It’s not the ultraviolent comedy of errors that Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds turned out to be. More farce than frenzy, Tarantino’s most recent offering (although superficially opulent) held at its core a measured disillusion with the World War II era.
Rather, the Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray-scripted Time Bomb has more in common with the Richard Burton- Clint Eastwood-classic, Where Eagles Dare. The one in which Burton in his role as wartime spy-chief launched a false flag operation within a Nazi castle to root out a mole at the highest levels of Allied Command. Clint Eastwood, at the beginning of defining himself evermore outside his Man With No Name cowboy persona, played with aplomb the thinking man’s vicious ultra-soldier. A man who’d need just one bomb to kill hundreds of Nazis, seemed to ring true as a character only Eastwood could play.
The joy in Where Eagles Dare, and it’s secret triumph over Inglorious Basterds was the former’s ability to engage you in the plot right from the start, and keep challenging you. Why exactly would Burton’s character sneak off to murder a member of his team he parachuted in with? Was it because the man stumbled through his el-zee and got his chute caught in some trees? With Where Eagles Dare, you just kept on guessing. Could Burton be the very mole he was himself hunting?
It’s hard not to expect the cadillac of war movies from the pairing of Palmiotti and Gray. It’s not hard to recall the opening of DC’s Jonah Hex which, along with Michael Bay’s first Transformers, Chris Nolan’s Batman and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man stands out as perhaps the most significant reboot of the past decade. Remember the money raining down from the night sky in the opening pages of Jonah Hex #1? Remember that simultaneous feeling of stone-cold vigor and ice-water chilling fury as Hex prepared to kill Ronnie James? There was no way to bring this coward to just, no way to make him pay for what he’d done. And we rooted for Hex even if we had no proof of James’ dastardly crime. Reading that Jonah Hex opening was a shot across the bow. Here was Hex as he always should have been.
And honestly, with Time Bomb, the Palmiotti-Gray dream team do not falter in the slightest. The story is flawless in its progression. In the first act we come up against the fear and the horror of a Nazi Doomsday weapon, and its accidental triggering by simply discovering it. In the second act, we come to understand the hidden joys in a gospel that has been preached by the gifted Mike Mignola for nearly 21 years now — that attacking Nazis with 21st century weapons is an endless joy. But it’s the third act that sets the gold standard for wartime period movies.
It’s the story of Dr. David Page, the scientist directly responsible for building the time machine that allowed the insertion team to infil the past. And the story of Metzger, the sociopathic Nazi scientist who first dreamt of such a machine. With the time travel equations of Dr. Ronald Mallett recently being funded, Palmiotti and Gray’s story takes on a chilling dimension. But there’s more to the story than just that. Dr. Mallett explains in his book Time Traveler that his desire to build the time machine is deeply rooted in a love he shared with his deceased father for the HG Wells story, ‘the Time Machine’.
The real engagement that Palmiotti and Gray offer here is the meditative examination of a science that is fueled by the idealism of popular culture. And for that alone Time Bomb is worth reading, worth owning. Radical’s latest offering comes with the highest praise.