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Comic Theme Time Month – Best Time Travel Storyline

All December long, I will be doing daily installments of Comic Theme Time. Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

Today’s topic is a straightforward one – “what is the best comic book time travel storyline?”

Superman’s “Time and Time Again?” The West Coast Avengers traveling through time? Swamp Thing’s journey through time? Iron Man versus Doctor Doom in Camelot? Any of the various Fantastic Four time travel stories? There are tons of choices – what are your picks?

53 Comments

West Coast Avengers. And it’s about to get traded too!1

the booster gold series that just wrapped in august, I loved the romp through dcu continuity. As good as the new 52 has been I miss that rich history which for the most part counted in the DCU. All that aside I love the greatest hero you never heard of set up. The only way for him to save the world in secret is to pretend to still be a bumbling egotist.

FF Annual 11, Marvel Two-In-One Annual 1 and 2 in 1 #20. I LOVED that story, the FF, Invaders, Liberty Legion and great 70′s artwork. Doesn’t hurt it was one of the first comic stories I ever read!

FF 5 is quite a classic for me. There was a long storyline in Marvel Team Up that started in Salem and finished in the future with Killraven that I loved.

Time & Time again was a good one too.

Unlimited Access, anyone? Anyone? Yeah, me neither.

Avengers Forever is a personal favorite. I love time travel stories so this is kind of a tough one because there are so many good ones.

For sheer comic fan enthusiasm, you have to give it up for that aborted Swamp Thing storyline by Veitch. Even though I thought the unpublished ending of the story was a bad idea, and I would have disliked it if it had been published, I still think it was wrong for DC to cop out on Veitch and his affectionate trip through DC history still wins me over.

Hourman by Peyer and Morales — the whole series was virtually a catalog of every sort of trick you can do with time travel stories, with paradoxes and foreshadowing and thwarted expectations and mind-bending future scenarios all over the place. What’s more, all that trickery was actually *about* something real, not merely showing off cleverness for its own sake. If you think of the series as a metaphor of growing up and getting old and finding the future has arrived way before you were expecting it, all the time travel starts to carry a sad sense of inevitability.

Brave Old World by Messner-Loebs and Davis is the best depiction of contemporary people trapped in a historical period I’ve ever read in or out of comics. It’s better than several novels on the exact same topic.

The time-travel sequence in Animal Man by Morrison and Truog is relatively brief, but it carries a big emotional punch. And it pays off the foreshadowing that was building for almost the whole run of the series up to that point.

Days of Future Past

I agree, Avengers Forever is one of the best time travel stories in comics to date. Not only did it wrap up great, it retconned into contiguity so many holes in stories due to contradic?ing writers’ storylines over the years that it deserves a pretty high ranking on a similar list of stories.

Oh, DC One Million was a good TT saga as well!!!

Alan Moore’s ending of Supreme’s “Story of a Year” was a good, twisted time story. Moore has a lot of sideways through time type stories.

The West Coast Avengers– Lost In Space-Time. I don’t know how you could beat that.

West Coast Avengers – Lost in Space/Time. Hands down my favorite. I remember reading it as it came out each month. Such a fun read. And the fact that it weaved together multiple threads without seeming too bogged down was excellent.

There are some very good stories mentioned already. But that WCA arc just beats ‘em all in my opinion.

Ben Grimm was BLACKBEARD!! It all makes perfect sense.

The Time Masters limited from about ’90. Rip Hunter fighting Vandal Savage at different. points in time. Also Fantastic Four during Simonson’s run, forget what issues, early ’90s. Had the FF lost in time, Thor and Iron Man, and introduced the TVA.

Chronos.

Really loved the Iron Man 500 issue that Fraction did with Larocca, Kano, and some others I’m forgetting. Not a true time travel story, but a really disturbing and poignant look at Tony Stark’s legacy.

Deadpool #11.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine. Also – and this probably doesn’t count since it’s a graphic novel and not a “storyline,” but – I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason.

