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Chronos Commandos Vol. 1 Review: Dino-Killing Pulp at its Finest
Before our modern age of cynicism and dark, gritty reboots and re-imaginings, there was a time when entertainment wasn’t riddled with daddy issues, when body counts didn’t have to have strong implications, and when main characters didn’t have to struggle with deep inner turmoil.
It was a time when pulp and camp were more than words attributed to orange juice and bad summer vacations, when it was completely acceptable to have a paper-thin plot so long as you had fun with it and didn’t take yourself too seriously.
Stuart Jennett’s comic series Chronos Commandos is a love letter to this time.
Set during the turbulent time of World War II, Chronos Commandos follows the cigar-chomping tough guy Sergeant Savage as he and his band of soldiers travel back to the Cretaceous period to try and stop the Nazis from winning the war for time by securing the stolen Chronos Core. Fighting double agents, angry poetic Nazi leaders, and a litany of bloodthirsty dinosaurs, it’s a self-aware joy ride that combines many of the elements that made pulpy 80s action movies so great.
Sarge himself is an archetype of virtually every military leader we’ve seen in classic war films. Tough, hardened, and emotionally stunted, he’s a pragmatist who does what he needs to to get the job done, all while voicing clever one-liners, shouting insults to his crew, and constantly demanding a cup of coffee. He’s brash and fierce, his masculinity so overt that it would even make Rambo blush. In almost every way, he’s the perfect imagining of a military leader in the same way the 80s used to see them; tough, violent, and the seemingly “perfect” role model for which all males should strive to become. It’s a nice callback to the machismo of the time that Jennett does a fantastic job of re-creating.
The story itself is about as substantial and dense as a cheap loaf of white bread, but as I’ve stated before, there’s nothing wrong with having a thin story as long as you’re willing to be self-aware and have fun with it. Thankfully, fun tends to ooze out of every single one of Chronos Commandos‘ many orifices. Each of the characters from the good-natured professor to the hardened soldier under Sarge’s command are nothing short of total cliches and archetypes we’ve seen a thousand times before, yet the fact that the story approaches itself with its tongue thoroughly in cheek makes even the most boring and re-tread of conventions feel refreshingly new. Instead of groaning at the lack of depth and simplified motivations for each character, I found myself enjoying the professor’s banter, the geeky man’s quips about comic book heroes, and Sarge’s ability to mow down lizard and human enemies with absolutely zero remorse.
The art’s ability to uphold this sentiment and attitude is deserving of a mention as well. A nice mix between classic comic drawings and oil paintings, the art consists of bold, dramatic lines, exaggerated features, and a nice smudging effect on much of its coloring that gives everything a soft edge. It’s a bold visual choice that bolstered the story exceptionally well, particularly in the moments when characters were ripped apart and we were left with gruesome depictions of their dangling entrails.
There are times when the story can be hard to follow, and no, there’s little to no relatability to any of the characters within the story. But Chronos Commandos isn’t setting out to tell a hard-hitting tale chock full of cultural significance or redemption. It’s trying to call back to a simpler time, when entertainment was campy and fun, when the impossible or the implausible populated the main plot points of so many pulp action films. In all its time-traveling, dino-shooting glory, Chronos Commandos wants you to buckle up and enjoy its wild and off-the-wall ride. In this mission, it dutifully succeeds.