The Accelerators Vo1. 1: Time Games by R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith, Tim Yates
If you were the kind of kid (or are the kind of adult) who staged epic action-figure battles between army guys and dinosaurs, or G.I. Joes and pretty much anything else, you’re going to love The Accelerator Vol. 1: Time Games’s blood-drenched stadium showdowns featuring Romans and Prohibition-era gangsters, Maya warriors and samurai, and much more, ably illustrated by Gavin Smith and Tim Yates. And if you’re in the mood for a forward-only time-travel mystery, R.F.I. Porto’s script has the goods.
The mechanism of travel works thusly: the glowing blue ring on Vol. 1’s cover is a “time donut,” and it isn’t as much a time machine as it is a time-and-space manipulator, speeding the wielder forward in accordance with their thoughts, in a system reliant on the Fibonacci sequence. (1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, 3 + 2 = 5, 5 + 3 = 8, and so on.) The “time donuts” are part of a joint military-scientific experiment begun in the 1960s, one that’s gone horribly awry, leaving only Dr. Alexa and her husband Bertram, an army captain, alive. Alexa and Bertram each have a donut, and are using them to jump into the future; Alexa wants to preserve this technology and study it further, while Bertram wants to destroy it before things can get worse. Along the way, they accidentally pick up a geeky college student named Spatz, and though Alexa seems to die when her donut is destroyed in the early 21st century, Spatz and Bertram are kidnapped in 2046 and forced to fight gladiator-style in the Time Games, populated by fighters and beasts from various points in history.
The Time Games are overseen by a brilliant and ruthless woman named Bob, whose edicts are enforced by a legion of nameless mustachioed men in dark blue jumpsuits. Most of the Games’ rounds are one-on-one fights to the death, and survivors are frequently given upgrades like laser-eyes or bionic legs in order to up the entertainment factor for the enormous crowds of spectators. Initially, it seems like a pretty big societal and technological jump from where we are right now, but there’s a logical explanation, and everything hangs together consistently while still leaving breadcrumbs for readers to follow in later volumes. Character conflicts that appear straightforward are given complexity as the story develops, and the added twist of restrictions on time-travel provides a welcome obstacle for both the characters and plot.
Porto’s script is compelling, acknowledging the pushback experienced together by Alexa and Bertram as a mixed-race couple and separately in their individual fields of expertise. They spend a lot of time arguing and trying to kill one another at the outset, and I was happy to see their effort at reconciliation in Time Games’ conclusion, though I hope their friction isn’t completely replaced with sunshine and bunnies and rainbows. Spatz’ familiarity with all things pop-culture means that he spends more time geeking out over technological marvels than crying over lost connections with family and friends, which came across as an odd choice at first, but later begins to seem deliberate, with the potential for some very interesting character choices in the future.
Smith’s line work is generally quite good, though frequently the supporting-character details are sketchy, and I wasn’t sure if Bob’s goons are supposed to be identical twins, clones, or dopplegangers. (Were they all inspired by a certain Bluth family in-law in his Blue Man phase?) Yates’ colors are sometimes gorgeous, especially when portraying the implementation of futuristic technology, but also sometimes a little muddied or washed-out, and skin tones can come across as greyish rather than nuanced. However, The Accelerators: Vol. 1 was published in 2014, and it’s obvious that Yates has put a lot of energy into honing his craft between this and his solo work on Anne Bonnie Vol. 1.
The Accelerators: Time Games poses a lot of questions, and answers a scant few of them while opening up even more in the final panels. When and where did this technology truly come from, and when and where will it lead? Why are Alexa, Bertram, and Spatz so important? If the past is a fixed path into the future, what kind of future can any of these characters look forward to? Luckily, I’ve got a copy of Vol. 2, Momentum, sitting on my desk, so hopefully I’ll have some answers very soon.