Chrononauts #1 is the newest Millarworld miniseries published by Image Comics, and follows a couple of genius scientists named Quinn and Reilly as they make advances in time travel technology, while struggling with their own flaws as people.
It also marks the return of superstar artist Sean Murphy to interiors six months after the final issue of The Wake, his time-spanning, underwater sci-fi epic with Scott Snyder (Batman). Murphy is joined by writer Mark Millar (Civil War) and colorist Matt Hollingsworth (Hawkeye).
This is the third time travel comic you’ve reviewed in the past month or so. How is it different from the others?
Chrononauts #1 doesn’t try anything incredibly crazy with its time travel premise. Mark Millar keeps things simple and personal looking at the daily lives and work of Quinn and Reilly. Under a macho exterior, Quinn really has no one in his life and has pushed away even his wife and dad.
The comic opens with him playing the role of an Indiana Jones type (complete with a beautiful orange Turkish sunrise from Matt Hollingsworth), and Sean Murphy portrays him with a lantern jaw and some heroic stubble. However, Millar digs deeper while simultaneously explaining the different time travel missions and the potential problems from humans staying in the past for too long. He also draws some nice parallels between this time travel program and the U.S. space program back in the Apollo days.
With detailed and often humorous shots of people of different ethnicities and social classes watching the time machine launches, Murphy shows the universal impact of scientific advances on humanity (a shot of strip joint clients glued to the screen instead of the dancers may be a little on the nose).
How does Murphy’s art contribute to the story of Chrononauts?
With his ability to draw anything from fighter jets, cityscapes, weird Merpeople, and a variable fleet of Batmobiles back in Detective Comics #27, Sean Murphy is a great fit for a comic like Chrononauts that stretches across many settings and time periods. He really gets to flex his artist muscles on the second page, which is a full page spread of a F-14 Tomcat inside an old Turkish temple that is older than the use of pottery.
He juxtaposes the ancient Hittite (I think) script of the pillars with the body of the fighter jet while Hollingsworth balances shadow and lights adding a little twinkle in Quinn’s eyes. Murphy approaches the time travel scenes with a sense of wonder using recurring images of time-pieces with crackling speed-lines, which shift from red to blue depending on how the mission goes. Hollingsworth switches up his usual shadowy palette to give the time travel missions a cool blue sheen. However, he and Murphy place the shadows at just the right places as Quinn and Reilly reveal their friendship and vulnerability under their smiling faces and confident answers to journalist’s questions.
Should I pick up this comic?
I recommend Chrononauts #1 for Murphy’s art alone as he brings his muddied line style to the past and present. (There is one two page sequence that made the history nerd in me smile.) The two main characters kind of seem incredibly smug, but like his work with some of the Marvel heroes, Millar gives them some relatable qualities and flaws so they’re not wholly unlikeable.
This comic is character-driven and sets up the time travel program through exposition and art, but don’t be afraid, some time travel does occur, and you’ll actually care about the people doing the traveling.