July 16th, 2012
Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man?
By Dave West and Marleen Lowe | Published by Accent UK
Review by Mervyn Charles
No, this is not a London 2012 Usain Bolt spin-off. Instead, this is the story of Bobby Doyle, your average Londoner who just wants to monkey along with an ordinary life but is the possessor of the ability to stop time. Now we are not talking about a little bit of Hiro Nakamura and his localised stopping of time. Bobby Doyle does this big time and stops time for the entire world while carrying on his life as normal in his own little time zone.
However, there is a serious drawback to this power in that objects remain dormant when Bobby puts a big freeze on time. A bicycle would not work, doors and windows cannot be opened and the only way to work mechanical objects such as doors is for our hero to unfreeze time for the second it takes to open a door etcetera.
This small flaw in Bobby’s power gives rise to the legend that Bobby is in fact a super-speedster. Bobby had previously rescued a train-load of passengers from an impending crash and in the moment it took him to unfreeze time so he could open the train door he was seen by the driver. In those instants, he can be seen. As the next thing the driver knew was that he was a few miles away and safe and no time had elapsed, hence the legend arose of a super-speedster pulling people from a crash.
Without going too much into the story, circumstances and a terrorist threat, mean that the supposed fastest man in the world has to perform a similar feat but on a much grander scale. He has one hour to clear thousands of people in a two-mile radius. Bobby doesn’t want to be a hero. His first brush with heroism, the incident on the train, only took place because he was a passenger on the train as it was about to crash. He simply did what was necessary, which some could argue is the stuff or heroism anyway.
Furthermore, whenever he moves around in his own time zone, time for him moves as normal. In other words, Bobby will age at the normal rate. Thousands of people to move to safety and without any means of transporting them apart from physically manhandling them person by person, well a task like that will take years.
Fifty years in our hero’s estimation and here we have the crux of the story.
Bobby, our reluctant hero, will be spending the next fifty years of his life lifting, tugging and generally manhandling Londoners to safety. Eat, sleep, crap and carry people for the next fifty years and the only possibility he can see at the end of it all is advanced age or death. Fifty years of silence, without ever knowing human contact again. No-one will even know what he has done. People who survive will attribute their deliverance to the “Worlds Fastest Man” because in those moments when Bobby unfreezes time to operate something mechanical like a door or a window, there is the chance that someone will notice him.
The comic has a wonderfully fatalistic outlook on things. It is grim but in an enjoyable way. You feel for Bobby as he could quite easily have decided that this mammoth task is simply beyond his capabilities. If fact, it is beyond his capabilities but he mugs along regardless knowing that at the end of it he will surely die.
In a weird way, it has the feel of the typical “last man alive” story. Many panels show Bobby moving through a city devoid of life and sound and that feeling of emptiness adds to the enjoyably grim slant of this story.
It is a quick read but a very good read and I cannot recommend this highly enough. A special mention must go to the excellent artwork and it is very important that a reader pays this very close attention. The art is highly nuanced and actually explains small details of the story and how our hero’s powers work as he moves in and out of time. The comic, with its red-top cover page look and tabloid feel, actually reminds me of the Sunday Sport in its heyday, back when it was full of stories of aliens, Elvis and bombers on the moon and Accent may have gone for that that sensationalist tabloid feel deliberately. If that was their intent then it worked a treat and added to the quality or the publication and its intentionally misleading title.