I've traveled the world exploring its dark recesses; treading those trails lost to the eyes of man, crawling the caverns of the earth and clambering over stones worn smooth by time so deep they've forgotten human touch, and sifted the sands of the most remote deserts uncovering secrets in temples that were old when the bones of this world were formed. Spending countless hours pouring over ancient and molding hidden manuscripts. Hefting tomes of forgotten knowledge written by unknowable hands somewhere out there in the depths of time.
My wanderings have exacted a heavy toll. The physical damage is obvious. What is not obvious, what remains hidden is the indelible mark left on the mind. Knowledge of those Elder and Outer Gods, the Old Ones and the Deep... the knowledge and their touch. Dark whispers run circles threatening to collapse my psyche, robbing me of sleep and at times my very sanity.
Dr. Corbin Quinn has done it. He has cracked the mysteries of traversing the Time-Stream. He, with the help of best friend and equally brilliant scientist Danny Reilly, plan to record history as it unfolds. Sounds like some dry science fiction, huh? It's really not. They call it a "Time-Stream" but really it's more of a "Time Water-slide" at the wackiest amusement park imaginable. Chrononauts is science fantasy to its very core. There's not a chronoton particle in sight, and not a single capacitor was fluxed.
Co-creators Mark Millar and Sean Murphy have crafted quite the entertaining tale. Filled with bombast, the best of friendship, and turbo-charged fist bumps that will have feeling the need... the need for speed. Because Time Bros [strikeout] Chrononauts is a flexing in the sun, playing with the boys, bromance of truly Top Gun-like proportion.
Dr. Quinn is the first to take the trip into the past and things immediately go awry, as they often do when dealing with time travel. Refusing to let peril befall his hetero life-mate Dr. Reilly time trips to the rescue. It's here where the story diverges from the usual time travel formula. Instead of going to great lengths to preserve the time line this brash and cavalier duo bend time to their will. They're rich, powerful, date the most beautiful women, and generally live like kings... They do these things multiple times across the ages. Why live one life of leisure when you can simultaneously live many, era hopping to suit your mood?
In addition to the high octane action and breakneck pacing of the story; Millar wrote in an awful lot of tongue and cheek humor. Humor expertly brought to life by Murphy. Humor like the derpy eyed buck toothed drooling dinosaur that looks directly at the reader after stomping a man into a red puddle. Or seeing the main characters deliver gold to the new born baby Jesus... gold in the form of a crucifix. The body language and facial expressions as they acknowledge what they're doing really works to sell the joke.
Murphy's expertise extends well beyond selling jokes. It's a magical thing when art style and story come together so perfectly. The speed of Millar's story is matched with some amazing frantic art. Each panel gives the impression that Murphy and his pencil were under duress. That's not to say it is, or even looks, sloppy. Instead, Murphy gives the impression that everything is in motion with a sweeping cinematic sense. While we're on the subject of the artwork of Chononauts; special note must be made of colorist Matt Hollingsworth. The overall depth of color is amazing, you know, if you're so inclined as to stop and admire such a thing. Each era of time has a certain look and color palette that gives it a certain feeling, a certain character. Hollingsworth might be some kind of high powered super genius.
Overall Chrononauts is a fantastically fun and fast read. Almost regrettably fast. My two times through the trade paperback clocked in at just a little over two hours. I wont proclaim to be an expert in the craft of comics or the critical analysis thereof; and I have read some of the negatives espoused by others regarding the commercial nature of the book and its resemblance to a storyboard who's only purpose being to sell some movie rights. But in my humble opinion Chrononauts is worth the ten or so dollar price tag. Or you could/should borrow it from a friend like I did.
Check out Chrononauts on the Image website
More What We're Reading: Tripods Trilogy
The books were thrust into my hands with a simple command, "Read these." I held the three thin young-adult readers wondering if I was subtly being insulted. After being assured that that wasn't the case I thought: if these mean something to someone who means something to me... I guess I have to. With this thought I set off on this brisk coming of age tale.
The world has been conquered by an alien race and their massive tripods. Earth's human population is kept docile and obedient through their caps, bio-mechanical head pieces that are grafted to the scalp as they enter their teen years. It's the kids, the uncapped, that hold the keys of freedom for mankind.
