Tuesday, February 17, 2009

John Byrne's Next Men Book One

Throughout my life, as a writer, John Byrne has tended to disappoint. I remember buying Alpha Flight #1 off the newsstand, and wondering who sucked out all the feeling and cool characters. I even tried the book a few more times, and found nothing of interest until the Bill Mantlo days. His Fantastic Four was better, including the Thing solo spin-off, but never strong enough to follow regularly. Incredible Hulk fizzled out fast, and I counted myself as a Superman follower for maybe seven months. His Star Brand and Wonder Woman were painful to read, while Sensational She-Hulk, Iron Man, and Namor just didn't engage me. What I've read of his later work has only further entrenched my bias.

That said, I never gave Next Men a try back in the '90s, even though Byrne himself described it as his bid for a mid-life creative high along the lines of Lee & Kirby in the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. I can't help but think he was crushed by its ultimate failure, explaining the worsening state of his craft. However, based on reading this first volume, Next Men may very well have been his shining moment as a scripter.

Not having read the 2112 graphic novel, its ties to Next Men were lost to me. Just in the context of a decades spanning prelude though, the book's major villains are depicted as outstanding monsters that beg to be confronted. The premise of artificially evolved test tube babies is explained well enough to intrigue, moving swiftly toward a status change and the compelling story of their escape from high tech confinement. One wonders if the Wachowski Brothers were fans who borrowed elements of this series for the Matrix trilogy.

Next Men is the sexiest, most visceral and just plain best written series I've encountered from Byrne. This entire volume is pretty much set-up for the series to follow, and I'm confident by the end you'll wish to read further, as I do. I understand IDW is in the process of re-releasing this Dark Horse series, and based on this initial entry, I'd like to read more.

1 comment:

Charley said...

It's one of the greatest comics I've ever read...John Byrne needs to finish Next Men!



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