Millar’s storytelling is as creative as ever, twisting the now-classic time travel formula in a completely different direction. It may seem a little too fast-paced sometimes, but the central idea alone is enough to win praise.
The next in the seemingly never-ending line of Millarworld titles from proposed new comic messiah Mark Millar takes things in a slightly different direction. Millar, who cut his teeth at both DC and Marvel, before moving into his own creator-owned properties (most famously Kick-Ass) has always had something of a penchant for superheroes, but with his newest collected title Chrononauts, he moves into completely different territory all together.
Jumping whole-heartedly into the world of science-fiction, Millar and his latest collaborator Sean Gordon Murphy’s new title charts the time-travelling adventures of genius duo Corbin and Danny, the inventors of Earth’s first ever ‘chrono-suits’ which allow their subjects to travel to any date throughout history. Although the suits were originally conceived to be used as part of a plan to correctly document historical goings-on, things take a considerably different turn, when the pair decide that their lives in the present day weren’t quite as glamorous as they had initially hoped. And so instead, they embark on a quest through time to live as Gods, something which their control team obviously don’t take too kindly to, sending a search party out after them to lead an inter-dimensional manhunt through every period of Earth’s history, from the prehistoric age to 1920s New York.
The idea at the book’s core is undoubtedly a rather brilliant one: what would happen if the world’s smartest minds were also the most reckless ones? All of the carefully laid-out rules of time-travel dictated by the likes of Back to the Future and The Terminator are all but forgotten here, something which may anger devoted fans of the genre, but a twist that also gives Millar an endless sandbox to play in.
Corbin and Danny perform some of the most ridiculous feats imaginable, bringing Mad Max-style motorcades to ancient armies, challenging pursuing forces to a game of chicken with a T-Rex, and even at one stage rewriting musical history by stealing yet-to-be-written Beatles lyrics and as ludicrous as it may seem, it’s also just really, really fun. In fact, Chrononauts engages with a purely fantastical side of the time-travel formula and one that’s far too often lost by layers of mathematical reasoning and logic. There’s no attempt to explain how anything works here, it’s just a straight up, unapologetic, fun-fuelled sprint to the finish which, although clearly not for everyone, still stands as a breath of fresh-air.
If there are any holes to pick, it’s mostly with the speed of Millar’s storytelling. Too often do potentially incredible sequences flash by with barely a panel given to their cause. Moments like these make you wish the book was considerably longer, what with it clocking in at a mere four issues. It feels like there’s such an infinite space to explore, and despite tying its single volume narrative together rather nicely by the end, Chrononauts feels like it barely grazes its full potential.
Murphy’s artwork still provides something of a highlight however, bringing plenty of dark laughs into each new setting and giving much of the action a truly epic feel. Some finer detail in certain areas may have added a few extra history-jokes here and there (a scoreboard of Corbin’s many conquests for example stands a little out of focus) but for the most part his characterisation is solid and well-honed, particularly in the case of the book’s villains.
Overall, Millar’s most recent jaunt away from the likes of the superhero sandbox is a fantastically fun and zany new title, One that packs its story full of big action and clever asides and still manages to promise plenty more from its central concept. Rumour has it a film adaptation is in the works too, so there’s still a lot more to look forward to from this title.
Chrononauts (2015), by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy is published by Image Comics and will be released in paperback in the UK on 9th September.