Will is a normal boy who's capping day is quickly approaching. His peaceful little village life is shattered by the arrival of an uncapped stranger, Ozymandias. He tells of a place high in the rough and frigid terrain of the White Mountains where a group of free people live outside the reach of the tripods. Ozymandias is one who is tasked with searching out and recruiting the uncapped youth to join the free people. After learning some truth about the alien masters who have enslaved the world, Will is given a choice: join the ranks of mindless livestock oppressed by these alien conquerors, or chase the freedom and self-determination all men crave. "... I could not stay, any more than a sheep could walk through a slaughterhouse door, once it knew what lay beyond." With those words Wills adventure and the Tripod Trilogy is launched.
Will is joined on his journey by his cousin Henry and a French boy they meet along the way, Jean-Paul. Through pitfall and peril friendships are forged and the three finally arrive at the famed White Mountains. Once there, battle plans are made, a war is launched, and friends become brothers. "One enjoys friendship most when times are good, when sun shines and the world is kind. But it is the sharing of adversity that knits men together."
Alright, let's get this out from the jump: when I said brisk, I meant short. The whole trilogy comes in just past the six hundred page mark. You could hammer this out in a weekend if you wanted to. And you should, it's pretty good. Telling a three part "save the world" story in so few pages probably has you thinking about all the plot and pacing issues within the books. Those concerns would be absolutely justified... if the story was written for adults. Fact is, the quick pace and concise plot are perfectly targeted and expertly crafted to capture the imagination of a young man. It's that quality that made these books so enjoyable.
It was difficult to read this story without imposing a younger version of myself into my own mind. How would I have read this as a younger man? Would the struggle for independence have resonated with me? What would I have imagined the oppressive alien masters to represent? My parents? School? My impending entry into the workforce? These questions made these books for me, and they will for you too. Never-mind the truncated plot and lack of details, let the thoughts of a younger version of yourself fill out those spaces.
For more story details (read, spoilers) the Tripod Trilogy wiki is excellent.
For more work by John Christopher visit his section of publisher Simon & Schuster's website.
More What We're Reading: The Humans
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold... Suddenly the road was full of what looked like apes all swooping and careening and screeching around the car, all atop their high powered death machines. "We can't stop here." I said, "This is Humans country..."
The Humans would be the resulting mind-crushing hallucination if someone were to take too much acid while watching Planet of the Apes at the yearly Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Set in the 70's amid a raging counter-culture with the shadow of a destructive unpopular conflict in Vietnam looming; the story centers around titular motorcycle gang The Humans and the struggles they face. Rival gangs, the drug trade, cops, simian on sapien reverse bestiality, and... life after death? Yes.
Johnny, member and brother of The Humans leader, has returned from the jungles of Vietnam where he was assumed to have died. Johnny is a rebel, an outcast, a Human, and back from the dead! Ready to raise hell with his brothers while battling crippling war flashbacks.
Every bit of The Humans, from Keenan Keller's writing to the art of Tom Neely, tone and style, concept to color; drips with exploitation era cultural influence. The balls to the walls nature of the characters and story read like a long stretch of highway at night. You'll have a moment of near panic when you glance at the page number and realize that unbeknownst to you, you've blasted down the asphalt at 120mph.
Humans for life. Humans till deth.
Visit The Humans official website and buy the thing already.
More What We're Reading: Sin Titulo
Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart is an enigmatic fever dream that progressively loses more and more control of itself. Collecting Stewart's five year webcomic run this hard cover begins simply enough. Main character Alex MacKay learns, a month after the fact, that his grandfather has died in his retirement home. Naturally Alex wants to collect some of his grandfather's things and learn a bit about what happened. There ends the normalcy. Alex discovers a photo of a woman that his grandfather knew but Alex had never seen before. Alex investigates, and what follows is a strange spiraling descent that sees Alex mirroring Billy Pilgrim as he becomes unstuck from reality.
Sin Titulo really is a fantastic read. The muted sepia tone art work of Cameron Stewart pairs very well with the story he's telling. Art and writing meld into a perfect vacuum, forcing the reader's nose deeper into the book's spine. If you can successfully put it down and take more than one sitting to read it... you are certainly stronger than I.
Visit Cameron's art blog or the Sin Titulo website.