by Malachi Ward
UTU is beautiful comic book set in two worlds: the highly techno-savvy future and the mystical, superstitious past. The book’s author Malachi Ward claims it is his “finest and only work to date.” For a first comic, I’d say it’s pretty ambitious, but successful. Definitely worth a look.
UTU is about a guy who is able to move between time periods, but has no control over either. In 5102 B.C.E. he is the god of gods, UTU, who nobody seems to respect, and in the future he is just some lonely guy who can’t even pull a girl at the bar.
UTU is a pretty average guy though — albeit one who time travels. He does so via a contraption he keeps in his own apartment — essentially a weird brain-looking hat with goggles that he straps himself into. The device takes verbal orders and is connected to a computer system also located in his apartment. It may be some sort of virtual reality device, mind control system, or time travel toy. Who knows? In the future, presumably any combination of these options is possible. However, no matter how he presents himself in the past, there’s no way he’s a real god.
When he is in the past, playing god, nothing about his appearance changes. So when he appears to his one follower — a hobbit-like shaman who looks suspiciously like a beggar squatting outside his real apartment in the future — he does so wearing a plain white jumpsuit and brain cap. The sight is more than a little creepy.
Still, the shaman he visits in the past wants to obey his utterly disturbing master for awhile, so UTU uses him to deliver messages. In particular he wants to say something to an Egyptian queen and convince her to abandon her home and move her people away from their city, thus avoiding a war that he claims will change the course of history. Presumably, she will not listen. Later, after UTU returns to his apartment in the future, he goes out to the bar and is shot down by a woman who looks exactly like the queen, which begins to create some serious questions for the reader.
In some aspects, the book remains sadly vague. Details that would help define the point and repercussions of UTU’s objective are lost in translation. In particular, when UTU returns from the past to his apartment, he sits at his computer and pours over character notes and maps strewn around his work space. These notes seem to explain a few things about certain people living in the past, but it is unclear why these notes exist. Are these are notes he made to build the past, or notes he took upon returning from the past? Basically, is this past real, created or imagined?
If UTU created this history, why can’t he also manipulate the queen’s decision? If the past is real and UTU believes he really would make a positive change in the world by convincing this queen to escape, why does he give up on her so easily? There is absolutely no urgency or power in UTU. He’s entirely lame in all respects.
Possibly this time he travels to is all just a game for him, in which he’s cast real people from his life. In which case, it makes sense that he wouldn’t be able to manipulate the rules or would give up when the game stopped being fun. Still, it’s an awful lot of work to build a world as intricate as the past in which UTU played, and when he throws it all away in the end, the act is utterly discouraging.
UTU costs $10 and is available through Ward’s website. The book is 28-pages long, with a full-color cover and black and white guts. The book measures 8.5″x11″.
– Sarah Morean