Mark Millar’s got heart. You wouldn’t know it from some of his work, but the rest of it tells the tale: Starlight wears itself on its sleeve and the results are wonderful; the Jupiter series shows us what Millar would’ve done if he’d had more time (and Frank Quitely) on the Justice League (or, perhaps, if he’d written Planetary), and it’s a lot of fun. In recent years, he seems to have done away with grim ‘n’ grit, and embraced joy a little bit.
The cover for the first issue of Chrononauts looks like Top Gun with time travel. That sets a solid precedent. Two amoral scientists who also happen to be best friends have unlocked the secret to time travel, and they plan to go for a little jaunt into the past. This, of course, goes awry, because if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have a book.
It goes awry in a deeply entertaining way: the guys go back in time and, basically, get mad with power. They interact with celebrities of different time periods at breakneck speeds. They get into trouble. They get laid. It’s a deep dive into the well of fun and ridiculousness. Once again: it goes wrong, with entertaining results.
You end up invested in the Chrononauts, Corbin and Danny, but probably never more invested than they are in each other. This is a Mark Millar story, so there’s a lot of flash and flare, with some character-building here and there. This isn’t necessarily a weakness: it’s no different than any summer blockbuster.
Sean Gordon Murphy is Sean Gordon Murphy. He’s one of the most interesting and most divisive artists in comics. Here, we get to see his eye for detail really go wild: lots of wild-haired scientists, every kind of warrior that history ever gave us, dinosaurs, and some cute hand-lettered sound-effects. He’s on a bit of a Gabriel Ba / Mike Mignola kick with the way some of his distance shots erase the characters’ faces, and it clashes a bit with that detail he’s known for. This isn’t a failing; it just makes you wonder how good the book could’ve looked in black and white.
On color duties, you’ve got Matt Hollingsworth, one of the best in the business. One would have to imagine that Murphy is incredibly hard to color, and Hollingsworth does not only an admirable job but a remarkable one. To return to the first cover: the muted colors evoke VHS tapes, so we get the idea that we’re in for time travel (the book’s called Chrononauts, so that’s sort of implied, but you get it) shenanigans. There’s an absolute ton of visual variety by necessity, and Hollingsworth meets the task on every page.
Chrononauts is Mark Millar and Sean Murphy doing a comic about two jerks traveling through time. What could go wrong? Not much, really.