Time Shifters by Chris Grine. Scholastic Graphix, 2017. 9780545926577. 272pp.
Gene: One of my favorite graphic novels ever is Chickenhare by Chris Grine. You ever seen it?
G: It’s about a half chicken half rabbit who is captured by a guy who collects really strange animals. There’s a bearded turtle and other weird things. Grine hasn’t done a new graphic novel for a while. Chickenhare was originally published by Dark Horse in black and white in 2006, and it was republished in color by Scholastic in 2013. I’ve been hoping that another Chris Grine graphic novel was on the way since then. And then this arrived, his new book.
I had no idea what it was going to be about, but I cleared my schedule and grabbed a beer and read it straight through. And it is fan-tastic. If I’d read it first maybe I’d love it more than Chickenhare…
It opens with a very sad bit, two brothers, Kyle and Luke, being forced to jump off a cliff into a very shallow pond. Luke is fine but Kyle hits his head and dies. Luke, a week later, when his mom is trying to comfort him, he sees a crazy lightning storm in the woods near his house. (Aren’t the colors beautiful?)
S: They are!
G: He goes to investigate and runs into — dun dun dun! — a skeleton in a spacesuit, a mummy, and vampire Napoleon. (He just wants to be known as “Napoleon.”) They lose a device which allows them to move through dimensions, and they end up with Luke’s flashlight instead. Luke puts the device on his arm and then they’re after him. They’re working for some big bad boss. And they’re about to grab him when suddenly from out of nowhere appears —
S: This dinosaur chicken with a button on his head?
G: (laughing) This is very hard to explain. It’s a dinosaur from an alternate dimension where they were even more birdlike (so this one has a beak). It’s name is Zinc. There’s a ghost girl, Artemis. A scientist whose name I cannot remember. And robot Abe Lincoln. They are trying to keep the multiverse safe I guess…they grab Luke and take him to another universe in an amazing burst of color.
S: Oh yeah, that’s gorgeous.
G: And they land in a world that’s the old west but populated by bugs. Lots of spiders driving stagecoaches and wagons. Luke finally snaps and tries to run off and then passes out. (laughing)
The monsters are hot on Luke’s trail. They stop a spider with a wagon who tells them they can take his wagon as long as they take his wife. She has “rabies, scabies, lice, mites, mealworms, tapeworms, fleas, and flies, rickets, shingles, warts, and gout…” There are so many insane Chris Grine moments like this where he backs up and throws in the funny. “She stinks, she smokes, she picks her nose, she won’t bathe, brush her teeth, or floss…”
S: Not only funny but totally would fit a kid’s sense of humor.
G: Right — it’s goofier than heck. And full of good vocabulary!
Now the story becomes how to get the thing off Luke’s arm and then how to get him back home. But first the good guys have to deal with their stagecoach driver, who kind of wants to eat them. And he’s not very sneaky about it, which is hilarious. The dinosaur, so as not to alarm anyone, has a hologram disguise.
S: (laughing) Sort of a wall-eyed, slack-jawed chef holding a cake!
G: If Marty Feldman dressed as Bozo the Clown in a chef outfit!
And look there are even callbacks to Chickenhare if you keep an eye out.
S: It looks great, an ideal booktalking candidate for me.
G: Anyone could enjoy it.