How many years have time travel tales been around? According to my five-minute internet research, time travel dates back to the XVIII century, so for a long time, creators have toyed with the idea of moving forward and backward in time. It responds to various reasons. For example, in the novel L’An 2440, rêve s’il en fut jamais (1770), the protagonist travels from 1770 to 2440 to a futuristic utopian Paris, where all the problems of the present are solved. Other examples, such as the movie Back to the Future 2 (1989), depict a bleak future caused by the poor decision-making of an individual or a group of individuals. And in Terminator (1984), the protagonist needs to fight a cyborg from the future sent to prevent her son from saving the world. Both forms of time travel could serve as history lessons and cautionary tales.
Time travel responds to a critical human characteristic of wanting what we can’t have. It shows an impossible desire to experience, alter or enjoy a time that will not happen again or that we would not be able to reach. And that is why it is so attractive. Who wouldn’t want to escape to a utopian future with no inequalities? Even travel forward some years to watch Avengers: Secret Wars. Many stories tackle it in different ways. Some of them use them as a central topic, for example, The Adam Project (2022), a sci-fi film, while others as a subplot, such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), a fantasy film. So it is not present only in sci-fi but can be used in other types of stories. Therefore, creating a story using it that shows something innovative sounds challenging!
But A Vicious Circle #1 (of 3) has done it! Created by Mattson Tomlin, Lee Bermejo, and Becca Carey, it is the story of Shawn Thacker, a time traveler who lives with his family in the 1960s. He fights an endless fight with Kang Turing, another time traveler with an opposite goal. It is a classic story of good vs. evil across the timeline, and they will make each other’s life a living hell.
Up to this point, the story of A Vicious Circle doesn’t stand out as something new; this is where the time travel aspect comes in. Without getting into spoilers, the creators use it powerfully. It is chaotic and unpredictable, showing immediate consequences for the characters’ actions. There is a sequence in the second half of the book that will blow your mind. Shawn and Kang seem unable to control their travels which elevates the stakes and plays with a terrifying idea that is always present in these stories: what if I get stuck in a time I don’t like, and I can’t escape?
Another critical aspect of the book is the mystery. It remains mysterious in every sense: the characters’ identities, goals, and past. This issue doesn’t get into giving explanations. What it does is raise lots of questions. Questions that time travel stories usually answer at the start leaving us wanting to know which way the story will go.
A Vicious Circle uses different art and color styles to depict different timelines, which is incredible and gives an immersive feeling. Also, there is a mix of realistic and traditional comic book art. The former doesn’t fit all comics, but it adds to the story’s seriousness here, and Bermejo combines it with the latter for futuristic times to create a contrast. In that sense, it is an excellent book for new readers who are under the impression that comic books are all about superheroes and colorful art. It will defy all expectations and show the medium’s range, hopefully attracting new readers.
In conclusion, this 50-page first issue shows the range of time travel stories and comic books as a medium with a fresh and beautiful story. It sets up a lot for the following two issues. But it is not a happy time travel story. Au contraire, it will leave you wishing no one invents time travel.