There’s No Time Like The Present # 9
by Paul Rainey
The latest comic in Paul Rainey’s rather excellent study of a group of friends, time travel and the process of ageing is rather a strange thing to review as a single issue. I talked about the problem of the comic back in the review of the first 8 issues (here) – it’s just too big and complex a tale to simply pick up one issue and have it make sense in the satisfying way that reading the complete story will.
We’re deep into the lives of the main characters now, looking at them all in their old age, and like I said last time, Rainey gets the characterisation of these older folks absolutely right. There are echoes, lots of echoes in this issue. Indeed, at one point early on I had such a sense of deja vu about some of the pages, some of the story elements that I was sure I’d read the issue before. But it’s no mistake, Rainey’s detailing the minutiae of elderly life; the routine, the order, the repetition of simple tasks that become increasingly the focus of life. The men are picked up and driven to their day-care centre, they talk of getting old and what life was like, they obsess over their passions and involve themselves in the gossip of the day.
But here in issue 9 things start to go wrong for them. One of their little gang dies this issue, a normal everyday death and something these old men have come to expect. The moment of shock is brief and then the practicalities of the event become the main focus of the day:
(The aftermath of a death, taken in their stride. From There’s No Time Like The Present #9 by Paul Rainey.)
And before the end of the story there’s more tragedy to cope with, as Cliff collapses in his home. The fragile nature of old age, the fear of being judged incapable and carted off to a home where your life as you know it is taken away is all here, captured and recorded by Rainey in the simple and effective lines of his art. It’s so rare in comics to see such issues dealt with, we’re far too concerned with the wonder of youth to really concern ourselves with the end of lives. But it’s something Rainey does very well, with a complexity and realism that never allows us to see these characters as an old stereotype.
(From There’s No Time Like The Present #9; two scenes that tell us so much about the helplessness of growing old, knowing there’s so little that can be done, trying to hold on to your independence and your way of life.)
And then, just when you think the issue has finished with it’s surprises, we get a big one. It’s easy when reading There’s No Time Like the Present to get involved in the slice of life aspect of the comic and forget that there’s a definite sci-fi edge running throughout it all with time travel and other worlds of the future coexisting with these very ordinary lives. And all it takes is the revelation in the final pages about their dead friend to bring that sci-fi element right back.
There’s No Time Like The Present is leading into the finale now, Rainey’s said it’s going to be beween 11 and 14 issues in total and I plan to be around to see where he takes us by then. It’s a story that, although good in serial form, will be an excellent, multi-layered read in collection. But until that collection comes out, and it’s a long way off yet, you can thankfully pick up all 9 issues so far in comic form, something I wholeheartedly recommend you do.