Chrononauts #2:

The Past is History

Time travel stories are always tough to write, because most sci fi writers spend an inordinate amount of time building the “rules” of the world. Specifically, they worry about “damaging” the timeline or introducing some sort of paradox or change in history that has dramatic effects. Chrononauts should have to deal with that issue, too, being a time travel story, but Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy seem to have taken one long look at the complexities and subtleties of time travel paradoxes and said, “Oh, to hell with it. Let’s just ignore the rules and make it fun!”

It was the right choice.

That attitude is reflected in the swashbuckling duo of Corbin Quinn and his slightly steadier partner Danny Reilly. When we left them last time, Quinn had hurled himself into the time machine, and seemed to go off course and get lost, prompting Reilly to kiss his new girlfriend one last time and jump in after him. Issue #2 picks right up where that left off, and it isn’t spoiling a bit of the fun to say that Quinn has definitely said “phooey” to history and is have a fine old time for himself.

While the debut issue of this comic was concerned with building the world and introducing the concepts, here we get a “boy’s own” tour through history. Chrononauts, as I mentioned previously, is not a particularly deep or contemplative book. (There are hints it may start incorporating some of that as it goes on, however.) It has the energy of a pre-teen adventure from Classics Illustrated or reaching even farther back into youth literary tradition and pulp novels. Quinn and Reilly are essentially 13-year-old boys in men’s bodies, which is reflected in the tour of history we do get here, beautifully illustrated by Murphy with some great jokes from Millar. But basically a pubescent boy would reduce history to the fights, the girls and the guns, and that’s pretty much what we have here, with a short detour to film the “beginning of life” (sorry, guys, that’s a bit of a mess, scientifically) or the Nativity (so we’re calling that history, are we?). At one point they even fly an F-15 through a canyon of dinosaurs. It’s that sort of book.

In any case, much of the fun here is seeing our heroes in various garb being the same frat boy party animals they always were. Whether it’s Vegas in 1961 or Samarkland in 1504 (which is a “home base” of sorts), Reilly and Quinn are still just looking for a good time, and they find it. Murphy’s dense, beautiful artwork renders each era in loving detail, with rich backgrounds and strong lines. His visual sensibility emphasizes diagonal lines cutting across the frame, emphasizing strength and energy (Quinn and Reilly themselves seem to consist entirely of muscles or limbs pointing off into space in postures of masculine confidence).

Another great wrinkle here is that the illicit and dangerous adventures of the Chrononauts are broadcast on live TV, with older, more responsible folk tutting at TV screens as they see how their heroes are behaving in the past. We mentioned previously that the media aspect provided a great meta-commentary on the story itself, and it will be interesting to see how this device is developed.

The fact that Millar and Murphy play it fast and loose with the mythic history works for the sort of story they’re telling. If this were a “serious” science fiction comic, no doubt there would be dark shadows, lots of hand-wringing over the meaning of time and consequences and profound revelations about the mysteries of the universe. But here, it’s all about the action and the fun. It’s an artistic choice the reader has to accept and embrace, and once you’ve done that, there’s an irresistible, page-turning energy about Chrononauts that’s sure to please.

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Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

The Cyberpunk Nexus: Exploring the Blade Runner Universe


A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe


A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe


New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics


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