Comics of the week reviewed for 20 March (Wired UK)

Having taken over movies, television and
animation, comics have never been cooler. Now, WIRED.co.uk picks
out the best and worst of the week’s titles for your reading
pleasure.

This week, time travel goes wrong while the whole world watches
in Chrononauts #1, and America’s greatest superhero is
secretly a Russian spy in Red One #1.

Chrononauts #1,
Image
 


Chrononauts
#1
Chrononauts
#1

Rock star scientists throw all the laws of
temporal physics — or at least time travel fiction — out the
window when they get lost in history.

© Mark Millar and
Sean Murphy


Mark Millar’s latest series has everything you might expect from
a Mark Millar comic — a simple but bold idea, snappy dialogue, and
several killer hooks, all executed with more-than-able assistance
from one of the industry’s best artists, Sean Murphy.

Happily tapping into pop culture’s best loved time travel
touchstones — references to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine,
Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of
Thunder
, Back to the Future, and more are
peppered throughout the issue — Chrononauts sees
physicists Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly cracking the temporal
barrier. Unfortunately, the highly publicised effort goes awry,
with Quinn stranded in the past after the first mission and Reilly
sent to bring him home. Every moment in the past might risk the
stability of the present, though Millar avoids playing too heavily
on themes of causality, instead having characters panicking about
what mighthappen. It’s really centered on the thrill of
weird science and historical remixes; fighter jets found in
millennia old temples, televising the Battle of Gettysburg with
drones, trying to meet Christopher Columbus when he reaches the New
World.

It’s very much a set up issue, but still entertaining. Murphy
packs a lot of visual humour and personality into each page, using
body language to build up the friendship between Reilly and Quinn,
and their rivalry with the disapproving head of project security.
They’re hugely interesting protagonists to follow too, rock star
action hero scientists rather than nerdy lab rats, with compelling
personal lives that stack the decks for considerable drama to
follow.

Millar and Murphy are also laying the groundwork for some
commentary on our increasingly voyeuristic society. People around
the world are shown glued to their screens as Quinn and Reilly’s
early experiments gain traction, and given we know something of
where the series will go — the duo going rogue and making time
their plaything while the world watches on — that sets the stage
for critique of people’s blind acceptance of anything put on
TV.

There are a few moments that seem like predictable set up for
Quinn and Reilly’s own future actions (relative to them, at least
— some occur in the past) and if those pan out, it might be a
little too close to Millar’s recently concluded MPH.
There’s also a need for more female presence in the supporting cast
— a pair of love interests is about it so far — but this is, at
its heart, a buddy focussed adventure romp, and one that’s off to
an enjoyable start.

Red One #1,
Image
 


Red One
#1
Red One
#1

A rare look at the Cold War culture battles from
the “other” side, Red One packs in great art and a well-executed
concept.

© 2015 Xavier Dorison and Terry Dodson


Vera Yelnikov is the greatest soldier the Soviet Union has ever
produced — and she’s on her way to America to become a superhero.
It’s no red defection though, but rather her next major mission,
and one she’s not particularly interested in. More used to
specialist operations in Mozambique or Angola, the idea of playing
dress up in a glorified propaganda move holds no interest for
her.

Reluctantly obeying orders, she finds herself in California,
with directions to find work as the driver for suicidal porn
director Lew Garner. The reasons why are kept secret for now — one
does not question the State, comrade — but seeing how Yelnikov
goes about getting into Garner’s employ, and earlier scenes showing
her effortlessly outclassing entire squads of male soldiers, do a
great job of convincing the reader of her skills, before her
costume even arrives. The push for her to become a superhero is
based on her handlers’ concerns surrounding a brutal vigilante
known as The Carpenter, whose potential ties to a puritanical
evangelical Christian political leader they fear will influence US
culture for the worse and heat up the Cold War.

Set in 1977, writer Xavier
Dorison
peppers the issue with real world politics and social
movements of the time, from the SALT nuclear disarmament talks to the general sexism of
the era. It draws equally on contemporary pop culture though,
channelling the cheesecake of shows such as Charlie’s
Angels
and positioning the hero in much the same vein.

With such a tone, artists Terry and Rachel Dodson are perfect
for the book. The pair are well known for their “good girl” art –
sexy but strong heroes, drawing inspiration from 1950s pin ups –
and work their charms well here. What’s often overlooked is how
great the Dodsons are at action scenes too, and with street chases,
fights and Yelnikov is sexual but not sexualised, and combined with
the character quirks Dorison gives her (living in a multi-partner
bisexual relationship when she’s off the clock, a passion for
motorbikes, enough disregard for authority to make things
interesting) she feels a pretty well-rounded character by issue’s
end. Some may roll their eyes at her “Red One” costume when it
makes its appearance — it doesn’t quite fit her ample chest — but
it does fit the tone of the story while still covering more skin
than many female superheroes.

Depending on how political Dorison goes with future issues, this
could surprise and go to some very dark places, which wouldn’t
necessarily be a bad twist. As is, it’s an enjoyable spy caper in
costumed drag, with a rarely seen view of Cold War-era
politics.

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20 March 2015 | 5:45 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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