Chronos Commandos is never afraid to embrace cliché and proudly proclaim it as a narrative strength!
Earth, the Cretaceous period, and a battle for the timelines is being fought by an unlikely group of combatants from an alternate version of the Second World War era. On the one side are the forces of the Third Reich led by Captain Richter and his Nazi cohorts. On the other are the U.S. Watchmaker Project and their Chronos Commandos, led by the enigmatic, roughhousing Sarge and overseen by “Prof” who bears a striking resemblance to a certain world-renowned theoretical physicist of the day.
As the war to take control of time itself escalates, Nazi infiltrators inside Watchmaker steal vital time-travel technology. It’s up to Sarge, ineffectual scientist Peabody and the rest of the latest Chronos Commandos squad to track down the Germans and retrieve the purloined property before their enemies gain a permanent advantage. But following them back to the age of the dinosaurs will be a perilous mission for the team. Not everyone will survive, new mysteries will be uncovered and time paradoxes will be unleashed before this chronal conflict comes to its end…
Covers from the original miniseries run
I was unsurprised to read where creator Stuart Jennett’s inspirations came from, as mentioned in the introduction to this collection of Titan’s first Chronos Commandos miniseries (subtitled Dawn Patrol). This is an unashamedly retro romp, after all, and one which combines a number of stock elements that would have appealed to any schoolboy who grew up in the 1970s. Dinosaurs, Nazis and time travel are merged in a tongue-in-cheek action adventure that owes much to pop cultural predecessors like 2000 AD’s Flesh, the British Action weekly, The Land that Time Forgot or DC’s similar cribbing of Burroughs in their The War that Time Forgot feature. Indeed, that latter example is a particularly neat one to bring into the mix, involving as it did the earliest incarnation of the Suicide Squad encountering prehistoric menaces on Dinosaur Island. Given the fatality rate of anyone signing up for the Chronos Commandos team that seems a most apt comparison!
Jennett can never be accused of taking himself too seriously with this strip – it’s an over-the-top, gung-ho piece of high adventure that stops just short (and only just!) of parody, knowingly winking at the reader throughout (check out the cartoon-like tyrannosaurus comedy run-up scene for evidence of that!), and never afraid to embrace cliché and proudly proclaim it as a narrative strength. Chronos Commandos is more about the ride than it is about the method of transportation; comfort reading that’s concerned to a greater degree with the spectacle than it is about the motivations of the cast or the internal logic of the plot. But on that level it works splendidly as a piece of good old-fashioned escapism.
A selection of interior pages from across the arc
The “digitally painted”-style of artwork Jennett uses is somewhere between a subdued Dan Brereton and a less clinical Ken Steacy in presentation; its murky, muddy colouring giving the Cretaceous period the feel of the most hostile and alien of environments. Ultra-violence is placed unrepentantly side-by-side with big screen set pieces to ensure there’s something gloriously and unashamedly B-movie about the visuals throughout.
With a cracking cliffhanger, references to unseen adventures and a lurking mystery at the heart of the story, Jennett provides a plethora of storytelling hooks to entice readers back for more in future volumes. Chronos Commandos is not deep and it’s not layered. But you know what? The eleven-year-old me would have adored it, and I think that celebratory re-creation of childhood awe at the most lurid elements of pop culture is exactly what Stuart Jennett’s trying to evoke here.
Stuart Jennett (W/A) • Titan Comics, £14,99, 11 March 2014