Warp Hustler Review

By | Friday, November 17, 2023 Leave a Comment
You know those moments when you do or say something, and realize it's exactly the same thing one of your parents would've done or said in the same situation? You realize you've turned into them and you curse yourself for that sneaking up on you? Yesterday, I got an email from a publisher notifying that some books I ordered were just shipped, and I also received a copy of Warp Hustler #1 in the mail. Now, neither of those things are particularly unusual, and neither are things my parents would be likely to order. My "oh, shit, I've turned into my father" moment was that I barely remembered making the order from the publisher in the first -- and I still don't recall what exactly I ordered -- and while publisher "Laguna Studios" sounded familiar, I didn't remember anything about Warp Hustler at all, and I had to look up that I did indeed support a Kickstarter for it back in July. That "ordering too many things for your hobby and not remembering half of them" thing is my dad.

I'm starting my review with that to basically say that, while Warp Hustler must have sounded interesting or intriguing to me when I heard about it, I did not recall anything about it. In reading back through the Kickstarter description, I supsect it was either the “Doctor Who for the Depraved” and/or “The Time Bandits do Repo Man's drugs and steal Dr. Who's Time Machine and soon Everything Everywhere All at Once is Undone” descriptors that sold me. After reading the first issue, I'd say the latter description is a little more accurate.

As you can probably guess, time travel and alternate realities are involved in the actual story, which makes a straight-forward retelling of what happens in the first issue difficult at best. But the main character Janice is a math prodigy -- like off-the-chart genius level math prodigy -- who's got colleges courting her when she's ten years old. In 1999, she meets an unusual guy named Bob and she soon finds herself flipping through time or realities or something. Things eventually settle down with her working in her father's how-is-it-even-still-open video store in 2021, where the guy from the head shop a couple doors down goes pyscho on her shift before Bob finally shows up again.

Trust me when I say that I'm really doing a disservice to what happens in the book.

The trick with time travel and alternate reality stories -- from a narrative point of view -- is that when you have a character flipping in/out within a short span of the audience's time, it's really easy to lose your audience. By throwing too much at them too quickly for the sake of showing the chaos the character is feeling, the audience just winds up confused. But if you stop and explain too much, it can come across like tedious exposition. Part of the problem is that, since we don't have personal experiences with that kind of thing, the creators need to establish the "rules" of how things operate in their story, and it can be difficult to show that succinctly. Even with a pretty straight-forward time travel story like Back to the Future, they have to take time out in each movie to have Doc run through an explanation for Marty (as the viewer's stand-in).

In Warp Hustler, there is surprisingly little exposition about what's going on. Much of it is indeed written in a third-person narrative format, using the voice of an older Janice. But there's a not-insignificant portion that is effectively wordless, and I didn't really have any problems following along. In fact, there's not only enough there despite some minimalist exposition to make the basic plot points understandable, but it offers some hints at what's coming up as well. There's still PLENTY that needs to be explained, of course, but there's enough for me to be pretty intrigued.

I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. There's a lot of narratively challenging stuff going on in this book, and it comes across better than I've seen in most time-slipping stories. I'm definitely here for the next book, whenever it comes out. While they're still fulfilling orders from the Kickstarter, I think you can put in an order through their Backerkit page for it. Definitely worth a look!
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