Futurama Comics #17
Title: The Time Bender Trilogy, Part One
Writer: Ian Boothby
Art: John Delaney, Phyllis Novin, Joey Mason, Karen Bates
When I left Futurama Comics #16, I was somewhat disappointed that what started as such a fine issue had to be relegated to a mere set-up for the trilogy that this is supposed to be the start of. For one thing, shouldn't this be a Quadrology if the story really began in another issue previous to this one? Why is it called "The Time Bender Trilogy" when at least four issues cover its plotline? Will it be worth the sacrifice of the previous comic? Read on, and find out.
First of all, the story may continue on from the last issue, but the connection is thinner than a piece of cotton thread in a fly's pair of boxer shorts. As I explained in the aforementioned review, the previous story is rushed through with a rather absurd connection in order for this one to begin. The only factor that the previous tale did to really set up this one was to get Fry, Leela, Bender and Cubert away from Earth. That's it. Now, both issues are written by Ian Boothby, and I have to wonder what was in his mind at taking this approach, to be honest. I have a few questions: Why was this so-called trilogy not simply set up in this issue? Why did it have to be slapped into the end of the previous one, when there is no real connection between the plots? Wasn't there enough space in this issue to set it up or something?
After reading this, it's clear that this really is a trilogy, despite the odd way it was created. If you don't mind me spoiling the preceding comic, at the end of it, Fry, Leela, Bender, and Cubert all come back to Earth to find it completely uninhabited. From here, this issue continues, and basically consists of a bunch of stuff happening, including Bender and Fry going on a looting/do what they like spree, and The Omicronians coming to invade Earth after seeing that it constitutes as being uninhabited now. By the end of the issue, they discover what happened to the population of Earth, and then things are set up for the second part to take off from.
I remember Bongo making rather a big deal about this "Time Bender Trilogy" storyline, but after reading this bit, to be honest, I'm not entirely thrilled with it.
The first thing that you notice is the art. Yes... yes... all you readers who have read my other reviews are probably thinking that I'm gearing up to go on another anti-Delaney rant now... and you wouldn't be far off. Seriously, this guy needs to stop drawing for these offical Futurama Comics. All his issues have been a let-down art wise, and this is no exception. In fact, this seems poor even for him, but a lot of that may be because after reading the artistic masterpiece of Futurama Comics #16, which of course connects with this one, the huge leap in quality is so apparent. The characters are just drawn so slapdash, often off-model with overly crazy expressions or poses. And when Lrrr and Ndnd appear, they look awkward and quirky, to the point where they don't even seem fearsome and threatening like they do in the show... they just seem... well... awkward and quirky. If this was supposed to be a big tour de force for Futurama Comics, they should have gotten the best artists to do the job, and let James Lloyd and Steeve Steere Jr. continue their work on from the last one. I've given John Delaney the benefit of the doubt in the past, hoping that he'd improve as his issues went on, but now I'm just getting sick of his continously lacklustre work bringing down an otherwise good comic series.
However, I have to say, there's not much to bring down as far as this issue goes, and even Lloyd and Steere Jr. couldn't save this from disaster.
The fact is, after reading this through, and then going back and reading the preceding issue again, and then this one a second time, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they were written by two different people. Ignoring its shortcomings at the end, the 16th issue had some really funny and clever stuff at the start, with many jokes and character moments that are up there with the best of the comic series, as well as some good writing overall. This issue, however, is more like just a bunch of stuff happening, and to be honest, not a lot of it is funny, and very little of it even goes anywhere.
Okay, there's a couple of decent gags. Bender changing the Statue of Liberty to have his face, and him telling Fry to "keep your pants on" following up with a reveal that Fry had to then pull them up were both good, and I love Cubert offending mutants, and then saying, "no offense" to Leela, with her saying, "none taken" as she pushes him into a mutant recycling pit. But there's a lot of bits that just drag on, aren't that amusing at all, and seem to waste time, with no logical meaning behind them. The Omicronian invasion, for example, serves the plot of the story in absolutely no way whatsoever. They arrive, the gang think up a way to get them to go, and they leave. That's it. They do nothing to further the story at all. And there's a few little moments like that that just feel tacked on and distracting.
Bender and Fry going nuts is another example... it provides a couple of humourous moments, but also a lot of unfunny ones, and they just go on too long. There's about four pages of just the three main characters trying to dupe Lrrr and Ndnd, which in the end is just the one same gag.
The characters are okay for the most part, aside from a couple of moments (see, for one example, my 'Worst Moment' below) but good characterisation is just as pointless in bad writing as bad characterisation is with otherwise good writing. The fact is, the story isn't really that clever or great overall, even when it is taking place amongst the otherwise random bits that fill most of the story. In a comic that's supposed to be based on a cartoon series renowned for being very clever scientifically and mathematically with its plots, the whole time-travel aspect is handled here rather simply and with nothing really innovative or new at all. You could tell that nerdy guys with science and mathematical degrees wrote for the show, but this feels like it could be written by anybody with even the slightest interest in time travel as a story. I suppose to generalise things, this is like they've gotten a 10 year old to write a university level paper. It doesn't feel clever, intelligent or fantastical like the show does, it doesn't even appear to try and integrate a realistic scientific explanation behind things, it's just a humdrum tale. Even a little predictable in some cases.
To sum things up, I'd call this issue rather a big failure really. It just seems to fail somewhat in every area to some degree, and for all the hype that surrounded it, it's rather a let down. Perhaps the other two issues following this one can bring back some dignity to this rather tedious beginning, but I doubt it somehow. To be frank, the art is cheap, the storyline is uninspired, and the jokes and overall quality of the writing are sub-par. The next two will have to be down right fantastic to me to recommend getting this one, because as it stands, I'd advise for you to leave it on the shelves where you see it.
Most Memorable Moment: Leela asking Bender to put on a fake ear, just so she can lead him away by it.
Worst Moment: Bender actually firing a heat-seeking missile at Fry. He's mean, but that's too far, even for Bender.
- Kenneth White