Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Reviews - Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man ?

From www.whatevercomics.com by Manny (2009)

I remember a past where two 11 year olds surrounded by small piles of Marvel Comics discussed which super powers they would have if by some miracle we were exposed to radio activity or struck by a bolt of alien lighting.

Super strength, invulnerability, flight, mind control, invisibility, you know all the standard fare available to us though this make-believe world that we immersed ourselves in.

One of the super powers I had wised for was to make time stand still, with this my friend stopped and pondered for a second, yeah but if you did that you would get old real quick.

How do you mean I replied? Somewhat confused, well he said if you stopped time but within that stopped time you continued to function then you would continue to age while everyone else stayed exactly the same age,

I listened intently to my friend who was always a much sharper tool from the box than I was.

OK I said I want to stop time without any side effects! He sighed probably realising that everything he had explained had escaped me completely and we continued to explore the realms of possibility.

As the years went by I always remembered this conversation and wondered why it had never been explored in the medium I had chosen to live my life by, maybe it has I would some times think, and I just haven’t read the comic it has appeared in, maybe someday I will write a story about it myself, yeah right, I would say out load it would be a pretty boring story if I wrote it now wouldn’t it !
This brings me to Accent UK’s latest offering Whatever Happened to the Fastest Man which Accent UK kindly sent me a preview copy.

This square bound American comic size black and white comic book explores just that, the concept of stopping time is brilliantly explored in ways I could never have imagined.

First off I was really impressed by the overall quality of the publication its glossy colour cover alone makes you want to pick it up, once you do the interior pages continue with beautiful black and white artwork by Marleen Lowe who uses clever gray tones to further enhance and to create effects between time and time stopped.

The written word by Dave West who you may remember gave us the fantastic Wolfmen with Andy Bloor.
It immediately draws you in, once you start reading it you just cant put it down, now I don’t want to give to much of the story away but suffice to say an evil act is afoot in so far as a huge bomb planted in a landmark building and only one man has the power to be able to do anything about it and that’s Bobby Doyle who if you hadn’t already guessed can stop time while still able to move freely. The resulting way Bobby deals with this menace is beyond heroic, you see that instead of stopping time just to save himself he uses it to save as many other people as well all the while paying for it by shorting his own life in the real world.

And with that I am not going to say anymore ! except that this is an amazing piece of work and you should buy it, its due in stores around the last week in January 2010.

It could well be the best £3.50 you could ever spend on a Comic Book.

10 out of bloody 10

From Stephen Holland of Page 45 (2009)

Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man?

one-shot (£3-50, Accent UK) by Dave West & Marleen Lowe

One of the biggest surprises for me this year, I've just spent a very enjoyable quiet half-hour mesmerised by a complete preview copy of this substantial book which is emphatically not a superhero comic. It's nothing like it appears to be from its title, synopsis and cover - and deliberately so, I'm sure, but it's selling itself short.
Some time during the last two years a train heading towards Charing Cross station became derailed, demolishing a whole street of houses and killing everyone inside it. Except that were no passengers inside: they all found themselves outside the disaster zone witnessing the crash for themselves. The driver thought he saw a man for one split second, but other than that no one to this day has worked out what happened. Now history is about to repeat itself as it's announced on the news that some mad bastard has set a time bomb ticking - one with a lethal two-mile radius and an hour to detonate. There's ever such a slight panic but...

"Bobby Doyle observed all this on the television over the bar at his work's local public house. He was out with friends for a 'long lunch' and on hearing this news... accepted that this was going to be even longer than planned."
That final phrase is illustrated by a close-up of Bobby Doyle face, eyes closed and lips tight in silent resignation, but at that early point in the story I had absolutely no idea how perfect that panel was. I had no idea how much Bobby Doyle was about to sacrifice, and I suspect neither did he, as he stops time around him to make his solitary way through London on foot to the bomb's location several miles distant. He's no scientist, our Bobby - he's not going to be able to stop the bomb going off. But he is going to try to move thousands and thousands of people away from the inevitable carnage even if it takes him his whole life to do it. It will.

