Time-&-and-Vine-2-featured Reviews 

“Time & Vine” #2

By | August 17th, 2017
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Thom Zahler is back with another completely unique series involving nostalgia, time travel, and wine. Read on for the review, which contains virtually no spoilers.

Cover by Thom Zahler
Written, Illustrated, and Lettered by Thom Zahler
Colored by Luigi Anderson

Jack starts teaching Megan the rules of time travel, while Darren teaches her all about the winery. And Megan takes her first solo trip back in time to the ’80s, where she discovers a startling family secret!

Second issues are probably the toughest to create. It seems everyone has a figured out a decent formula for the first issue, middle issues get easier once you have some momentum built up, and finales aren’t too difficult if the issues before that have properly set everything up. But then there’s that elusive second issue, responsible for moving beyond the initial concept, introducing bigger plot elements and deeper character traits, and keeping up the interest in the book. Essentially, the first issue decides whether the reader likes the concept, but the second issue is where the reader realizes whether the story going forward is for them. All that said, I tried the first issue of “Time & Vine” on a whim last month and was pleasantly surprised. This issue takes all that I loved about the first and doubles down on it, resulting in something even more engaging. Zahler has produced the model second issue here.

Looking at the concept, the book seems almost like a poor man’s Doctor Who: an old man with a time traveling device meets a younger woman and goes on adventures with her. But beyond the surface, the two series go about the concept in a completely different way, and a lot of that stems from the rules of the time travel. With “Time & Vine,” the travelers are only allowed to go backwards as far as 1860, for a limited amount of time. Because of this, we end up dealing a lot more with nostalgia and the bittersweet feelings related to it. This bittersweet tone pervades the book, in the best possible way. This is a character drama where the time travel enhances the story instead of being the story.

Zahler has a way of smoothly introducing the rules of time travel and using them to open storytelling possibilities instead of close them off. The concept of not being able to travel into the future, for instance, doesn’t just mean our characters can’t experience that time: it means our characters must hunt around for answers in the past instead of immediately finding out the solution from the future. Similarly, the concept that people must drink wine made at the winery the year they wish to travel gives Zahler some nice opportunities for subtle emotional storytelling, where Jack is constantly hunting down bottles from a specific year. Beyond the smooth delivery and clear storytelling purpose of the rules, they all feel logical as well — or at least, as logical as rules pertaining to a time-traveling wine cellar can be.

I could see some people complaining that Zahler’s art isn’t as expressive as it could be, or that his figures aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing. I don’t exactly disagree there. However, I do think it works with his story. His style is certainly flat and simplified, but it’s in a cartoony way where the expressions are bold enough that you always know exactly what everyone’s feeling, like with figures from old romance comics. Being a writer/artist, it appears Zahler knows his tendencies for writing and art, meaning one is allowed to be bolder while the other can be more nuanced. Whatever he may lack in variety of facial expressions is always made up for in the dialogue.

Putting Zahler’s stylistic trappings aside, there’s a lot to praise in “Time & Vine”’s visuals. All of his figures look completely different in both body and face. He also does a great job building atmosphere through his backgrounds and through the way he frames characters against them. The winery looks and feels like a true small winery, from the large swaths of greenery outside to the cobblestone walls inside and the cozy, stone-carved wine cellar with bottles lining the walls. Colorist Luigi Anderson completely brings these to life, which goes a long way towards recreating the homey, slow-paced feeling of visiting a small winery. Anderson’s colors add textures to the environments which makes them look more alive than the characters at points, and I think that’s by design. From the writing to these background colors, the winery truly feels lived-in, containing an endless amount of baggage that we’ve yet to uncover.

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The winery itself also seems indifferent to history, as if it has seen everything there is to see and will continue to see it, taking no sides in the process. Ironically given its purpose, the establishment is almost beyond time. Whatever melodramatic situations the characters get into, you know the winery will be there. Megan’s struggles with her mother, who is in an assisted living home because of her Alzheimer’s, seem intimately connected as she travels back and discovers personal family secrets. For Jack, all of his trips back to the years with his wife are contained in the building, soaking up his emotional moments and holding onto them for eternity. The time-traveling wine cellar is an independent observer, and it’s there that the small human dramas play out.

There’s no two ways about this: I absolutely adore “Time & Vine,” and this second issue cemented my love for it. Don’t let the simplified character designs fool you, as they carry a highly nuanced story which is equal parts heartwarming, relaxing, and exciting. If you’re looking for something completely different and with a bright future ahead of it, look no further.

Final Verdict: 9.1 – Like visiting a small winery and the soaking up the history of small human dramas within, this story of a time traveling wine cellar keeps surprising me with its storytelling nuance. Please read this book.

Nicholas Palmieri

Nick is a South Floridian writer of films, comics, and analyses of films and comics. Flight attendants tend to be misled by his youthful visage. You can try to decipher his out-of-context thoughts over on Twitter at @NPalmieriWrites.