In the first volume, Ice Age Cataclysm!, we meet Jenna and her brother Caleb. They’re bored at their aunt and uncle’s house, when they discover something amazing in Uncle Al’s desk – a map and a journal that seem to show real time travel back to the ice age! With their friend Ari, they test out the map and have several adventures in the northwest during the ice age. Uncle Al finds out at the end and his comments seem to indicate there’s an organization using time travel…but for what?
In the second volume, The Four Corners of Time, Jenna and Caleb are in the southwest with their aunt and uncle and they meet up with Ari, who’s been at a dig with his paleontologist parents and has discovered a new map. This map is even more complicated and allows them to travel to many different time periods, millions of years into the past. But they’ll be facing more than sabre-toothed tigers and massive continental floods this time; they’re also up against two rival teams of time travelers, one a group that is plundering treasures throughout the different time ages like coal and oil and the geosophists who are searching for knowledge.
Herndon’s art is fresh and colorful, with careful and accurate detail for the different time periods. His human figures can be a little lumpy, but mostly they show a nice range of emotion and movement, with plenty of humor. The best part of the art is the landscapes, from the sweeping art of the ice age to hot jungles and oceans filled with prehistoric life.
The stories and art are interesting, especially for a reader who has a special interest in geology or prehistoric life, but there are some jarring notes. In Ice Age Cataclysm, the kids note that there appears to be a village, in the direct path of the massive flood. They never mention it again and don’t seem particularly disturbed by the thoughts of the people dying. When they’re telling their uncle about some of the things they saw, the list includes “drowning mammoths and a huge bear!” The second book seems to throw in unnecessary details, like making the geosophists members of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who argued over geology during the Spanish-American War. First, while it’s not totally unbelievable that some of the unit would have had academic interests, several of them being college students, it’s hard to believe that a group of ranchers, cowboys, and college students fighting a battle in a jungle and then quarantined with malaria and yellow fever would be debating the fossil record. Second, while the Geosophists Society seems to be made up for the purposes of this story, the philosophy of geosophy was introduced in 1947 and it seems odd to back that up to 1898 and have this incongruous collection of men found this group. There are a lot of breaks where the kids or other characters stop to spout off information about the various time periods and the use of Native American languages for the magical chants was odd, especially as they appear to be made up. The language of the chants in the first book is never identified. In the second book it’s first called “Chinook jargon” and then later identified by a Navajo as looking “like the Hopi language.”
While the plot of this series has some gaping holes and the characters can be very one-dimensional in their reactions, overall it’s not a bad educational graphic novel. There’s enough action and story to carry along the nonfiction aspects, the art is quite nice, if not amazing, and it has some interesting ideas and events. Kids who enjoy nonfiction/fiction blends like the Summer Camp Science Mysteries and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales will probably enjoy this time travel adventure.
Terra Tempo, vol. 1-2
by David Shapiro
Art by Christopher Herndon, Erica Melville
Ice Age Cataclysm!, Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780984442218
The Four Corners of Time, Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780984442263
Craigmore Creations, 2010-2013