Most of us like to think of ourselves as good people – at the very least decent beings that are aware of the difference between right and wrong. If you had a shot at immortality, at almost limitless power, though, would you be able to keep up that sense of morality? That’s the question at the heart of Chrononauts, the new sci-fi/time travel series from Mark Millar, Sean G. Murphy, and Image Comics.
Millar is no stranger to morally ambiguous characters, as indicated by his work on Kick-Ass and the slightly less popular Nemesis, a book from a few years back that asked “What would happen if Batman was the Joker?” I, for one, enjoyed that series’ main character, despite the pointlessness of the book overall.
In spots Nemesis displayed a keen awareness of our society’s fascination with compartmentalized violence – we accept force in what we think are well-defined, isolated (and justifiable) spaces, whether psychological or physical – while being totally abhorrent to it at other times, times when it bleeds out into the rest of the world, outside of our perceptions of control.
Millar is great at writing those types of stories and characters; people who sometimes do the right thing for horribly wrong reasons and vice versa – folks that do horrible things with good, and sometimes laudable, intentions, and the worlds that they inhabit.
He’s working on what’s sure to be another hit with Chrononauts, a book that fits his modus operandi to a tee. The two protagonists, Quinn and Reilly are normal enough, at least on the surface. They’re the best of friends who just happen to also be brilliant scientists who develop a way to view, and ultimately travel, to the past. It’s what they do with their new ability to manipulate time that makes the book interesting.
Y’see these two, well, dude-bros, abandon their training and scientific duty to objectivity and decide to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the form of running amuck through history. They amass an insane amount of wealth and influence spanning eons, all in the name of a good time.
In the premier issue, Quinn’s planned trip to the year 1492 for a meet and greet with Columbus is derailed by an anomalous time distortion, and he instead lands in Samarkand in 1504. Apparently stranded in the past, his good buddy Reilly, being uniquely qualified, makes the trip back to rescue his friend; Reilly soon discovers that Quinn is definitely not stranded, but is in fact, living like a king. Literally.
After some creative persuasion, Reilly decides to join Quinn on the ultimate road trip. Just when they think things can’t get any better in their adventure of several lifetimes, events begin to take a sharp turn for the worst. All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, no matter how long it takes.
This comic moves along at a frenetic pace, and Murphy’s artwork is perfect at conveying that feeling of recklessness central to the book’s theme of selfish wish-fulfillment. The line work is fast and loose, not sloppy, but it definitely implies a certain sense of freedom-in-motion.
Maybe Quinn and Reilly aren’t the most upstanding guys, but it sure is fun to read about how they’re living it up in the past and f*cking up the history of humanity in the process.