It's subtle stuff, and only after a while did I realise how much time was passing as his beard and hair grow long and matted then the bald spot first appears. Deprived of human contact in any real sense (he may be lugging the innocents two miles each, but they're blissfully unaware of his efforts) he starts talking to himself in exactly the right tone of almost self-effacing light-heartedness. I also liked Bobby's reasoning: kids would be his priority you might have thought, but by the time he reaches fifty or sixty they'll be the only ones light enough for him to carry. There's plenty more here and it's been thoroughly thought out, while Marleen's art will grow on you very quickly indeed, especially when you see how well she differentiates between normal time and 'Doyle time'. A tip of the hat then to two talents new to me, but from whom I hope to read a whole lot more.

From www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk by Richard Bruton (2009)

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.
The concept?
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…….
“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.
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.

From www.comicshopvoice.co.uk by GM Jordan (2009)

Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man?

Accent is known primarily for producing anthologies, WHTTWFM? is a really good comic book, well put together and beautifully made.
I bought WHTTWFM? because I have always enjoyed The Flash and I was interested to see if West and Lowe's take on the idea. They have done a sterling job, I was gripped from the beginning and the story is well told by Dave West. Marleen Lowe's artwork is very clean and meticulous, both creators come together to tell a tale that is simple but compelling.
The format of the book is smaller than a regular comic book, with the cover set out in newspaper style. The internal graphics are b&w and you don't miss the colour, it's a very British tale of action adventure and I really want to go into it more but I don't want to spoil it for you. It is thought provoking and fun in all the right places, it makes you think about decisions and what you would do in the hero's place.
WHTTWFM? costs £3.50, there is some dire rubbish out there from the American publishers that you can do without so treat yourself to a quality title from a British publisher. Accent know how to put great comic books together, their anthologies are fantastic and well worth buying.
For a full list of their range visit the Accent website and you can probably catch them at most of the UK conventions. Accent are also one of the few British publishers that survived the cull by Diamond on the small press.

 From www.grovel.org.uk (2009) by Andy Shaw

 Caught somewhere between a comic and a graphic novel, Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? is the latest release from British indy publisher Accent UK, the team also responsible for superior anthology Robots.
This short, 50-page book is the self contained story of a man who can stop time – a bit like the Hiro character in Heroes. However, this guy isn’t hung up on saving the world or even using his powers much; he’d rather live a quiet life, saving people from danger if he’s able, but essentially just living like a normal person. One day, events catch up with him though, and he finds himself in the blast zone of a mad scientist’s bomb. Set to blow up the centre of London within the hour, with a two mile blast radius, it would seem that even the fastest man alive might struggle to save any more than a handful of people. What’s he to do?
This is a heart-warming story, deftly told with humour, pathos and flair. Watch out for it – this is a definite one-to-watch.

From www.hypergeek.ca (2009) by Edward Kaye 

Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? is an incredibly interesting and original take on the old adage that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” It’s an incredibly honest look at what would happen if an ordinary man was gifted with extraordinary powers. It is unlikely that most individuals would don a garish costume, and run around saving lives, not unless they were mentally unstable, or were in constant need of the fame and adoration. In this story Bobby is just trying to lead a normal life, but when his powers are truly needed and there is no way around it, he pulls his sleeves up, and gets on with the job. This is a very British take on the superhero myth. The British, whilst performing wonderful work on the U.S. superhero scene, have had very few home-grown superheroes, and when we do create them we tend to make them incredibly flawed beings with very human sensibilities. Whilst an American superhero might dress up with his underwear outside of his trousers and run around saving screaming dames, you’d never catch a proper British hero doing that.
Dave West does a wonderful job on the story front, with the storytelling method falling somewhere between a regular comic, and a short story. What I mean by this, is that by the inherent nature of the plot this is a very lonely story, which mostly  precludes the need for dialogue, or speech bubbles of any sort. Most of the story is told though interiour monologue, character introspection, and a little bit of exposition. Exposition has become a bit of a dirty word in modern comics, but when used properly, as it is here, it can be a very valuable story telling device.
The art on the book is by Marlene Lowe, and is incredibly gorgeous. The book has a full colour cover, but all of the interiour artwork is in black & white.  There are many parts of the book where difference between static time and moving time needs to be illustrated, and Lowe manages to to indicate the flow of time incredibly well through some very subtle techniques. Namely, when time is static for a character, place, or object the artwork is penciled and shaded, but not inked; when time is flowing, as it always is for Bobby, then the art is inked, and coloured in grayscale. This leads to a truly wonderful effect, as illustrated below. Like I said, it’s a really subtle technique, but it is incredibly powerful!
Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? is an amazing piece of character work, that takes a very real-life approach to the modern superhero myth. Bobby Doyle is an average working class schmoe, who just happens to be able to stop time. When faced with no other alternative he keeps a stiff upper lip, and goes about saving the lives of thousands, in the most mundane of fashions. Though he is reluctant to do so, he sacrifices day after day of his ever depleting life in order to save the lives of strangers. The title of the story may bring to mind classic Alan Moore penned Superman tale Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? which isn’t a bad association to make, but this story is rather different from Moore’s classic Superman epitaph. Instead, it brought to mind an Alan Moore interview that I remember from several years ago (conducted by Stewart Lee, I think) where Moore was making fun of the Batman origin. He was highlighting how ridiculous even Batman’s dark origin was, by quoting part of the comic where after Bruce Wayne has witnesses the brutal murder of his parents he says, and I’m paraphrasing, “Now I shall dress as a bat and fight crime!” I think Bobby Doyle’s response to having special powers is a little more realistic, don’t you?
Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? will be available in th UK shortly, so keep checking http://www.accentukcomics.com for news on the release date. Accent UK are also hoping to get this one-shot picked up by Diamond Distribution for a North American release, so keep an eye on Previews magazine for that, and I am sure I will highlight it and inform people when it does appear

