Review: The Traveller (TPub Comics)

You wait ages for a new TPub comic to come along and there are two in quick succession! Following quickly in the footsteps of sci-fi anthology The Theory, comes The Traveller a steam punk time travel tale with a trademark sting in the tale.

Publisher: TPub Comics
Writer: Neil Gibson
Artist: Tasos Anastasiades
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter

Our story begins in 19th century Georgia where lonely shepherd Ioseb is contemplating his own life after his sheep become ravaged by disease. However he is stopped when a mysterious iron clad character appears from nowhere. Ioseb shoots him dead, only to find out that in the suit is a man. He removes the armour and puts it on himself to keep warm, but in doing this the suit bonds with him and sends him catapulting into a vortex to another time and place. As Ioseb gets used to his powers he soon discovers he can control them, and go to places that he chooses. So when he grows tired of travelling alone and worries that the glove is doing him harm, he asks it to take him somewhere he will be appreciated and somewhere he can be cured of his illness. He ends up in a lab where he discovers more about where the suit comes from, and the scientists in the lab have a tantalising offer for him. But at what cost?

While The Traveller starts off as Iron Man meets Quantum Leap, it soon involves into a much more complex and involved morality puzzle. Once Ioseb arrives in the lab in chapter 2 he begins to question his powers and how he uses them, as well as the motivations of those who he encounters. His constant questioning of the status quo is what makes the story really interesting, as Gibson takes a sideways look at a traditional moral conundrum, looking at the motivations of dictators and rebels alike. He questions who really is telling the truth which is a very apt discussion in this age of fake news and online propaganda. He also raises a lot of interesting questions about the validity of leadership and the opinions of the masses, that will really make you think.

But don’t worry, it’s not at the expense of it being a great yarn. The Traveller is also packed with plenty of hallmark Gibson tropes that we know and love from Twisted Dark and The Theory. From the classic twist in the tale at the end that really takes you by surprise, through to the peppering of horrific elements into the story to make what could have been a fairly gloomy steam punk tale into a trademark dark and twisted Gibson tale.

Neil is ably assisted by artist Tasos Anastasiades. In the pages at the back Tasos discusses his technique, which uses Poser to help speed up the creation process. Unlike other easily recognisable Poser books which feel really generic and rigid, Tasos has managed to really make the most of this style and gives the book a really slick and accomplished style to it that feels a bit like 2000 AD does steam punk and feels very much like part of the wider TPub cannon, complimenting books like Transdimensional or Tortured Life well.

Although perhaps not the most distinctive or unique style , overall Tasos’ artwork is very strong and it’s nice to see a steam punk book that doesn’t rely on the fussy clockwork style that a lot rely on to be different. It can be a bit ragged in a few places, and the design feels a bit derivative too – the traveller suit feels very old school Iron Man and rocket packs in later scenes eerily reminiscent of the Rocketeer – but if you’re being kind you would say this is them using genre styles to create a familiar pulpy world for the characters. It is definitely a book which uses familiar concepts and locations and offers them an alternative look and it is much stronger as a result.

If you are a fan of Neil Gibson’s style of writing then you will love The Traveller as it feels very much like a longer entry of his Twisted Dark or Twisted Sci-Fi series. However with more room to explore ideas, it has a thought provoking and fascinating moral depth to it that really makes it into a compelling read. As does the final twist in the tale, which some may see coming, but which we didn’t and caught us completely off guard. It really helped explain an ongoing joke about people mispronouncing Ioseb’s name which now makes a lot of sense, and gives a slice of historical reality to a fantastic tale that revels in messing with time and space!