Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Sean Gordon Murphy
We’re now only one issue away from the finale of Millar and Murphy’s Chrononauts, and after a strong issue last time, we’re unfortunately back with the same issues that plagued the series opening. This series strangely both feels too short and too long, with only four issues there’s not enough time to explore our main characters, meaning a lot of character turns and moments feels out of place or even forced. At the same time however the series feels so padded and doesn’t know what it wants to do. This has never been clearer than this issue, which doesn’t leave me feeling confident about the series finale.
The issue starts on a strong note with the same humour that made the last issue such a blast. Admittedly the jokes are pretty predictable, but it’s harmless fun so I don’t really mind. This leads right into the heart of the issue, an action packed chase scene throughout the time stream. There’s a great summer blockbuster spectacle to the scene, much like last trip through the time stream it serves mostly to show off Murphy’s ability to gorgeously depict scenes throughout history, but on a storytelling level it leads to a much more exciting issue. There are two problems that deter from the fun however; Millar’s cynicism and the books lack of substance. Unlike the humour and juvenile hijinks from last time, there’s a very mean spirit in this issue. Several civilians die at the hands of the rampage through the time stream, mostly due to the villains chasing Danny and Corben. It not only makes the villains look dumb and clichéd (I swear I’m so sick of villains being made to look evil because they refer to civilians as “acceptable casualties”, especially considering in this case it makes no sense, completely contradicting their reasons for apprehending our protagonists) it puts a very down note on the previously fun adventures. I’m sure this was Millar’s intentions given Corben’s sudden change of heart by the end of the issue, but this only further highlights how little substances the comic has. The chase scene lasts so long that there’s no room at all for any build up to Danny’s change of heart, it doesn’t feel natural at all, it’s more like “the series is ending next issue, better learn something!” Even worse, there are some weird attempts to have a “message” about addiction and especially alcoholism that comes completely out of nowhere as if to give meaning to the character’s actions. If Millar wanted to show some character growth or development however, then more time should havee been devoted to fleshing out the main cast, so far they’ve felt just like two-dimensional man children. I had no problem with this last issue when the series when the focus was on humour, but when trying to elicit some serious drama the comic just falls flat on its face.
By issue’s end, it doesn’t feel like the story has progressed very far. There’s too much time devoted to pointless action that makes the turnaround at the end feel entirely disingenuous. The pacing choices seem even more questionable when a new villain is introduced to give the issue a cliffhanger. Given that the series concludes next issue, I find this an odd choice and makes me worry that the same problems that plagued this issue, too much focus on action leading to rushed character work, will prevail in the series finale. This series just seems to suffer from an identity crisis, it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a funny, madcap romp with the wrong people using time travel, a blockbuster action film or a dramatic look at the consequences of not growing up. I feel either better planning and focus on these areas or more issues were needed in order to give the themes more room to breathe or the characters time to grow. As it stands there’s simply not enough room for these themes with too much padding which distracts from the potentially bigger questions, with this sudden reach for depth detracting from what makes the series fun. With only one issue to go I’ll see the series to its end, but feel a little disheartened that Millar seems to both ignore what makes the series good and throws away a lot of potential for what could’ve made a great series if it had been a little longer and more ambitious.