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When it comes to comics, I’m a superhero guy.  I’m not ashamed to say: I tend toward the caped and the masked, toward the bulked up idealists who stand for truth and justice in a corporate way.  I suppose it’s, in part, because of the ingenious branding of the Big Boys: the ubiquitous logos, themselves branded on my brain over the course of thirty-some years.  But while I’m drawn specifically to those books, while they make me feel hopeful, safe, I’m not afraid to take a chance every now and again with something different, something more independent of spirit.

I’ve always been a fan of Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise and, more recently, Rachel Rising); I’ve enjoyed much of the spandex-free fare of super-scribes like Ed Brubaker (Fatale), Greg Rucka (Whiteout, Stumptown), Jeff Lemire (The Underwater Welder) and Scott Snyder (Severed).  Hey: a strong story is a strong story; and doubtless some of the strongest are those that don’t rely on colorfully costumed vigilantes and scantily clad demigods.  Instead, maybe they rely on—oh, I don’t know—a butt-ass naked, historically important inventor, like Alexander Graham Bell, for instance.

A quantum leap outside my usual comic-reading comfort zone, Paranoid American’s premiere offering Time Samplers #1 exposes Bell to be a bit of a bulky madman in cahoots–crazy, conspiratorial cahoots–with the moneyed movers and shakers of the early Twentieth century, many of whom the reader should recognize, if only by name. The book’s triad of writers—David Pinckney; Erik Koconis; and Thomas Gorance, also the series’ creator—plays with possibilities, as it rewinds the twine of time to, according to http://www.timesamplers.com, “unravel the ugly truths of recorded history.”

Time Samplers #1 Cover

It turns out that our introduction to this possi-Bell-ity is just a trial run for our protagonists, our pair of primed time samplers: Cal, a cool cat with a hat and a pipe perpetually pinched between his lips; and Lex, bald—as anyone named Lex should be—and just brave enough to put himself in an iffy situation.  (Lex is essentially the Yin to Cal’s Yang.)   Helping them take their trippy tumble—which is freshly rendered by Nicolas Colacitti in a flashy splash with the symbols of secret societies and covert power players sprinkled about—are two loyal teammates: the bespectacled Doc, who shocked my synapses into semi-submission with his W.I.L.D.-ly scientific elucidations and who plots the counterclockwise course for our chrono-corsairs; and Carmot, a pawnshop proprietor who tuning forks things up for his pals Lex and Cal and who acts as my personal page-bound proxy as he asks, “How’s about putting that into English…” while in the dark about Doc’s  shadowy concept of “experimenting with a temporal copy of history.”  Thanks, Carmot!

Thanks to the Writers Three, as well: they keep their reader grounded, even as Doc and Bell electrify the uninitiated with lectures on mind control through the manipulation of modulations and frequencies, waves and whatnot.  That’s right: it all makes sense—especially in the context of the first “worthy few” pages, which really stimulated my left temporal lobe: it’s ominously conspiratorial, sure, but it’s a hauntingly honest reflection of how the Big Machine consumes its clueless cogs.

If I’m being honest, though, I’m not a big believer in conspiracy theories.  Never have been.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t entertain them every now and again, especially when they’re presented in an exceedingly entertaining manner—and when my “brainwaves [are cycling] between 7 and 12hz,” apparently.  Time Samplers #1 is an exceedingly entertaining book that is well researched and well written.  The art—well, the art boasts bold black lines and plenty of purplish hues and, ultimately, is a bit cartoony for my taste; but, all told, it rings just right—especially when a bare-breasted Alexander Graham Bell hilariously hoists a head high into the air and with insanely-pitched pride shouts, “SHEEPLE!”  Yes, people: sheeple.  Do the math—or the cross-species hybridization—for yourself.

I don’t think that it’s much of a leaple to say that that singular panel—an amalgam of goofy and grotesque—is more than just a simple, albeit psychotic, plot device.  It’s also a promise: it’s Paranoid American’s promise that their flagship book is and will be worth your time and mine.

And, dammit, I baaa-lieve ‘em.

Turning pages,