The second of the Stan Lee overseen superhero comics from BOOM! hits the shelves this upcoming Wednesday and is more action-packed and mysterious than “Soldier Zero.” The concept of “The Traveler” isn’t as easy to grasp immediately, because Mark Waid throws us into the deep end, having the hero fight against his enemies without much of an explanation. It’s a novel approach and one that grabs you right away, driving the issue forward, but also not leaving much of an impression. Without context, the action lacks meaning and a point beyond ‘hero stops bad guys for reasons we don’t know yet.’ Even lacking that context, Waid and Chad Hardin make the debut of “The Traveler” a dynamic read with enough teases and clues to entice the reader back for another look.
The issue jumps into the deep end right away with one of the Split-Second Men appearing, trying to kill an innocent woman. This is the pattern of the issue: the Traveler has to stop one of three Split-Second Men from killing someone to change the course of history. Each Split-Second Man has a different power, while the Traveler can manipulate time, speeding it up and slowing it down. He’s clearly practiced at this as he uses his powers with ease and intelligence. Starting in the middle of the story with a somewhat seasoned hero is a different approach from a lot of superhero debuts and puts the reader in the position of playing catch-up. Not much is given here for the reader to catch up on, though.
Like the debut of “Soldier Zero,” this comic doesn’t feel like a complete first issue. The opening action scenes and the ensuing claims of further fights between the Traveler and Split-Second Men don’t leave much room for explanations. The comic never slows down enough for anything to fall into place, so, by the end, all we know is that there’s the masked, hooded hero that can manipulate time and he’s stopping time-traveling villains from killing people. A little insight into the protagonist is all that’s needed and it’s not there. Right now, there isn’t much of an emotional connection with him. He saves people, but how much do we care?
Hardin has a clean, crisp style and draws the action scenes with lots of energy. He tries to choose dynamic angles and positions his characters in the middle of movement often. Sometimes, that makes the panel-to-panel flow a little jarring, but it creates a sense of momentum. He has some difficulty with figures themselves, like the Split-Second Man that appears at the beginning of the issue, who looks unnatural and contorted in odd positions. But, the Traveler is drawn much better, looking heroic and mysterious as is appropriate.
Beginning with some cheesy wordplay and imagery about time, “The Traveler” #1 picks up the pace, delivering a lot of action and not much else. It’s a breezy, entertaining read and provides a lot of hints that Waid and Lee have some big plans, but not enough information about the eponymous hero is given to make us care. That said, the all-action, no slowing down approach is an effective one and has me wanting to see what happens next.