From www.comicnews.info (2009) by Richard Caldwell

Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man? Well, Where Is He???

Hands down, this is a new and extremely inspired take on the whole concept of “speedsters”. To move faster than those around you, faster than nature or even physics- that is something, right? But what if such incredible powers were not so simple? What if physics (and possibly even quantum mechanics) played a bigger role? And what if those cursed with such abominable abilities really were, at the end of the long day, just one of us after all?
These are only a hint of the flavours suggested in this story, where a madman has unleashed a bomb in the heart of London proper capable of devastation two miles in circumference. Of course, the blessed powers that be try to deal with the situation in every which way imaginable, announcing at last to the public the dire circumstances at a point in which nothing else could possibly be done. Just enough time given for general panic to set in, with the streets overcrowding and all cool lost in the genuflections of guardian angels.
Enter Bobby Doyle, aka Joe everyman, regular bloke with regular dreams. Except for this strange ability of his, wherein he can step outside of time. Now like the average personas of most real-world folks, such power is wasted on common things, like sleeping off hangovers and the like. On the very odd occasion in which something truly unsettling settles in, Bobby is the sort to do what’s right. The downside, very effectively portrayed in West’s narrative, is that while he steps outside of the boundaries of time, his own time marches on, as time is prone to do, the limey bastard. In doing the right thing, his very own life is robbed of him. Think about that.
The art, by the lovingly ingenious Ms. Lowe, is done in a detailed pencil shaded sketch manner, with inked and even computer-enhanced detail awarded to the core points of each and every sequence and frame. This is a bit like Frank Quitely’s work, maybe just prior to his being looped into tights-work only on a steady basis. The characters are as expressive as the very best Manga efforts known to the Western hemisphere, but without any of the attributes of Manga usually offensive or distasteful to the otherwise common Western comic buyer sensibility. This is a fun, energetic style, even while energy itself is a thing that fades within the progression of the plot- and all entirely appropriate, mind you. This is one of those rare indie artists we see nowadays, who you just know beyond a shadow of a doubt is inventive enough to figure out how to draw anything a writer might lay down before her eyes. I do not say such lightly.
It is honestly quite difficult to express how innovative, yet personal, this story really is without giving away any major points of the comic. A few pages into the work and the reader will undoubtedly begin to catch a whiff of things to come; but to see it executed to such a degree…
This is simply one of the finest comic book stories I have seen in quite a spell. I sincerely hope others will read this work, and that it triggers the imagination as muchly as it has my own.
In terms of a personal sacrifice, this will open some eyes as to variant perspectives of unexplored superhero stories yet to be told. In terms of reader satisfaction, unless you are a moronic idiot with drool oozing down your chin round the clock, then a work like this should leave its mark.
A very very very fine comic book, and I was pleased by the experience of the read.