Oh and this:

The time-travel sequence in Animal Man by Morrison and Truog is relatively brief, but it carries a big emotional punch. And it pays off the foreshadowing that was building for almost the whole run of the series up to that point.

Totally, totally this, except Truog didn’t do this storyline. The first issue, in which Buddy unwittingly meets his future self is drawn by Tom Grummet and the second one, in which Buddy travels into the past to warn his family is drawn by a fill-in artist.

“Planely Possible” from Weird Fantasy #21.

And “Time Fugitives” from X-Men Adventures Season II #7 and #8. Adapted from the animated series, great story.

Pirate Thing and anything involving Kang the Conqueror are my favorite time travel stories.

I don’t know if this counts, but Batman’s team-up with parallel universe Abraham Lincoln in the Brave and the Bold cartoon was EPIC.

Bernard the Poet

January 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Let me be the 3rd person to recommend Morrison’s Animal Man. There have been very few comics as clever as those two issues and there have been very few comics that have been as moving as those two issues. And there has been packed such an emotional punch.

Bernard the Poet

January 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Oops pushed the publish button before I’d finished writing. I just wanted to add that there have been clever comics and there have been moving comics, but that time travel story in Animal Man is unique for being both clever AND moving.

I absolutely love the Transformers story from the UK, “Target: 2006″, from 1986. It also has a time travel aspect I think was new for the time–where the parties traveling back have to displace persons of equal mass into a limbo-like dimension. Basically, Galvatron, Cyclonus, and Scourge travel back to 1986 (via displacing Optimus Prime, Ratchet, and Prowl) in order to use the Constructicons for the purpose of building a large cannon that, once triggered upon their return to the future, will fire on and hopefully destroy Unicron. This causes Megatron and Soundwave to reluctantly team up with the Autobots to rout Galvatron. This was the story arc that introduced the Wreckers team, and featured Ultra Magnus (a member of that team) teleporting to Earth to learn the reasons behind Prime’s disappearance, nearly throwing a Wreckers sting operation’s timetable in jeopardy.

Love the WCA and Time & Time Again tale. Fond of the Obsidian Age from JLA, underrated and pretty bleak until the end. Infinity Inc’s debut in ASS is joyous fun. The JLA/JSA/LSH team up is terrific.

But favourite is JLA/JSA/ASS. Five issues of great story and art and chock full of brilliant moments. Yes, parallel world and time travel, great combo!

Glad to see that Veitch Swamp Thing story mentioned, I think that’s my favourite. Great use of Arcane and just fun to trace back the mystic gem at each stage of its existence, why there’s a skeletal arm clutching it some years, etc. It’s a shame the story never reached its intended conclusion.

The first issue, in which Buddy unwittingly meets his future self is drawn by Tom Grummet and the second one, in which Buddy travels into the past to warn his family is drawn by a fill-in artist.

I should have remembered this and cannot account for the brain malfunction that caused me to forget it while trying to be a stickler for credits. Many thanks for putting me right! Anyway, Paris Cullins was the artist on issue 22 and Truog returned for issue 23, wrapping up Buddy’s journey into his own past.

@Acer
I couldn’t agree more. In this age of deconstructed stories that plod on forever, Furman was able to show amazing characterisation, conflict between past and future versions of the same characters, and clever twists and reveals all within an 11 page per issue framework.
And seeing the leaderless heroes fall in behind their deadliest enemy for salvation was not what you saw in more mainstream comics of the day.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures from Archie has some great time travel stories. Started with The future shark trilogy in the 40′s and Terracide in the 50′s – where the future turtles saw their younger selves get into a plane crash that was never meant to happen… and they were worried they would cease to exist.

I’m still waiting on the last storyline… The forever War to see print – Pretty please IDW!! :)

Fantastic Four #352.

Tough to think of one I liked more than the original Days of Future Past two-parter.

Is JLA Rock of Ages “great”? DC One Million was pretty good. The Chronos series. Thing as Blackbeard. Issue 6 of All Star Superman.

