Although not all cultures and societies are identical, certain ideas and premises seem to tap into the very core of our childhood psyches. Combining vehicles and robots, for instance, is the backbone of the successful "Transformers" franchise which virtually every young boy or even adult male in North America and Europe is aware of. Behind many of the most memorable pop culture franchises of the past few decades are usually an ore which was something which sparked a child's interest at some point. To this end came "Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol", a five issue mini series created, written, and illustrated by Stuart Jennett (with a logo designed by Donna Jennett) and published by Titan Comics last year. This month, the entire series has been collected into a 150 page hardcover collection for readers across both shores to enjoy.
As has been alluded to, at the core of Jennett's series is combining elements that most children (boys especially) played with in the action figure adventures or sandboxes of their youth. In this case, it's soldiers, dinosaurs, time-travel, and Nazis as the ultimate form of evil. This series takes place both in 1944 during the height of World War II as well as the Cretaceous period of prehistory, the age of the dinosaurs. The Allies and Axis powers not only compete for nuclear power, but the power of time-travel as well to influence not only the war, but the entire time stream to their respective favor. The brave American soldiers who journey into the distant past are called "Chronos Commandos" and they are led by the mysterious "Sarge", who is carved out of sheer muscle and grit. His arch nemesis is the Nazi captain Richter (whose design seems to vaguely resemble Arnold Schwartzenegger), who leads the Nazi effort to dominate time. Sarge's latest group of commandos all wind up being slaughtered at the end of his latest mission, and not even his comrade Albert Einstein back at the base can prevent a traitor from stealing their precious power core into the past. Thus, Sarge is forced to go back into the dinosaur era with one last slap dash squad of commandos to get it back.
While most time travel stories tend to be dense and complicated, Jennett keeps things quite simple and instead relies on mood, gore, and reliable tropes to tell his story efficiently. The idea of soldiers venturing into a prehistoric jungle and facing no end of horrors from dinosaurs to giant crocodiles and spiders to, ultimately, Nazis is a good one, and Jennett wisely doesn't clutter it. Having a firearm wielding Albert Einstein is a nice touch for a lark, and it thankfully isn't taken too far. This is hardly a comic for little kids with all the buckets of blood in it, but Jennett plays it for over-the-top violence due to the circumstances rather than for sheer horror. All of the Nazis speak with their "accents" in their text, and one will probably read the phrase, "Mein Gott" at least three times. Richter naturally is the personification of nearly every Nazi villain often seen in fiction, from Red Skull to no end of figures from the "Indiana Jones" franchise - which is fine when he's facing an archetypal soldier like Sarge. The high body count does prevent any additional supporting cast from rising to the fore for long. The most this story has is Peabody, dubbed "Brain box" by Sarge who is the brains of the mission, as well as a secondary soldier in Mellor. They emerge in the later half of the story and essentially provide some characters for Sarge to speak with who survive to the end of the piece; Peabody turns out to be a fan of their era's version of "Flash Gordon".
As this summary suggests, this is not the series one seeks out if one wants vast character pathos or a deeply complicated story. Although there is one neat twist in the last third of the work, "Chronos Commandos" is more about mood and presentation than it is about trying to remake the wheel. It delivers just what the premise suggests in a manner which is entertaining and visceral. The artwork by Jennett in particular is absolutely breath taking and captures the "pulp" flavor marvelously. He has a sense of pace to allow many sequences of exploration or chase to breath and take their time to reveal the latest monstrous challenge, and then he savors the carnage for all it is worth.
The premise may be simple, and the characters within it may all fall into well worn archetypes. Yet much like a good summer blockbuster, "Chronos Commandos" is memorable as a clever and action packed experience, drawing on the adventurous spirit of youth with the zeal for gore which usually comes with adolescence. If soldiers, dinosaurs, Nazis, and a gun-toting Einstein sound like fun, then give this hardcover a go.