Brave Old World #1-4 (of 4)
[Vertigo/DC Comics $2.50 US $3.95 CAN]
Written by William Messner-Loebs / Illustrated by Guy Davis & Phil Hester
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Brave Old World #1It’s December 1999 and a team of computer scientists out of Cornell University is working on a virus to fix the Y2K problem. Unfortunately for them a harmonic convergence in concert with the Earth’s “electromagnetic communications web” is causing time to go all wonky. The scientists decide to “create an area of stable time…in Ithaca, then sample outwards using the Internet.” Don’t ask me, I didn’t write it.

Things don’t quite work as planned and as the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2000 the team is transported back to 1900. To make things even weirder they “have the clothes and hair and shoes [they] would have had if [they] had been born” in the Ithaca, NY of 1900. If that wasn’t odd enough the scientists are then attacked by a mutated human from the year 1999 who has come to stop the scientists from changing history. Their presence in 1900 has advanced technology beyond humanity’s ability to control it in 1999 leaving the Earth a desolate, sterile wasteland populated by grotesquely mutated humans.

Unfortunately this is about where the good part of the story ends. The rest of this mini-series follows the often-doomed acts of these scientists as they try to undo or come to terms with what has happened. You’re never really sure if their actions caused all of this crap to happen or if they’re just caught in the middle and getting the blame for it from the 1999 muties.

Outside of the excessive historical character dropping, most of the problems with this mini-series can probably be blamed on there being a much larger story that had to be cut down into four issues. Many plot elements seem truncated. At one point one of the scientists (Dr. James Reilly) who questions technology’s place as helpful to society, becomes rich and warns the others that he intends to slow the pace of technology even further to prevent the horrific future. And yet, in issue four he joins the futurists’ schemes with no objections to their introducing technology decades early. There was such a disparity between the flow of the story from issues 1 and 2 to issues 3 and 4 it was almost as if Messner-Loebs threw out two more issues worth of crucial plot and narrative between issue 2 and 3.

As a result the ending of the mini-series was forced, disjointed and confusing. It seemed thrown together so they could have a climactic battle (complete with Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders) with the mutated humans from the future. There was too much of the deus ex machina and not enough coherent storytelling.

The artwork by Guy Davis and Phil Hester didn’t add much to the dismal experience. Usually I like Guy Davis’ work (Sandman Mystery Theatre, The Marquis Danse Macabre) and I picked up this mini-series on the strength of his past work. Phil Hester’s addition to the art (most likely by inking) made for flat and boring characters that, at times, were hard to distinguish from one another. The color palette used was also monotonous I’m sure to convey an unenlightened and ignorant past. All it really did was add another level of dreariness to an already dull and uninteresting visual package.

I would be surprised if DC puts this out as a trade paperback so if you really want to read it do yourself a favor and wait for the quarter box.

These issues probably aren’t on the shelves any more but they might still be available for reorder if you absolutely must ignore my advice. You can visit the DC Comics web site at www.dccomics.com.