while I bought Jeffs' attraction it felt like she was just going through the motions with him. It's obvious that she's not pleased with either. At least not in the long run.

Interestingly the only truly romantic relationship she has is with Rip at the start. He actually talks to her about her problems which is more than the other men do. She's treated with more respect in the scene where they kiss than either of her other romances. When she freaks out they stop which leads to a tension between the two for the rest of the series. Both claim they don't feel anything strongly towards the other but their behavior seem to indicate otherwise. Rip is seen glowering when she's with Cave or Jeff. Bonnie shows such pride when she sees him succeed then potentially strands herself forever in the future just because she knows she can help he find peace. She's the most vocal of the group that's more than ready to bump heads with Rip. Going out of her way to do things without anyone's permission.

Corky is more or less in the background not even sharing time with his own sister. Most of the story with him has to be read between the lines which mostly relies on the art. There's one scene where he stops Tony from stealing a car and he's seen visibly pissed when she's invited to join the group. When everyone else is doing something he's playing with things quietly apparently lost in his own thoughts. One of these moments is in fact foreshadowing his fate. He's often seen spray painting his favorite saying "No Future" which really shows you how bleak he sees things. Hardly anyone ever notices him. If fact the only one that really interacts with him is Rip who only has a few things to say.

The first is his fury at Corky using the time travel device so recklessly without permission. Then telling him to play in traffic when Corky says he hopes Tony dies on her mission. The last time they talk Rip is more understanding and tries to let him down gently when he explains that Corky can't time travel because they haven't found new methods yet. That's the thing that breaks him, likely because the excitement of time travel was the one thing he had to look forward to. His choice is probably the most memorable moment in the mini series and sets the tone for how serious things have gotten in a way the Illuminati couldn't.

A great deal is done with the limit method of time travel which of course was created to put rules to prevent time travel stories from becoming so frequent. Basically one person could only use one method for time travel (to and from) before it became unstable. It never worked for me but I suppose there always has to be some limitation like solid time in the second BG series.

There are problems in this series yet I have a special soft spot for it due to the parts that work. I truly enjoyed reading the Booster sections and what was done with Rips' character. Let me start with Boosters' somewhat small role, as you recall from his first series he was the guy Rip was hoping to get funding from. That fell through but he also has contacts in the superhero community which are used throughout this. Booster claims that he's helping out in hopes of returning home if things don't work out in the present. This didn't make much sense to me on the first few readings but does now that I read Millennium. While returning to his time doesn't work since he has a death penalty on his head having a escape route does. I don't know if it was in the creative teams' mind when writing this but this could imply Booster is still sore about the heroes distrust of him in Millennium and doesn't want to chance things again. Although I'm amused that it never seems to occur to him that by helping Rip change the events leading to his time he might potentially stop himself from being born.

Boosters' not just Rips contact but also proof that he succeeded and unintentionally inspires Rip to go on this mission thanks to events from BG VOL. 1. It's not just the nuclear war that scares him, it's the state of the world Booster comes from with which some writers gloss over. While the 25th century wasn't apocalyptic it wasn't perfect either. In fact the intense presence of the law enforcement and laws (putting someone to death without a trial for a particular crime) doesn't sit well with Rip.

The depiction of Rip Hunter is one of the highlights for me. Some have criticized him for acting like a jerk throughout this but I don't have that problem. He's having the same problem accepting the harsh realities that Booster has in BG VOL 2. While Boosters' desperation drove him to making mistakes in judgment Rips' obsession makes him hell bent on stopping the conflicts to come to the point he's ready to kill if need be. As a result he thinks less of the team's feelings and is more determined to do everything possible. It's not like Rip becomes someone that doesn't care about his friends. He does and once he realizes Jeff is in love with Bonnie he backs off completely feeling bad about the conflict that arose because of his own attraction to her. The team might dislike his methods--mainly his intent for them to kill their foes--but most of them still go along with it. Along the way he understands that they can't do some things and respects their choices. Rip takes the responsibility to see his mission out and while it doesn't go how he intended he learns something important from the experience.

I wouldn't recommend this if you're not already interested in the characters. For me it was worth it because I love Rip Hunter.

Say What?: Rip claims he doesn't like superheroes but his character never comes across that way in any of his scenes. Even though Superman treats him like crap Rip is utterly delighted when he shows up. He has a good relationship with Booster and receives help from Hal Jordan.

While some of the heroes had some good reasons for not wanting to help (like not knowing if it was a good idea to tamper with time) you'd think more would be interested. I mean preventing nuclear wars? Superman treats the whole thing like a joke despite Rip saying he has proof. At least look at his proof before flying off.

A Cross Over in a Mini Series?: Yep, Booster brings Animal Man over to use one of the time travel devices. It plays out a little differently in this series than it does in Animal Man. But basically Rip wants money to pay for the device which Animal Man has no intention of giving him.

Did You Notice?: I brought this up a few places but there's a scene where Rips' on the phone with Booster and in the background there's a post it note with "call dad" on it. Just something that's funny now, especially given Rips' board.

Follow Up?: There was supposed to be another mini series but that never came about. In the Chronos series the pitch for the book included storylines the lead would take, one of them having him save Rip from the past. Although Rip appears in the series that plotline was never shown. I don't believe that was ever explained. The Rip Hunter in Boosters' second series was a different version since Booster was his father and his name was a fake, so that plot didn't matter anymore.

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