From talesfromtheparentsbasement.com (2009) by Jim Schwitzer

One Saturday afternoon in the late eighties, I was flipping through the channels and came across a movie starring Charlton Heston called The Omega Man. Heston plays the role of Robert Neville, the last man on earth. He speeds recklessly through the streets of San Francisco, watches Woodstock over and over again in an abandoned movie theater and basically does whatever the hell he wants. Well, at least until night fall. Then he has to shoot freaks from his compound.
I must have watched the movie fifty times since then and I have become obsessed with most entertainment that deals with the idea of being the last living soul(s) on the planet. Obviously I’m not alone with this infatuation, because it seems like there are a lot of these stories out there. All have the same general premise, but vary to some degree. Like Y:The Last Man for example. Same idea, but it has an interesting “what if…” twist. Post- apocalyptic subject matter is getting boring…or so I thought.
Dave West and Marleen Lowe have made me a believer again. Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? is the best comic that I have read in months. I may even say the best comic of the year when December rolls around, but maybe that’s being a bit too anxious.
An evil scientist has planted a bomb in the Prometheus Inc. building in London. The police and media have just informed the public that everyone will be killed within a certain radius of the bomb and chaos has broken loose. The streets are flooded with fleeing citizens and traffic is at a stand still.
Bobby Doyle is in a pub taking a long lunch with some mates when he sees the news on TV. He calmly takes a last sip of his pint, sets the glass down, and stops time.
Doyle is just like any other person in London, but he has a special gift; he can freeze time. Time stops for everyone but Doyle. Once, when he was travelling on a train,  a horrible accident occurred. Bobby immediately stopped time and carried all of the passengers to safety. In order to operate doors or anything that moves, Doyle has to start time for a split second. Sometimes people catch a glimpse of him or a camera may catch him on film, giving the appearance that he is moving at an incredible speed. because of this, the media named him “The World’s Fastest Man”, but because the only see him for such a short time, no one knows who he is.
So, Bobby Doyle stops time when he hears about the bomb in the Prometheus building and figures out a solution: he’s going to move every single person out of  range of the bomb. It will take him a lifetime, but he’ll do it. And he does.
Maybe this isn’t really the story of the last man on earth, but it is. The hero is very noble and tragic. He moves alone throughout the rest of his life among thousands of frozen people. He’s going to save London at the cost of his youth, friends and family, and will probably never get credit for it. Not even a thank you. Yet he never questions or complains about what he has to do, he just does it.
The story itself is outstanding, but the art is just as impressive. Although the comic is black and white, there is a distinct difference when Lowe draws the people frozen in time and when they are active.
It’s a shame that this comic will probably not be released in the U.S.. Accent UK has had some very impressive work recently, and Fastest Man is no exception. It’s going to be hard for us “Yanks” to get a hold of, but it will be well worth the effort and money to get this one-shot.
GRADE 10/10

From www.comicsvillage.net (2009) by Glenn Carter

Mad Scientist blackmails government with a massive bomb in the heart of London. With one hour to go, this is the story of what happens next and what became of the world’s fastest man in the last hour.

Sometimes you get a rare example of everything that is right about the independent comic scene. Sure, in doing so you have to wade through mountains of turgid unskilled rubbish, but it is worth it for the gems you find in amongst the crap.

This is one of those gems. It reads like Alan Moore doing future shocks on top form. It is inventive, unpredictable and compulsive reading. It is, in short, a prime example of ideas based storytelling at its best.

It toys with your expectations and never quite pays off in the way you expect it to, but it is so well-written, imaginative and clever that you are drawn to like it and the plot twists never seem stupid, but always natural and believable.

This is the sort of thing independents can do really well. They can break free from the chains of teenage power fantasies and explore ideas and concepts fully. I don't believe that it's possible for Marvel and DC to really innovate, so it's left for people like AccentUK to blaze a trail away from comic clichés and into more imaginative territory.

Artistically, I wasn't too keen, but even then the worst I could say about the artwork is that it is not to my personal taste. I can see that it is good and consistent and works perfectly with the nature of the story.

Regardless of the artwork, I read through it all in a single sitting. Once I'd read the first few pages I found myself unable to stop. So do yourself a favour and acquire yourself a copy of a very early contender for the strongest indie comic of 2009.

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