Time Shifters by Chris Grine, 272 pp, RL 4
In 2014 I reviewed Chickenhare by Chris Grine and LOVED it. The hero, Chickenhare, is a curiosity, a mash-up creature who, along with his best buddy, a rare, bearded turtle named Abe, is handed off to a collector (and taxidermist) of exotic animals. Hopefully, someday, the sequel, Fire in the Hole, will be reissued with color by Graphix, just like Chickenhare was. Happily, Grine is working on a new series, Time Shifters, in the meantime.
Like Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, Time Shifters begins with a tragedy. Luke and his older brother and best friend, Kyle, are exploring in the woods behind their home when an accident happens. A year later, and Luke is still grieving. But, when he sees a flash of light in the forest where his brother died, he heads out to investigate. Grine's illustration style is vivid, alternating between close-up emotional displays and detailed geographic illustrations.
Through a series of mishaps, Luke ends up with a device clamped onto his arm that allows travel to a multiverse of parallel worlds. And, just as he is about to be tackled by three henchmen after the device, he is rescued by he inventor of the device. Grine excels at creating memorable, frequently hilarious, characters, and Time Shifters is chock full of them. I laughed the hardest, throughout the whole graphic novel, at Vampire Napoleon, one of the henchmen. Not only is the mere idea of Napoleon as a time traveling vampire who needs a parasol for protection when not ducking into caves hilarious, but his fellow henchmen chiding him relentlessly adds to the laughs. And, while the scientist with a sad backstory and robot-Abraham-Lincoln are fine, funny characters, Artemis the ghost and Zinc, a playful, colorful dinosaur who can, using a holographic projector strapped to his head, can be disguised as a human, are my favorites among the good guys.
Book 1 of Time Shifters finds Luke and his fellow travelers in a parallel universe where spiders rule, running from the henchmen and from the human eating spiders. Luke also gets an offer to marry a grub, but that's another story. More than anything, I think that this first book in the series is about the good guys learning to work together as a group while we wait to find out everyone's backstories. Artemis definitely has something going on and Luke finds a way to empathize with her where Doc is unable to. Grine combines laughs and emotions in this crazy adventure, with and ending that is almost as heartbreaking as the beginning. I hope the next book in Grine's new series hits the shelves in less time than it is taking to get my hands on a color copy of Chickenhare #2!