Comics have a long standing fascination with re-visionist history, and that is what makes them possibly so fun and/or intriguing when the elements mix just right. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy laid some modern foundational groundwork, and I also would throw in Atomic Robo, but lately the benchmark book of re-visonist history that has been liberally mixing in sci-fi nutiness with a dark, mean, satiric edge is Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s The Manhattan Projects, a what-if series re-imagining famous scientists and World War II-era history. The fun of these kinds of stories, when done well, is that they make you not care about the facts of things; rather, the stories present an intriguing escape to somewhere familiar yet new. Comics can succeed in these endeavors when talented artists with a keen eye for the fantastical and possessing competent storytelling ability are allowed to tell an outrageous story. This is a key point; the artist must be allowed to tell the story as they envision it, free of much (or any) editorial mucking about. That is what has made books like Hellboy, Atomic Robo and The Manhattan Projects successful—they are free to run around in history.
“Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol #1” has all the foundational benchmarks of the above books mentioned. While the plot can be simplified to the recognizable tale of the Allied forces having to stop a Nazi incursion, the concept of delivering the story is an amusing mash-up of classic time travel concepts, military personnel characterizations ala The Dirty Dozen and Sgt. Rock , and mixing together One Million Years B.C. and Peter Jackson’s skull island sequences in his tense King Kong remake. If you are wondering about all the cinematic references that sprung to my mind while reading this issue, it is due largely to the artwork and layout of this comic which is created solely by Stuart Jennett.
Jennett was originally an artist in the early 1990s for the defunct Marvel UK line. After it dissolved, he began a career as a conceptual artist for the video game industry and found work within the visual mediums of film and television (Freeman, 2013). The storyboard sensibility is on display at times in Chronos Commandos, but Jennett’s work is rendered so well and with an expert degree (he does after all have a background in sequential comics), that I did not mind the lack at times of sequential elements, although there are some really wonderful playful moments with layout and perspective late in the story. I read this issue digitally, and the color palette and inking Jennett employs will I believe give the reader some pause in admiration for the aesthetic.
“Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol #1” is escapism, and I am willing to say that it is a good alternative escapism if the tights and flights books have been letting you down lately in that department (which, lets be honest, that happens more often these days).