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1 September 2014

The High Ways (2013)

I discovered John Byrne about a year ago and I'd go as far as to say that he's one of the driving forces behind helping me to rekindle my love of comics. I read comics in my youth (the usual kid's fare which ultimately progressed onto 2000AD), but then somewhere in my teens the urge left me. Was it a lack of money? Had I outgrown them? Perhaps I simply needed a break? Some 20+ years later I find myself hooked again and I've got a lot of catching up to do!

A lot has happened inside the world of comics since I last dabbled. I've been loving learning all about the new authors and books. Having realised a lifelong ambition earlier this year when I published a couple of my own comics, I've just recently "invested" in a pile of new ones to try out. I want to expand my horizons and see how the masters do it. Perhaps if I'm lucky, I might even learn something about the art of making comics in the process! ;-)

I promised in my last post that I'd share some of my thoughts with you as I wade through "the pile". Today's blog covers the 2013 graphic novel by John Byrne called "The High Ways".

My introduction to Byrne was through a book I'd bought almost by accident called "Star Trek: Crew". I loved it. I posted a monster review at the time which goes into a lot more detail and shoots off at all sorts of crazy tangents, but in essence I felt that he captured the mood of the characters perfectly. He seemed to just get it. Since then I've read a couple more of his books with waning satisfaction. Knowing what he can achieve when he's on top of his game I was keen to give him one more try. This isn't the book I wanted to read. That was "Star Trek: Assignment Earth", but this is the only one I could get my hands on without breaking the bank.

In "the High Ways" Byrne returns to well-worn ground as we venture back into space. It's the final frontier, but contrary to the lettering of the title this has nothing to do with Star Trek. Actually, I reckon it might have worked a whole lot better had it been a classic Star Trek yarn.

This is one of those who-dunnit type tales, so I'm going to have to skirt around the plot a bit. The story starts with a young rookie embarking on his first deep-space transport run. Only - fairly predictably - things are not quite as they first appear. That's about all I can tell you without revealing too much. Sorry!

The artwork is pretty typical John Byrne. I do wonder whether he ever mixes it up. I certainly haven't seen much variation in his visual style in any of the comics I've read by him, but I'm no expert by any stretch. It's accomplished with a sort of retro feel to it. And herein lies a problem... retro artwork kind of demands a retro story. On the whole, this is exactly what you have here... but not entirely...

I do feel that John's scripting and artwork are a little out of step. Imagine my surprise when he threw in a scene with one of the characters urinating... after HAVING SEX!! I know!! How could this have happened? Ha ha. I can't have been the only person left feeling a little uncomfortable by the whole experience. It's like hearing your dad talking about sex... Nobody wants to go through that!

What were you thinking John? Ha ha! You're going to have to try a whole lot harder if you're going to break the preconceptions I have of you... I'm thinking Miley Cyrus naked wrecking-ball harder! :-O

Moving on quickly...

On the story... It's not bad, but it's not a great either. I'd hoped for better. Perhaps I'm being unkind here, but I sense a formula at work. I've been trying to put my finger on why this book failed to move me and I'm struggling. Perhaps it's the characters. They just didn't do anything for me. I failed to build any sympathy for them. Never once did they get me interested enough to wonder what they were thinking. Pah!

I've said enough. This one will have to remain a mystery flop. Boo!

On the back page I see an advert for a comic that was promised in May of 2013 called "Doomsday". The teaser suggests that Byrne could be mixing things up a bit with the artwork. And listen to this as a strap line: "Those who died instantly might have been the lucky ones!" Ooh! This is sounding post-apocalyptic! I won't give up on John just yet!

Let's round this off in the style we've become accustomed to with a little Triple-B action. No surprises here: The dastardly Triple-B is forcing me into a life of drugs with a sparkly but ultimately disappointing 4. What a let-down!


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