If you spend enough time in the American school system (doesn’t matter whether it’s public, private, or otherwise), you’re bound to meet or at least hear about that teacher. You know, the one everyone suspects of slipping more than a little booze into their coffee as they make their way into the classroom?
Most stories about these teachers are just that, stories and rumors dreamed up by kids to take jabs as authority figures they don’t like. But as many adult who’ve spent time with kids will attest to, kids are basically the kinds of demons that’ll make you want to drink if life hasn’t driven you to it already. Tom Zahler’s Time & Vine, newly out from IDW, is the story of Megan Howe, a teacher who enjoys a glass of wine from time to time—though she doesn’t drink in the classroom or to cope with the stresses of her job, but rather to dull life’s edges and take a moment of peace for herself.
Somewhere in New York City, Megan and a group of her colleagues find themselves in a wine bar reveling in the time they get to spend together as adults. Only, Megan isn’t really enjoying herself the way her peers are. As she sits by herself at the bar, staring into her glass of wine, she can’t manage to pull herself out of the emotional funk she’s in, something the bartender picks up on.
As she beings to explain why she’s not living it up with her colleagues, Megan suddenly finds herself face to face with the establishment’s owner, an enigmatic wine aficionado named Darren. The two get to talking about their lives and Megan reveals that her depression has nothing to do with her work life, but rather is the result of her mother’s dementia. Every day, more and more of Megan’s mother fades away and there’s nothing much that Megan can do other than the stand by and watch.
Darren’s sympathetic, and understands the ways in which people can give themselves over to a glass of wine as they try to escape the difficulties of life. But as the pair learn more about one another, Darren realizes that he knows another way to lift Megan’s spirits. After learning that Megan teaches history, Darren offers to show her around the bar’s collection of vintage wines, reasoning that she might get more out of their stories than the average person.
Megan’s definitely impressed with the cellar’s collection, but it isn’t until Darren offers to share a glass of a very particular vintage that she begins to realize that the wine bar she’s stepped into isn’t ordinary. Moments after the pair share a glass of red, Megan doesn’t feel any different, but Darren very matter-of-factly explains to her that they’ve been magically transported back to 1916, the same year the wine they’ve just sipped was bottled. At first, Megan (understandably) assumes Darren’s just a creepy old man, but as she steps out of the cellar, she’s shocked to find herself in the middle of a party in the early 20th century.
Like most relatively positive stories about time travel, Time & Vine places its characters literally in the past so that they might both temporarily escape and ultimately appreciate their presents and futures for what they are. Megan’s experience traveling to the past exhilarates her and after she returns to the present, she eagerly returns to Darren’s bar the next day and demands that the two of them go for another trip.
This time, though, the two go back to a much more recent time, 1969, when Darren was still young and in love with a woman who would die a short while later. Seeing Darren in his youth, so close to being able to alter the course of history, but ultimately knowing that altering the past would be dangerous, moves Megan ways she doesn’t expect. And while it doesn’t quite solve her depression, it plays a role in helping her decontextualize her personal situation.
Time & Vine’s the sort of quirky play on a classic scifi story trope that you’d be hard pressed to find from a larger comics publisher, but that’s exactly what makes it charming to page through. Megan’s coping with life and her problems are all too relatable, which is what makes watching her work through them one magical sip-fueled adventure at a time all the more fun.