When these issues popped up in a dollar bin at my local comic shop, I figured I’d peruse John Byrne’s recent work for IDW. Like most other comic book readers, I’m a huge fan of Byrne’s super-hero work over the years. It’s hard not to see his versions of many Marvel and DC mainstays as the definitive version. In fact, many of my current favorite artists are those that have a distinctive Byrne influence.
From what I understand, this is a relaunch of a concept Byrne had years ago about a solar flare that kills most life on Earth. After watching the devastation from orbit, the residents of an international space station return to the Earth in a desperate attempt to survive. The core group plays like a well-rounded action movie cast; everyone is pretty heroic, but there is enough variance in approach and outlook to pick out favorites.
The story follows the astronauts as they travel around the Americas, but Byrne does have other characters play important roles too. It is common in these disaster type stories to see glimpses of folks around the Earth as the world ends. Instead of making these random people, the folks we see at the start of the emergency are all folks who show up in later chapters. The circumstances for each are very, very different, but it is a neat idea to show pretty much the entire cast in the opening issue. From antagonist to ally, most of the people who appear in the story were there from the start.
The story itself is a tad on the generic side, especially if you’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction like I have. The escaped prisoners. The submarine crew who dove to avoid the dangerous environment, even the holy man who rediscovers his faith. These are classic tropes of the apocalypse.
All these years later, and Byrne still has the ability to tell a crackerjack story. The backgrounds are well established. The action is well set and choreographed. The characters are all pretty easy to remember and each one has a unique enough personality. Even after four issues, I don’t remember all the characters names, but I’m very clear on the outlook, personality, and look of the survivors of the international space station.
I’m not going to lie; I would prefer to see Byrne drawing brightly colored spandex heroes from the big two. His commission work shows that he’s still got the touch. In the meantime, this is a FAIR way to check out Byrne’s sequential work. If you’re like me, though, reading this will just make you want to go read some Superman and Fantastic Four comics.