No Dead Time

Written by Brian McLachlan
Art by Tom Williams
132 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

It’s tough to work with idiots. That’s a thought that has probably run through the head of every person to ever hold a job. It’s a little disdainful, sure, but often it’s the truth. I think that’s what initially grabbed my attention about No Dead Time. So often people are overly sarcastic and put others down with no good reason. In the case of Nozomi and Seth, though, you really can’t blame them one bit.

Seth works in an office where he constantly has to deal with co-workers asking the impossible and then gettying angry when it’s not delivered. If that’s not bad enough, his ex-girlfriend’s face is on every billboard across town. Meanwhile, Nozomi is working in a record store where if the fellow employees weren’t bad enough, the customers are even worse. But are the two a perfect match for each other, or would it just be a battle to see which one can kill the other first?

Brian McLachlan’s story for No Dead Time starts off pretty promisingly; by showing the number of stupid people pestering both Nozomi and Seth, it’s easy to feel bad for them and to laugh at their disdain for everyone around them. The script is full of really clever and quick one-liners that are fired off in rapid succession, and I found myself chuckling on a pretty regular basis. And then, without warning, the book grinds to a halt. It’s strange, because in a book which has a primary setting of people talking to each other, it’s hard to say why everything just seems to stop when the final big conversation between Seth and Nozomi occurs. Maybe it’s the sudden shift in tone that seems to occur; up until that point, there’s always been a very wry sense of humor running through the narrative, but here it just all falls flat. The dialogue feels too intentional, unable to fit in with the rest of the action. It’s hard to quantify what exactly has gone wrong, but the disconnection between the earlier pages and the ending is pretty jarring.

No Dead Time‘s visuals are a fun mix of normal and surreal, letting characters transform on the outside to reflect their actions as viewed by Seth and Nozomi. Tom Williams tackles that idea pretty well, letting a spoiled girl’s head slowly float away like a balloon, or an insultingly stupid man slowly devolve into a caveman. What’s a little confusing, though, is that you can never really tell if this is something that’s just seem through their eyes or if some of these people really do look like this. Nozomi’s best friend Angela is one of the few intelligent and nice people in the book, but she’s got three horns and devil wings the second we meet her. The same’s true for some of Seth’s friends in the office, and it’s hard to figure out exactly how it’s applied from one character to the next. Williams’s art is a cartoonish styled creation, something that fits the tone of McLachlan’s story. My only nitpick with it is that Williams’s faces are sometimes distracting, especially in the case of Seth. Often Seth has such an oafish looking face that it’s hard to concentrate on what he’s saying—doubly so when his dialogue doesn’t match his appearance at all. It’s a little odd.

There’s a lot to like about No Dead Time, like the quick wit and the generally humorous aspect of the book. It’s the slight missteps along the way, like the inconsistent pieces of art and the strange feeling surrounding the end that keep it from entirely succeeding. It’s a promising first project for the two working together, but there are still some little kinks that need to be worked out. In the end, it’s just good, not great.

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