Images © John Byrne.
The first issue of this relaunch of NEXT MEN, a series I enjoyed in its initial run from 1991 to 1995 (from Dark Horse), is essentially a synopsis of what’s gone before, and it points out what a convoluted set of realities it was. The main characters began in one idyllic setting, then suddenly woke up in a new reality to find they’d been a science project, given a programmed dream life they thought true. Reality continued to shift and change through the series, in layers of revelation, until it became hard to know what to believe, for the characters and the reader. Byrne even hints at this on his cover, showing the characters as game pieces on a fractured checkerboard.
All well and good, but the lengthy recap doesn’t leave a lot of room either for new story, or to get reacquainted with the characters. The ending is intriguing, but once more leaves me wondering if it’s really the story, or another illusion of some kind. I’m interested enough to read on, though.
I’ve always liked Byrne’s art, though in recent years it sometimes seemed oversimplified. In this book he’s gone back to the style of the earlier series, a more detailed style I like better, and his skills seem just as sharp as they did then. Good going, John! That makes it all the easier to look forward to more.