Thursday, February 9, 2012

CHRONOS #11 - February 1999

Mad Genius
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Paul Guinan (penciler), Steve Leialoha (inks), Ken Bruzenak (letters), James Sinclair (colors)

The final issue of Chronos opens in 1947’s Gotham City, inside an obscure psychiatric facility known as Arkham Asylum. (Never mind that Arkham Asylum was first introduced in the 1970s and originally located somewhere in New England…Arkham had long been retconned into Gotham’s backstory by this point.) Chronos is posing as a doctor and sneaking out with a patient who claims to be a time traveler. In a nice use of misdirection, we’re led to believe that the patient is perhaps another version of Chronos. Instead, we discover that the time traveler is none other than Chronos’ mysterious birth father, Tsui.

Chronos takes him back to Chronopolis, where they’re promptly attacked by a mysterious armed figure. Using his ability to freeze others in time, Chronos removes the attacker’s mask and discovers that the culprit is Alex Damaskinos; not the version he knew, but the one that’s come to exist following Chronos’ erasure of himself from time. She’s been duped into believing that Chronos has been murdering members of the Goodfellow Troupe, but before we’re given any more info on that mystery, John Francis Moore has a few more issues worth of continuity he’d like to dump in two pages. Witness now, the origin of Chronos’ father, Chronopolis, the Gate of Eternity, the Keystones, and the Goodfellow Troupe:

Within a few pages, Lucas Goodfellow has made his way to Chronopolis and frozen the rest of the cast with a device stolen from the thirtieth century. He reveals that he needed the rest of the troupe’s Keystones in order to control the Gate of Eternity, which he plans on using to…rule the world, I guess. How exactly he plans on doing this by releasing energy from the Gate and creating a giant vortex that consumes all of reality, I don’t know.

Chronos breaks everyone free and Alex volunteers to hold the Keystone that will channel all of the energy Goodfellow’s released. Realizing how dangerous this is, Chronos reluctantly plays the hero and takes the Keystone from her. While absorbing the chronal energy from inside the vortex, and floating over a lovely montage of the history of the DC Universe penciled by Paul Guinan, Chronos is for the first time “filled with a sense of genuine purpose.”

The Gate, the Keystones, and apparently Chronopolis are destroyed, but the universe is saved. Tsui and Alex are trapped in the prehistoric past, while Chronos maintains his ability to travel through time. In the final scene, Chronos lands once again in rural Kansas. Catching a ride with Jonathan and Martha Kent, he makes sure they drive pass a certain field on a certain night.

You might remember that final scene from Paul Guinan’s letter announcing Chronos’ cancellation. Originally an idea he pitched as a way to make Chronos more “relevant” for the DCU, it sees print as a coda to the slightly offbeat series that could never find much of an audience. It’s a shame that so many titles are practically forced to invent connections to Batman or Superman in order to be noticed, but apparently that’s the only way a DCU title can hope to gain attention from the direct market audience (even if this isn’t true, it’s become accepted wisdom at DC; although a link to Green Lantern might be more valuable than Superman today).

So, in the final issue, Moore wraps up most of the loose ends, with the most glaring exception being the mysterious link between David Clinton and the modern Chronos’ adopted parents. Even though the mystery seemed rather important in the early issues, it’s been forgotten by this point. We also haven’t seen Chronos’ birth mother, we only know that she’s Mexican from a comment made by Paul Guinan in that goodbye letter, nor do we know how exactly Gravesend contacted Tsui in the first place if he was trapped outside of time. I’m sure Moore had a story behind all of these mysteries (and I’m assuming there isn’t a Chronos Secret Files or some other book that gave the answers), but there are only so many pages left. We are getting resolutions to the bulk of the dangling plot threads, so it’s not as if we’re dealing with the final episode of LOST here. We discover where Chronopolis came from, why Chronos was born there, and the origin of all of those time travelling devices. Not bad. Due to the abundance of plot, though, much of the character work is skimped over. Chronos’ reunion with his father is rushed through, and his previous romance with Alex is simply ignored.

The resolution to the murders of the Goodfellow Troupe, a very minor subplot that starred Alex a few issues earlier, is also brought into the main story as we discover that Lucas Goodfellow is the true villain of the outfit. This is an idea that probably would’ve had more of an impact if Lucas Goodfellow had put in more than a handful of cameos during this run. Revealing that a character I barely remember from several issues prior is secretly evil doesn’t create an excessive amount of drama. Plus, he has no discernible plan and no personality outside of mustache twirling, so he’s really a drag on the story. I understand why he’s there, though, and the sequences that force Chronos into the hero role are executed quite well.

The new status quo for Chronos -- he’s going through the past of the DCU and making sure everything works out the way it should -- had a lot of promise, so perhaps that could’ve been enough to keep the book going for a little while. (Didn’t a similar idea show up in Booster Gold not long ago?) Regardless, Moore wanted to end the book, and sales were low enough for DC to agree. I can’t say that Chronos ever quite lived up to its potential, but it did often show glimpses of something special. It’s certainly good enough to be rescued from the back issue bins.

1 comment:

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

If you haven't read FINAL CRISIS, it's worth pointing out that Chronos has a cameo in the SUPERMAN BEYOND tie-in, as a denizen of limbo. That's the only place I can remember seeing him in all these intervening years.

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