I’ll admit, I’ve slept on most of Mark Millar’s recent titles. Millar has taken some flak for making comics with both eyes toward Hollywood, but that wasn’t the reason behind it. I just haven’t had much interest in the stories he’s telling. All of that changed when I found out he was doing a book with Sean Gordon Murphy about time travel. Those are two pieces of an irresistible puzzle called Chrononauts #1.
Chrononauts follows Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly, two doctors that have come together at NASA to spearhead the first mission to send someone back in time. Doctor Quinn is shown to be a man who has thrown everything into his work, sacrificing all aspects of his personal life for his project. Reilly is a genius, but also an arrogant playboy who doesn’t take life too seriously. At first, the character comes across as annoying. However, the relationship between the two leads tempers Reilly and makes him a sympathetic lead. The two are scheduled to be the first men to travel through time and witness the landing of Christopher Columbus. However, when an unknown error traps Quinn in Samarkand during a historic battle, it’s up to Reilly to save his best friend.
Millar does a lot right in this issue, setting up the expedition and taking readers through the basis of the project. I was a little wary at first of the characters that the story focused on. Reilly’s arrogance made it hard to sympathize with him and it was a risky move for Millar to put him at the forefront. He ran the risk of turning readers off early. But the relationship between the two leads is incredibly solid, showcasing a deeper connection than a shallow bromance. Once this element comes into light, the characters become a successful attribute to the story.
The pacing of the issue is quick and exciting. It works for the most part, but there are a few moments in the story that feel a bit rushed. For example, there’s a short scene between Quinn and his ex-wife that only lasts for a few panels. A lot of his backstory is crammed in and because of the pace it rings hollow. Future issues will hopefully continue to explore relationships outside of the leads and take the time to flesh them out.
As I hinted at in the intro, I am a sucker for Murphy’s art. His work in this book is no exception. Every panel captures a sense of motion, allowing for dynamic scenes even when the book takes a break from the action. His linework is incredibly detailed and that detail stays consistent between characters and backgrounds. Murphy captures the facial expression’s of the characters so perfectly that even without dialogue you know who they are and what they’re about. The splash pages that end the book are stunning and deserve to be framed for all to see.
Though not a flawless first issue, Chrononauts #1 succeeds in setting up a series with a ton of potential. The story goes in unexpected directions and breathes some new life into the time travel genre while the art is worth more than the price of admission all on its own. Regardless of how you feel about Millar, this is a book you need to pick up.
Though if you hate the Hollywood focus, you’ll hate that Chrononauts has already been optioned by Universal.