Jennett worked on a few issues of Marvel UK’s Warheads and 2000AD in the early 1990s, before the comic book crash closed down Marvel UK and he became a concept artist in the games industry, even setting up his own company, Alien Apple Studios, with his wife. However, comic books never left his blood, and Titan Comics gave him the chance to develop this story, originally as a five-issue mini-series, now collected in this cracking hardback.
In his introduction, Jennet mentions his influences/passions (stop-frame monsters/dinosaurs, Second World War action movies, violent 1970s comics, pulp novels), and they explain the simple yet exhilarating concept: American soldiers fighting Nazis in the Cretaceous period, fighting for the survival of the future because both sides have developed time travel. There’s no real explanation of why or how, but it’s not needed – this is a deliriously violent, wonderfully enjoyable boys’ own adventure that has part of the Second World War being fought in the presence of Tyrannosaurus Rex and velociraptors. If you need more explanation, then don’t really get comic books … One of the great aspects of comic books is that something as outrageous and over the top as this will be accepted without reason – it’s fun, crazy, exciting and accessible, and it is what it is.
We meet the Chronos Commandos, under the command of the nameless Sarge, known only as ‘Sarge’, a traditional cigar-chomping, take-no-mess, get-the-job-done type of soldier, as they exit their time pod in a ‘stinking lizard-infested jungle’ sometime in the distant past, hunting Nazis (there is a nice little reference to Ray Bradbury when the squad comes across a lot of butterflies). Then things start to get messy – this is a visceral comic book, with decapitation and dismemberment and heads being shot and bitten off; there are massive dinosaurs, giant spiders, enormous crocodiles, all with a taste for human flesh, it seems. And then there are soldiers shooting each other with machine guns, with the German unit headed by Captain Richter (who looks a lot like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger). Jennett draws this all with relish – his digital art style is vivid and rich and detailed, but dynamic and atmospheric as well; it reminds me of Colin MacNeil’s style, which is a good thing, and it displays his enthusiasm for the story and the fun of drawing Nazis and dinosaurs.
There is more to the story, which involves time paradoxes and a professor (who looks like Einstein) at the US base and infiltrating Nazis who steal the core to the chronosphere and escape back in time and that the Sarge has to retrieve, and the narrative has been put together well. It feels like an old 2000AD story, which is another good thing, but there is also set up for more stories, and there is a lot of thought put into ‘soldiers fighting dinosaurs in the past’ and the consequences. Jennett has created a really fun, action-heavy comic book drenched with blood, with strong characters – Sarge is a bit like Sgt. Fury, but with a bit more humour; the professor is like a gung-ho Einstein with attitude – and a sense of humour.
The collection is packed with extras – classified documents about the Sarge (redacted), the Watchmaker project of the Black Star Initiative, blueprints for the time pods, old serial posters, the covers, sketchbooks and designs for some of the characters – to make up a solid package in addition to the comic books themselves. Chronos Commandos is the sort of comic book that there is not enough at the moment, and it’s kudos to Jennett for writing and drawing it and to Titan Comics for publishing such a variety of material and not trying to do the same thing as all the other comic book publishers are doing.
Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.