March 18th. Mark your calendars folks, as Mark Millar and Sean Murphy are teaming up to deliver an original time travel comic that’s one part Indiana Jones and three parts Armageddon with a healthy dose of Back to the Future. Okay, that’s an impossible combination to imagine, but is it good?
Chrononauts #1 (Image Comics)
Chrononauts is all about two buddies named Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly who also happen to be scientific geniuses. The story is about how they’ve invented time travel, how they use it, and how it’s used in a media-focused world. The first issue opens under a veil of mystery and wonderment, as Corbin Quinn (who comes up with names like these?) discovers a mysterious cave with a very modern artifact inside.
Just tell me you don’t get an Indiana Jones vibe from this!
Writer extraordinaire Mark Millar (he’s earned it after so many great original series) doesn’t waste any time delving into plot and story in this series and instead leaves a lot of the characterization to Sean Murphy. I’ll get to that later, but this approach is very similar to Millar’s Starlight in that he introduces a compelling setup and then steps back to let the artist breathe life into its characters. The issue is paced perfectly, yet doesn’t progress things beyond what one would expect from the first act of a film. This is partially due to the story showing and never telling. There isn’t a single scene of exposition delivered via dialogue. Instead we are plopped into a scene and expected to figure out what is going on. This again, is due to Millar trusting the artist to get that part across. Considering how many comics fill their pages with boring, long winded and boring exposition it’s an exceptional start to a series where the very visual medium of comics is allowed to stretch its legs completely.
That isn’t to say the script is without good dialogue as there are moments, however brief, where characters speak truly and believably. This is made more obvious by how different Millar has made Quinn and Reilly, one more of a quiet introvert and the other a wild, attention-whore extrovert. If Millar has captured anything it’s the adventure and fun explorers must have had throughout the ages, from Marco Polo to Buzz Aldrin. These guys are crazy men, and they simply love the unknown ground they are breaking and the attention that comes with it.
Essentially Millar is capturing two interesting elements we can all relate to. The first is the media frenzy we live with every day and the second is the very human desire to do great things and be remembered for it. All of this, without any of the circular and confusing time travel mumbo jumbo to boot, and it’s all presented under the very cool style and atmosphere created by the incredibly talented Sean Murphy.
It’s safe to say without Murphy’s deft illustrative hand the characters in this series would be a bit hollow and uninteresting. Again, I think Millar is playing to Murphy’s strengths, and one of his strengths is incredibly expressive faces. No matter how large or small you know what the characters are feeling and even thinking due to the detail and genuinity of the facial expressions. Ultimately it could have used a bit more from Millar, but Murphy’s work goes a long way to making these characters more robust.
If Sean Murphy were to die tomorrow I’m sure his gravestone would say “In Detail I Lived” because every single panel is incredibly vivid due to the care and detail he imbues in each panel. Backgrounds, clothes, the whole deal—it’s all incredibly realistic looking. He doesn’t skimp on a single panel which means even the most unimportant panel still has incredible depth and purpose. Like a master cinematographer he doesn’t let a panel go to waste to tell the story, pace the story, or convey something important. Great stuff.
The colors by Matt Hollingsworth should not go without praise as well. The color palette is a bit muted, almost 80’s film quality, which makes the opening sequence all the more Indiana Jones-esque. It also gives the book a pulp feel, like something out of a raggy magazine you’ve been reading all summer and leaving around to be beat up by rain and sunshine. Because of this pulp feel the book can be taken all the more seriously as on some subconscious level we know it’s just a fun adventure tale.
How did this not change history as we know it?!
Is It Good?
I was impressed with the art and pace of this first issue. It rivals the first 10 minutes of any summer blockbuster of the last 30 years and lucky us it comes two months prior to the summer movie season of 2015. March 18th can’t come fast enough.
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