Chrononauts #4 Review

Written by: Mark Millar

Art by: Sean Gordan Murphy

Publisher: Image

Throughout its brief run, Chrononauts is a series I’ve found pretty frustrating, not because it’s bad, but because it squanders so much potential. I’ve had problems with the book’s tone for not being sure if it’s being a comedy or something more ambitious which has led to a deeply dissatisfying conclusion. In the end, this series has ended with some attempts at drama and meaningful character moments, but in the end it falls flat as the series lacks a foundation of interesting characters or motivations, leading to a finale that feels like nothing was accomplished.

While I’ve criticised this series for its flat portrayal of its leads, this issue does attempt to give Corbin’s time travel shenanigans a bit of depth and a reason for why he acts the way he does. We get further examination into why Corbin chooses to run away into the time stream, fearing his life has been wasted and that he has nothing to return to. While it has been hinted that this is the reason for his childish behaviour in previous issues, it plays a key role in the conclusion of the series, with Corbin being given to chance to use the time machine to put things right. My major problem however is that there really seems to be no real change in the character from the first issue so any attempts at emotional payoff completely fail. I don’t feel like Corbin has earned this happy ending, throughout the series he’s acted like a selfish child, using time travel to escape his problems, and now he’s doing the exact same thing to give himself a happy ending. If he’d done something like sacrifice his scientific career in order to spend more time with his family members then that would have shown a change in the character, he would have learnt some responsibility and that people shouldn’t have access to the technology based on how badly he and Danny managed to mess up the first attempt at time travel. It wouldn’t have been the most original ending but it would’ve had some emotional weight, instead Corbin gets the best of both worlds, using the time machine to be in two places at once so he can still have an amazing scientific career while simultaneously being there for his family. While on paper it might sound like it’s a good and selfless act, it really feels like nothing has been learnt. Throughout the series he’s used time travel to get what he wants, and in this finale he’s once again using time travel to get what he wants. It feels like the character is the same selfish person we saw in the previous issues except now he’s rewritten people’s lives to make himself happy, it feels completely unearned and makes the whole series feel pointless, especially since I didn’t care about the character to begin with.

Further storytelling problems persist in terms of pacing, with the story feeling rushed and at the same time padded out, like I mentioned last time. It seems in every issue there’s been some sort of montage featuring different timescapes, while so far I’ve liked them mainly as an excuse to see Murphy’s gorgeous artistic abilities (and that’s still the case here) by this point in the story I want to see things being concluded, not padded out montages. It’s an even harder pill to swallow when you realise this is a double length issue priced at $5.99, this could have easily been cut down as there’s very little actual extra plot development in this issue compared to the others.

This lack of depth is a real problem I’ve had with the entire series, it just feels like a standard action movie with big explosions and pleasing set pieces. There is certainly some creativity on display with the amalgamated armies of history coalescing in a sort of beautiful chaos, skillfully rendered by Murphy, however it feels so hollow in that, aside from the aesthetics, it really could just be any action movie ever. That’s what makes me dislike this series so much, it’s complete lack of ambition, the talent of these creators is through the roof, but this seems to play it completely safe and choose the easy way out for the series, instead of offering any real depth or new ideas to add to the genre. What is the book’s biggest sin however is that to me, it doesn’t feel like a comic at all, but instead an elaborate film pitch. Millar is known for adapting his works into films, with a Chrononauts film already confirmed, so a lot of the book’s flaws feels like something they’ve thought about and gone “don’t worry, it’ll work better in film.” It’s true too, that I could see this working as a feature film and would actually want to see that, but I don’t really care about the eventual film, I’m a comics fan first and foremost and I feel Millar should be focusing on making the best comic he can rather than try and write storyboards for the film adaptation. With a little bit more care and attention, this could’ve made for a great mini-series, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the main goal here.

Overall, it’s a real shame that this series turned out the way it did. It’s not necessarily a terrible comic, it’s just clear that a lot of the slack has been left to be picked up by the eventual film. Millar and Murphy are two extremely talent creators and the result of their collaboration should’ve been a much better comic than what we have, the real sad thing and my major problem with the comic lies in the fact that this could’ve been fantastic, but seems ok with being merely mediocre.