I really want to like Forever Forward more than I have so far. Written by Zack Kaplan – one of my favorite creators at the moment – the idea of a time-travel adventure in which the protagonists can only jump forward sounds like something I would really enjoy. But, issue #1 failed to fulfill my expectations. And Forever Forward #2, released this past week by Scout Comics, has only been a slight improvement.
It could just be another case of unattainably high expectations on my part. Forever Forward #2 released on the same day as the fourth issue of Zack Kaplan’s other current indie series, Mindset. But, Mindset has an award-winning creative team and has so far been one of my favorite comics of the year. Compared to that, Forever Forward comes off as not much more than average.
The art by Arjuna Susini with colors by Brad Simpson is once again solid – good but not spectacular. I felt the splash pages in issue #1 were a bit better though. The cover by Skylar Patridge might be the best thing about the comic.
I guess I mostly feel that everything positive in Forever Forward #2 is somehow missing that crucial something to make it stand out. Also, other aspects of the story are unfortunately coupled with some negative element that takes away from its potential.
The biggest improvement compared to the first issue is the story actually spending enough time in one time period for the characters – and us readers – to explore the future world. Unfortunately, things are not looking great. We already saw a world war in issue #1. Now, we find catastrophic natural disasters that have left society broken and beaten.
Kaplan has said in various interviews, that although he used to believe the world is getting better each day, he doesn’t believe that anymore. And he wanted to write a story around the idea that the future might not always be an improvement over the present. I was initially intrigued to see where Kaplan would go with this idea. Sadly, although Forever Forward #2 does include some intriguing elements – including child-like, fascist robots – we mostly find a rather typical post-apocalyptic future.
I was also interested to see what kind of time-travel philosophy Kaplan would choose and how he would use that to include potential time-travel twists. Kaplan has apparently gone for a deterministic timeline, i.e. there is only one timeline and everything done in the past has already happened to determine the future; you cannot change what has already happened.
Kaplan even includes at least one major hint of time-travel shenanigans that hinges on this deterministic time-line to foreshadow a future reveal. But, it’s so obvious to anyone who has read or seen any time-travel story that it basically takes away the surprise.
In a similar way, Kaplan obviously has a very specific message about living for the moment that he wants his protagonists – and us readers – to learn. The problem is that it’s just a little too obvious. It was less directly spoken of, but still blatantly clear in issue #1. Here in Forever Forward #2, one of the characters basically spells the message out. Kaplan also has mentioned it explicitly in interviews. So, it basically defeats the purpose of learning this moral through the experiences of the story, because it’s being preached so directly and so obviously from the beginning.
Narratively, there are important plot developments in Forever Forward #2 and the potential for more intriguing plotlines in future issues. It’s not a boring comic to read.
Still, some narrative elements don’t have the proper setup. For example, one of the protagonists makes a life-altering decision at the end of the issue. But there is almost no lead-up to this decision, no prior look into his psyche to let us know why he would make this decision. Consequently, it ends up feeling like an incredibly hasty and stupid thing to do. Obviously, future issues will get back to this plot development – again, a little too obviously.
I suppose I feel like Forever Forward works best as a story aimed at the middle-school reader. The games that Kaplan plays with time-travel are a bit too obvious for someone who’s already read or seen enough time-travel stories. The life lesson is also too obvious for a more mature reader. Consequently, Forever Forward #2 is just an average comic book for me. But if it’s trying to be a comic for pre-teens and teenagers, I’d probably call it a good time-travel action adventure with a positive message.
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