Martin Millar, we sense, is something of a divisive figure in comics world. There are those who will lap up everything he does, because he does have a way with a high concept idea, and there are those who may well spit every time his name comes up (because high concepts are for dumb people right?). Millar fans point to the likes of Kick Ass and say here is a man who has his figure on the pulse (or on a pulse, at any rate). His detractors sometimes wonder if the comics are just Millar’s version of film scripts (because virtually everything he does at the minute gets turned into a film – in minutes – Chrononauts being no exception). Then, of course, you have to feed in that age old argument about people who don’t like things because they’re popular and those people then saying, it isn’t that it’s popular, it’s that it’s popular because it’s rubbish (the argument running: if it’s easy to digest, if there is nothing in the way of complication, if an idiot could understand it and say, whoa! – it’s rubbish).
Chrononauts concerns two scientists – Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly – both of whom are square-jawed uber hunks given to the kind of banter you’d see in something like Dude, Where’s My Car? But, you know, square-jawed uber hunks able to create a device (that can be worn) that allows you to, you know, travel through time. The hunky dude scientists as a device is a bit clunky, as are the shifts in the plot (oh no! this thing we’ve created has got a glitch! he’s trapped in time!… I’m going in after him! etc). Two things come to the rescue, however: one is the art (Sean Gordon Murphy has a fine eye and in both small frames and larger splashes fills space with some good looking candy – he is definitely the draw here, even if Millar is the big name above the marquee); and one, to Millar’s credit, is the pacing: there isn’t time to stop and pick holes as you’re reading because the book snaps along.
Now, it may be that all you want from a book is that whipcrack of a first read and when you’re done you’re on to the next book to whipcrack that one away too. If this is how you read and you can read without asking yourself a single solitary question then by god, Millar is the writer for you. If you are of the least critical bent, however, it’s possible that you’ll have a few issues as you go. But even these will be confused because there are moments, as one or both of the dude scientists skip through time when you see that Millar isn’t a dufus, has read some books himself (or watched some DVD boxsets). There is a skein over in Vegas that recalls Boardwalk Empire (if, you know, Boardwalk Empire was set 30 years later), and a thread in Samarkand, where both the art and the pacing work in fluent accord. The way in which the time suits allow them to skip from one moment in time to another is used really well also.
Provided you can relax with the premise, you’ll have some fun here. It’s too neat (way too neat) but that’s because Millar has his mind on default multiplex: you buy your popcorn, you go in, you quickly understand the premise, you root for the heroes, they experience peril, they have SUBTLE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS (like MY DAD NEVER UNDERSTOOD ME / I WISH I COULD GO BACK AND BE A BETTER HUSBAND etc) that, you know, a time machine could, like, REALLY HELP WITH, DUDE; there are villains, there are set pieces, there is a pay-off, there are jokes (the kind of jokes usually delivered by someone with a hard elbow to your ribs and a hardy-har-har) and there is a climax that (a) leaves nothing to the imagination and (b) keeps the door open for Chrononauts 2, 3, 4 and 5. Provided you don’t mind having ALL THE WORK DONE FOR YOU, you’ll dig this. Probably.
Any Cop?: Millar’s latest visual script treatment eschews the slightly deadening violence of Kick Ass to do the old time travel thing. Let’s just hope Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are available for the film.