Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man?
by Dave West and Marleen Lowe
Behind a lovely (if slightly confusing to the newcomer perhaps?) cover is the best thing to come out of Accent UK so far that I’ve seen. Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man starts with an intriguing concept and then proceeds to not only do the concept justice but gives us a great little story in the bargain.
There’s a huge bomb in London and it’s going to go off in just under an hour. Normally the authorities would deal with this, but not this time. This time something’s gone wrong and the bomb is going to go off, there’s nothing anyone can do, London’s in a state of panic and in less than 1 hour a 2 mile radius of the city will simply cease to exist and thousands will die. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. Except…….
(Bobby Doyle can stop time. A very large bomb is going to destroy a very large area of London. What should Bobby do ? From Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man? by Dave West and Marleen Lowe. Accent UK)
“With a sigh he put his half-empty pint glass on it’s beer mat …. and stopped time”
Yep, that’s it. Bobby Doyle can stop time. He’s the mysterious “World’s Fastest Man” that all of the papers have been talking about ever since he carried all of those people from that train crash. But he’s not fast, not in the way they think. He just has this strange power where he can stop time for the world and carry on with his life inside his own time-zone. Bobby’s no hero, not in the way people think of them. He’s just an average 25 year old bloke who wants a normal life. But that’s not his fate. He may have saved people before, may have been the hero before, but never on this scale. And he knows what’s coming, he knows the end result. That’s why he looks so resigned to his fate in the artwork above.
So Bobby sets off to the future ground zero – Prometheus Tower in London, where the bomb proves to be just as big, just as deadly and just as impossible to turn off as he feared. Which means he knows for certain now – he has 59 minutes to rescue everyone he can, 59 minutes to get as many people to safety as he can.
But he knows how his powers work – everything’s frozen when he stops time – so no transport works, doors remain shut unless he temporarily unfreezes time and opens them and the only way he can get people to safety outside the 2 mile blast radius is by the slow, physical, back-breaking way – he has to carry them. And he knows that even though time may be stopped for them, for him it carries on as normal, saving all of these people, carrying them all to safety will be no more than a blink of an eye for them, but for him it will take 50+ years of his life – possibly even all of his life – it’s the ultimate sacrifice and what makes him a true hero – no gaudy spandex, no incredible powers of flight and adulation, his is a special power that no one will ever know about.
(The moment when he realises that saving them all could be his life’s work. From Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man? by Dave West and Marleen Lowe. Accent UK)
“It wasn’t so much the 58 minutes and 23 seconds that troubled Bobby. It was the estimated 50 years or so that he had left to live. You see as Bobby moved around inside his own personal time zone, time moved for him at a normal rate. ……. he got older”
Essentially Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man is a 50 page 2000AD Future Shock, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Sure, if you really want to you can pick a few small logic holes in the story, but that’s not the point. The concept is great and the execution is near perfect, certainly good enough to allow that disbelief to be suspended.
As Dave West writes it, Bobby’s story is the story of the last man in the world – his world. He’s going to spend 50 years – a lifetime – saving everyone he can. And he’s going to do it knowing that he’s unlikely to survive, unlikely to hear another voice, he’s never going to fall in love again, never going to be held, never going to hear another voice. So it’s no wonder that there are times he fears he’s going mad. And it’s no wonder that the whole story has a terribly melancholic, fatalistic feel to it. But Dave West handles the writing so well that this story of the last man in his world is a riveting read. From the first page to the last I was engrossed and I hope you will be as well.
The art by relative newcomer Marleen Lowe is good, very god. The most important thing she gets right is a way of distinguishing between real time and Bobby time. Since a comic panel is essentially a static image implying movement there had to be a good way of conveying the sense of a paused world. Lowe does this by always drawing Bobby and real time events in sharp focus inked linework whilst delineating the stopped world with a pencilled and shaded effect, blurred, just like it must seem for poor Bobby. It’s possibly the most important art effect in the book – if it were to fail then the book may well have failed. But Lowe’s technique works particularly well and with that simple, critical artistic success the entire concept is easily conveyed and the book goes from strength to strength.
Like I said to begin with, this is the strongest work I’ve seen from Accent UK so far. On one hand it’s nothing more than an extended Future Shock tale, but that damns it with such faint praise. This is 50 pages of spectacular yet very low key fantasy. It’s a melancholy look at what sacrifices, what price a real superpower may demand. West and Lowe deliver a very, very good slice of what if here. Definitely one you need to look for.