I’ll probably think of something even better later, and kick myself.

CT said it first, FF 352. Walt Simonson pulled off one of the most innovative comics I’ve ever read. While the rest of the team fight Doombots, Reed & Doom travel through time in the space of less than an hour, trying to catch each other. The reader could go back and forth with the pages and follow the battle in order.

Wow, two people already beat me to FF #352. Agreed–you can either read the story straight through and see how Reed and Doom pop up at different points; or, you can follow their battle chronologically and jump through different parts of the story (including the cover!).

I second FF 352, Days of Future Past, and Animal Man.

I’m really surprised no one has mentioned The Return of Barry Allen, by Mark Waid and Greg Laroque.

And I also immediately thought of 2 Alan Moore stories that are pretty under the radar: His Twilight of the Super-Heroes story proposal for DC involves a nice time paradox with John Constantine manipulating his younger self, and then the younger self getting his revenge in the most masochistic way possible. It was a really fantastic twist ending that gave me goose bumps just in reading the plot synopsis. Rip Hunter was supposed to play a big part in the series too.

And Moore and Dave Gibbons did a wonderful 3 page story for 2000AD involving an inventor figuring out the secret of time by looking at a glass, but then being bombarded by several versions of his future selves telling him how to manage his discovery. It’s probably in a tie with Hellboy: Pancakes for my favorite comic story under 8 pages.

In order, my choices would be
1. The Invisables
2. JLA : Rock of Ages
3. Fantastic Four #352
4. Animal Man
5. DC 1,000,000
6. Avengers Forever
7. JLA/Wild Cats
8. The initial Rachael storyline from New Mutants #18 – Excalibur Special Edition #1
9. Seven Soldiers of Victory
and 10. JLA/Avengers…. for the character pornography of it all.

Yeah, though they’re both already highly praised, “Seven Soldiers” and “Age of Apocalypse” (technically AoA Bishop traveled through both time and dimensions) are both pretty great. For that matter, the storyline that introduced Bishop in “Uncanny” had its moments, like Trevor Fitzroy absorbing souls en masse to bring hundreds of future-criminals to the present.

Mark Waid’s Flash: Chain Lightning. A fine capstone to a character-defining run. The second to last issue where Wally meets with Barry shortly before he died is a particular favorite of mine, for the closure and for the team-up up of successful successor and deceased mentor.

Steven E. McDonald

January 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Because I have to be contrary…GENERATIONS 3. While it does have a couple of truly skeevy moments, it also has the battle between Darkseid’s minions and the good guys going on in temporal opposition to each other. Not to mention that it’s essentially a recursive Elseworlds.

Robocop vs Terminator!!!

Well, that Dan Slott post just reminded me of his “Masters of Time and Space” issue of Ren and Stimpy, so I’m going with that.

Time travel is a fickle mistress.

Jack Knight’s odyssey through space and time in Starman. Space Ranger! Space Cabbie! Atomic Knights! Ultra! Tommy Tomorrow! a young Jor-El! And a bunch others……

dantecat beat me to it. Robinson takes Jack Knight and the audience through some great memories.

Days of Future Past is still the benchmakr for great time-travel stories in comics, and is pretty much excluded from the list for being the biggest no-brainer. It’s fun, well-drawn, thought-provoking, not confusing like most time-travel stories, and introduced a trope that future X-Men comics would make great use of.while doing it all in 2-issues without feeling rushed. You’re lucky if a modern story can accomplish a third of that.

From DC, I have to go with Rock of Ages. I remember reading my friend’s single issues of it, except he didn’t have the final chapter and it confused the crap out of me. Still, it was enjoyable, and I remember how much I looked forward to reading the complete story when I bought the trade. Every time I read it, I enjoy it more than the last time. It’s sort of like the JLA version of Days of Future Past, with Morrison’s flair for the absurd thrown in. It was a good primer of what was to come in his New X-Men, which mixed classic comics with new sensibilities and a heaping helping of zaniness added for flavor. You can actually see some similarities between his final NXM arc and this JLA story.

