You Need to Read Chrononauts
You’re familiar with writer Mark Millar’s work whether you know it or not. You might have read his comics- stints he’s had with Marvel (Civil War, Old Man Logan, The Ultimates) and DC (Superman: Red Son) or maybe stories with his own characters (Nemesis, Jupiter’s Legacy). Chances are, you’ve seen the Wanted, Kick-Ass, or Kingsman movies, all based on his comics.
But for all of his huge ideas, I haven’t really been a fan of Millar’s work…until now.
Now let me get some things out of the way. When I say I haven’t been a fan of Millar’s work, I don’t mean to say I’ve not been familiar with what he’s done. I own a fair amount of his work, mostly by his runs on Wolverine and the Marvel Knights Spider-Man. His ideas are usually the big events in the Marvel Universe so it’s only a matter of time before you come across something with his name on it. He had a major hand in getting the Ultimate Marvel line of comics going and some of the best known ideas are from his own mind. So I’ve had no choice but to respect the guy and what he’s worked on.
But one thing I’ve had a hard time stomaching, are not his plots (Usually pretty exciting stuff) but his dialogue and characters. If they’re not constantly berating each other through school-yard insults as he’ll write for Marvel “PG-13” characters, he’s got free reign and has everyone talking and acting like high schoolers that have realized nobody can make them do anything they don’t want to do. In high school, I loved stuff he wrote. Then I got older and hated how crass every. single. character was.
All of this and Millar’s reputation for writing books specifically so they can be turned into movies and not caring much about them past that. Personally, I can’t hate that idea, but I can see how many would view him as a fame whore or whatever term you would want to use for a sellout.
And I needed to get that off my chest before I brag about (one of) his latest series that I loved every panel of. Part of the reason of even bothering with all of the above is to tell you that I’m not some Millar fanboy or a newcomer in any way. I’ve read plenty of his work and I don’t really like it overall, even with his good ideas, I feel he’s lacking in other departments. So take it seriously when I say that Chrononauts #1-4 from Image Comics is awesome.
The plot would seem heavy enough thematically, as if it were connected to stories such as Stargate or Interstellar, but with the pacing and characters, we’re definitely in Millarworld. Danny Reilly and Corbin Quinn’s personal lives are a bit of a mess. But that gets pushed into the background of what’s happening right now- time travel! The only two guys in the world that can profess to be chrononauts are about to take a trip back in history as the entire world watches. And don’t they know it. As usual with Millar’s characters, Danny and Corbin are a couple guys with an immensely unique gift and they treat it like it’s their ticket to fame. Because it is.
But it’s not just the story that this thing has going for it. Let me brag about the art for a paragraph or two. Holy crap, can Sean Murphy do some damage. And somehow, I mean that in the best way. I’d seen his art for years and just never thought anything about it. My eyes grazing over it to move onto to the next thing, whatever, for some reason it never really stuck out to me. Then I’m seeing what he’s doing here and man, is this guy awesome. It fits the story perfectly as well.
The sketchiness of his layouts fit perfectly with what seriousness there is within the story, but no so flat that the character’s face don’t get as animated as needs be for the comedy throughout. If a character pokes another’s chest, he even draws out a little “poke poke” to go with it, which always made me laugh. It’s the little things.
Matt Hollingsworth should be given due credit as well, seeing as how it’s his coloring that allows the art to breathe like it should be. If you’ve ever seen the finished product of a comic book page/cover (You have), and then compared it to the finished pencils and nothing more, you’ll notice the huge difference. Sounds like an obvious thing to say, but what I’m really talking about is how much detail and definition can get lost in the art itself just from how some feel the drawings need to look for the finished product. But Hollingsworth has got an eye for the details and thankfully so.
“So Danny and Corbin go back in time, is that it?” You ask. Nope, that’s not it. It’s one thing to go back in time, but it’s another thing for your best friend/co-pilot(?) to get lost in the timestream and you’ve got to go get him back. I don’t want to give away too much of what happens in the story because every thing that happens is another turn you won’t see coming. The decisions the characters make, how it affects the timeline; it’s not like there’s any huge corporate head to tell Millar to curve the story in a different direction because they need this character or that one to sell more backpacks. Anything can happen.
The story sounds a little like something out of Back to the Future, right? Maybe that’s why the variant covers are all parodies of famous movies, with Back to the Future as the cover of issue #1. All of this adds to the tone of the story that takes itself seriously enough for you to care about what happens, but keeps the humor strong enough that you never get weighed down by the drama of it all.
Here’s supporting main character Danny nearly getting Morrissey kicked out of The Smiths.
Another reason for recommending this book to…whoever, is that there are only four issues. This isn’t some ongoing series where you either start too far back and never catch up or you start at the most recent issue and don’t know what’s going on. Four issues, and boom, done. A quick read and you’ve been made better for it.
The paperback edition of Chrononauts isn’t on sale until July 2015 as you can see in the link above, or you could just get the issues now. Expect it to be turned into a movie in the next couple years.