Mark Millar takes on Time Travel, Nuns and Strippers in Chrononauts #1

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Mark Millar's writing tends to be hit or miss for me. I think he has a ton of great ideas, but sometimes his execution leaves me a little flat. BUT, Mark Millar is actually one of my favorite people in the comic industry. He seems to love the fans and always seems to be having a good time. I met him in Columbus, Ohio at a comic convention years ago during a nasty rainy, snowy weekend. The fire alarm kept going off at the convention, and the fire department kept evacuating us out into the rain and snow. Despite this, Mark Millar stayed in good spirits, continuing to sign autographes, draw sketches (my wife asked him to draw Batman, and he did it without hesitation), and tell hilarious stories. Just for that alone, I will pretty much always give his book a fair shot.

Last year, he launched two mini-series for Image: MPH and Starlight. Both books were great. So when I heard he was doing a time travel series named Chrononauts, I had to check it out.


Chrononauts #1

Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Sean Gordon Murphy
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos

Published by: Image
Cover Price: $3.50

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Up front, there was the core of a great comic here. From pretty much the first page I was hooked. You see n team digging through an ancient temple, and they stumble across an American fighter jet that went missing in the 70's.  SEALED INSIDE A TEMPLE THAT HAS NOT BEEN OPENED IN CENTURIES. It just has a very cinematic feel to it, and I was already thinking about how Chrononauts the movie would look.  As I was posting this review, I saw an article suggesting that a movie would be coming.  No surprise at all.  It seems made for it.

At the heart of the book are two characters named Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly. Quinn seems to be the head of NASA's Chrono Division. He has become obsessed with the idea of time travel and wants to build a working time machine. All of his designs are too big and bulky, so he gets an old friend (Reilly) to design Chrono-Suits which are wearable and allow the user to take things with him. The whole world seems to be watching Quinn's project. This was another aspect of the book that I really liked. I was born long after we landed a man on the moon, but I felt that Millar captured the impact of this project perfectly. I especially loved the variety of people watching, nuns in a convent, strippers at a strip club, etc. This actually felt like more of an EVENT than any big crossover Marvel or DC has done, and that made this book very unique.

In the end, Quinn tries his suit, and something goes horribly wrong. Reilly dives in after him, and finds himself stranded in the 16th Century being attacked by archers on horseback who manage to damage the suit. Start with the cinematic opening, end with a big action sequence. Like I said, it all felt very BIG and ready for the big screen.

On a whole, I did enjoy Chrononauts, but there were some flaws in this issue which bugged me. It felt like it could have used a tighter editorial hand. It's never really clear who is in charge of the Chrono Division or what their goals are. NASA is mentioned and you get a few teases that the military is involved, including someone threatening to shoot Reilly when he decides to try and rescue his friend.  But, there was mostly just a lot of vague ideas that never quite mesh together right.  In a lot of ways, it feels like this issue was trying to do too much at once, and the end result felt like it was missing something.

It was also very unclear exactly how the suits works. Normally I would just chalk it up to comic book science and not worry about it too much, but Millar kind of goes out of the way to make it seem like he had figured out how this all worked...but it's never made all that clear to the reader.  At one point he's discussing the suits needed to charge in a seperate facility, but it's never clear how that is relevant.  My wife read this book too because I was trying to get a second opinion, and she said that it felt more like a prequel than a first issue. I think she has a valid point there.

Sean Gordon Murphy's art is terrific here. This book seems like it will require a diverse set of skills and Murphy was able to handle a fighter jet buried in an ancient temple, the Civil War, and archers on horseback, along with all the big tech stuff in the Chrono Division. And all the characters basically have their own unique look. I also liked the Chronoaut suits. It was a simple design, but they really stood out for me.

I should probably point out that this book was very tame for a Mark Millar series.  It ends with the main character saying "Shit" and we do get a quick shot of a strip club.  My personal favorite "Millar" moment in this book was when we see a sweet little old lady robbing a convenience story at gun point.  But all in all, it's a book that you never feel uncomfortable reading in public.  Actually, that was true of MPH and Starlight too.  Maybe he's lightening up...I really doubt it...

Overall, I thought this was a real good first issue, and with just a few small tweaks, this has the potential to be a great series. It seems like Millar was getting the general housekeeping out of the way in the first issue...introduce the characters, set the scene, and then tell a big time-hopping epic. I can't wait for it to pick up, this has some potential to be another huge hit for Image.

Title: Chrononauts #1
Written By: Mark Millar
Art By: Sean Gordon Murphy
Company: Image
Price: $3.50
Pros:
  • The concept is great
  • Characters were well developed
  • The art fits perfectly.
Cons:
  • The setup and story often feel vague.
  • More of a prequel than a first issue.
Is it worth your $3.50? There were some small things I thought they could have done better, but all in all I really enjoyed this issue. Another solid launch for Image.
Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0