Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Chrononauts 1, originally released March 18th, 2015.
Ryan: On September 13th, 1959, the Soviet Union made history by landing the first man-made object — the Luna 2 — on the moon. The Soviet success allowed their premiere, Nikita Khruschev, a scientific triumph to laud over President Eisenhower demonstrating the virtues of Communism. After a decade of dominating the Space Race, the USSR lost the ultimate prize to the USA and its space program, which had been kicked into high gear under the watch of President John F. Kennedy, when the first feet to touch the surface of the moon belonged to American astronauts on July 20, 1969. Despite the years of rivalry and the mires of the Cold War, when Apollo 11 touched down, the Russians cheered. As Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov wrote, “Everyone forgot that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race.” Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy’s new title, Chrononauts, seeks to recapture the magic of families across the world crowding around their televisions and radios as science catches up to imagination.
Our story begins in Southeast Turkey, which is fitting due to the fact that all good Turks would insist most things began with or were discovered by the Turkish. A team of archeologists discovered an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet buried inside the Gobekli Tepe, considered by many to be the world’s oldest temple. This example is just one of many anachronisms being discovered, spurring Dr. Corbin Quinn on in his quest to travel through time. Quinn recruits the help of MIT graduate, genius, and fellow dream-boat Dr. Danny Reilly soon before he and his Chrono-Division make history by recording history as their time-traveling satellite, the Mark-Twain 1, successfully captures and broadcasts the Battle of Gettysberg of 1863.
This huge achievement is also the beginning of the wonderful bro-mance between the two PhDs:
While some may be thrown-off by the bro-ey dynamic between the two protagonists, I found it to be the most endearing part of the issue. As a graduate of an all-boys high school and proud member of my university’s rugby team, I maintain a soft spot for relationships moored in Philia, despite how flamboyantly hetero-normative they tend to be. Plus, we have seen our fair share of buddy-cop films and comics, so isn’t it time for a buddy-time-travel story? All we need is a touch more homoeroticism.
After a huge press conference announcing their designs for the first manned expedition through time (in which we see small cameos by some of fiction’s best time machines: the DeLorean, the TARDIS, and the Time Sled from 1960’s Time Machine) , we come to launch day, and we are all positive that nothing can go wrong, Murphy’s Law be damned. When something inevitably DOES go wrong, Quinn is trapped in 1500’s Samarkand, Uzbekistan. When Reilly goes back to (of course) rescue his compadre, he immediately takes an arrow to the shin from who Wikipedia assures me are the nomadic Uzbek warriors who took control of the city during that century.
Chrononauts 1 engages me from a character perspective and also jives with our current zeitgeist of drastic technological discovery. Unlike the competitive nature of science during the Space Race, globalization has made discovery collaborative, and narratives like this comic’s exciting in its plausibility. The past constantly orbits us, and even when nostalgia waxes at its strongest, going back in time remains as out of reach as the moon was to the Cro-Magnons; however, futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Time and Chaos suggests that “as globalization increases order — and reduces chaos…the interval between globally salient events [that is, events that change the nature of a process/significantly affect the future of a process] decreases…seem[ing] more frequent in event time.”(Mott) This comic carries this feeling of the impossible being achievable forward while being infinitely more readable than its competitors, like Divinity or Nowhere Men.
DREW! What did you think of Millar’s new joint? Did you find the bro dynamic to be two-dimensional or endearing? Did you find the inclusion of romantic interests for the characters and the “something went wrong” moment to be as rushed as I did? And if you do not identify with the characters, are the stakes high enough for you?
Drew: At this point, the stakes really boil down to one time traveler hoping to rescue his marooned friend. Back to the Future part III may be my least favorite of the trilogy, but that’s still one hell of a setup. Will Reilly discover Quinn integrating comfortably as Samarkand’s resident mechanic? Or maybe Dr. Quinn is living up to his name and is now practicing medicine. Exactly what Quinn is up to doesn’t really matter — the premise is enough to get the two to a time and location they weren’t prepared for, which is really all it needs to do.
I’m more than satisfied with that endpoint, but as you suggest, Ryan, that comes at the expense of some pacing. I could see entire series built around the mysteries of anachronistic artifacts popping up where they shouldn’t, or even the geopolitics that would go into picking historical destinations (watching Columbus make landfall strikes me as a politically safe, but historically uninformative goal). This series obviously isn’t about either of those things (at least, not directly), so I’d say that the brisk pace does a great job of setting up a logline that appears to be “Bros in time.”
Lest that sound dismissive, I should clarify that the first act of Army of Darkness might feature some of my favorite fish-out-of-water time-travel gags. Not everyone can sell “Gimme some sugar, baby” like Bruce Campbell, but Sean Murphy has the charm to spare, even when his characters are saying some truly despicable shit.
Such trivial (and let’s be honest: sexist) concerns seem particularly unseemly in the face of imminent history-making discovery — I doubt Buzz Aldrin said anything like this to Neil Armstrong before the two popped the cork on the lunar lander — but Murphy manages to inject Reilly with enough winking charisma (and Quinn enough disgusted embarrassment) to pull it off.
Really, though, much of that characterization — for better or for worse — falls away once Quinn is off the grid. Reilly kicks into hero mode, making it all but impossible not to root for him in that moment.
Of course, Reilly is still characterized as a bit of a dick (I have no idea what to make of his antagonizing the security dude), but the smarm is refreshingly absent. He may prefer to mug for the camera, but he can get serious when he has to.
But again, neither of these dudes were prepared for 16th century Uzbekistan. We’re not yet sure what happened to Quinn, but Reilly gets an arrow through the shin basically the second he sets foot in 1504. Maybe the chrono-suits have some kind of advanced healing properties, maybe Reilly will be able to get by with clean gauze and bedrest, or maybe he’ll have to replace his foot with a chainsaw. I’m sure Murphy could figure out a way to make that work. The point is: how they got there is of little consequence now that they have to deal with being there. That’s an adventure I’m looking forward to.
Otherwise, I’m actually not sure I can predict where this series might be going. It’s tempting to assume these two will be responsible for the time-displaced items — I mean, who else would steal fighter jets, speedboats, motorbikes, and sportscars but a couple of bros? — but the hows and whys are totally up in the air. Will that security dude come looking for them? Will Reilly’s reporter girlfriend start tracking them through history? All we know right now is that two bros are stuck in time, and that’s more than enough to hook me.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?