And I have to give a shout-out to Legion Quest. Going into, you don’t see the end result. It was pretty well handled, but the ending is the best part – the heroes LOSE, and because of it, we get the fun romp in an alternate timeline, the greatest X-over, Age of Apocalypse! I wish Marvel hadn’t screwwed that alt-universe up in the past decade; I would ave loved to have seen a Forever style title set in it by Lobdell or Niceaza. But now they’ve either killed, crippled, villified or redesigned all the iconic characters and it’s lost all its allure.

Deadpool #11 is indeed a brilliant time-travel story and just a hilarious comic.

Iron-Man vs Dr Doom in Camelot is still one of my favorite IM stories ever!

Incredible Hulk 284, where Hulk and She-Hulk have to collects members of the Avengers who have been scattered through the timestream, until they confront the Leader in prehistoric times to prevent him from Gamma-irradiating the whole planet!

And on the French bande-dessinée side from the mid-80s(which I bet no one around here knows about):
Spirou #36: L’Hologer De La Comète, where the characters travel with the nephew-from-the-future of their friend the Count of Champignac to South America during Spanish colonial times;
and the following book #37: Le Réveil Du Z, where they are then taken to the future to confront the descendant of their old enemy Zorglub, who has overtaken the world and controls everyone with a giant clock that enforces strict time-schedules (to sum it up VERY simply). I believe that story later inspired a Flash storyline, which I didn’t read so I don’t know what issues it would be in, but it was referenced in Flash #113-117 (‘Race Against Time’ by Mark Waid) and the similarities I saw there were obvious. Maybe something for a future Legend?

I liked Warren Ellis’ time-travel story in Secret Avengers #20.

Oh yeah, Deadpool #11 was a pure classic. Not enough space here to describe how good it was, and how love for the original material there was.

For a new nomination, how about Astro City v2 #12? I like how it subverted some cliches with, [SPOILERS!] the appearance of Zach Johnson’s third alternate future son ‘Nah, I’m not a crazy type super powered avenger guy, I’m just here to say hi. Also the other guys actually can’t travel back to fight you again, so no worries.’

Actually, all the time travel stuff in Astro City was pretty good. Didn’t get bogged down in the hows and whatnot, just had fun with it.

Days of Future Past is great, the Iron Man and Doctor Doom story was a great one, there are any number of excellent Kang the Conqueror/Rama-Tut epics that might qualify. But for this one, I’d have to go back to Jim Starlin’s Warlock/Magus story. It’s not a typical time travel into the future or past story, it’s deeper than that. Warlock is fighting his future self — if his life goes down one path. Through the In-Betweener he goes to the crossroads where his life diverges into several different paths, cleanses and then destroys the evil path, than runs back along the shortest path, meets himself in the time stream somewhere and kills himself. Heady stuff. I first read that story when I was a kid and it’s stayed with me ever since.

I second WackyWally’s mention of The Invisibles. I loved the Aracadia storyline.

The Marvel the Lost Generation 12 issue series by John Byrne. Loved that story.

Another vote for Morrison’s Animal Man sequence … brilliant usage of the Phantom Stranger, Jason Blood, and Immortal Man.

Time travel stories are tough, and ripe for inconsistencies, in film and comics. I picked up an OLD JL comic. The team was travelling through time on their time treadmill. I believe they had either gone to the past, or had been sent to the past and had to get to the present to stop the bad guy. They talked about how they had to hurry and get to the present “in time”. Umm….. Why the hurry? You’re travelling through time. Just arrive before you need to.

I alway liked the Guardians of the Galaxy, but their future was supposed to be a divergent timeline, where Vance Astro went to space rather than became a superhero. So why was it that everytime they travelled back in time, they went to the main comics timeline? At one point they went back in time (to the current main comic present) to destroy the Badoon before they could attack earth. Then when they went back to their own timeline, it had indeed changed. However they had affected a timeline that had already been established as not being from their timelines past.

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