In the second issue of “Doomsday.1,” John Byrne’s post-apocalyptic four-part mini-series, the surviving astronauts from the international space station find themselves wandering through a remote corner of Texas that somehow didn’t get as crispy-fried as the rest of the world, after a solar flare of unprecedented magnitude all but incinerated the planet two months earlier.
Of course, a post-apocalyptic world is never too friendly a place in such stories, so Byrne makes sure there’s a far bigger menace to worry about than a few charred skeletons to trip over. The protagonists are lured to a seemingly safe haven in the form of a one-time prison. Wait; a prison? Yes, it’s a scenario that’s all-too familiar to fans of “The Walking Dead,” considering that it’s still taking place in the AMC series.
However, Byrne’s characters don’t linger around behind bars for long, and he tells what amounts to a pretty tense and tidy single-issue story. It’s really no great surprise that the cast is moving on to other locales after this one issue, since only two more issues remain, but it’s refreshing nonetheless to readers who might have momentarily thought that the cast was going to bump into Rick Grimes and company if they hung around there too long.
Even so, there are other familiar motifs that creep into this same issue, and although Byrne doesn’t dwell on them, there’s this constant underlying and nagging feeling that a lot of this has been seen before. The suspicious strangers tooling around a barren landscape in ATVs evoke a fleeting reminder of “The Road Warrior.” The seemingly-random Prescott County, with its swarm of survivors, is this issue’s counterpart to the equally-puzzling locale of Albany, New York in 1977’s dreadful “Damnation Alley” film. The cover for next issue could be considered a downright swipe of one of the most iconic post-apocalyptic images ever.
Even with these passing nods, intentional or otherwise, Byrne turns in a very enjoyable and entertaining effort that proves he’s still a master creator producing some of the best looking work of his diverse and decades-long career. Like he demonstrated in his previous mini-series for IDW (the 60s-era spy-thriller “Cold War”), there is clearly no one better at inking John Byrne than John Byrne. Although the premise of this story doesn’t quite match up to the intrigue of his prior series, this comic book veteran nonetheless reminds readers that he is one of the medium’s best storytellers, with his traditional panel layouts and clean story flow. His character dialogue, often overly serious and unremarkable in his heyday, is much looser and diverse here.
Perhaps most importantly, he keeps the story moving with a brisk pace and enough surprises to make readers turn the pages all-too-eagerly. Developments are shown that might have no bearing on this issue, but will make readers want to seek out the next. Unlike so many end-of-the-world stories where violence and explosions trump characterization, Byrne’s cast of heroes is not merely a group of two-dimensional cutouts indistinguishable from one another; it is these characters, and not the events around them, who make this soot-covered world turn.